Truly the art of mastering all the aspects of excellent service is very tricky but begins with an earnest heart to serve. It is about being part of the solution when things go wrong, being quick and creative about it and keeping your customer in the loop every step of the way so situations need not escalate out of control.
Customers are valuable to our business. Because, ultimately, if no one buys our product or service, we cease to exist.
The founder of Wal-Mart, Sam Walton, said, “There is only one boss. The customer. And he can fire everybody in the company from the chairman on down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.”
“The customer is king,” says a very famous slogan. There are many other quotations similar to this that champion the customer as the lifeblood of business.
Because it’s true.
The customer may be king, but he is not always right.
Know the instances when the customer is in the wrong. Here are some instances:
When the customer keeps his latent needs hidden
It isn’t always easy to get our customers to talk. They have busy schedules, and oftentimes communicate a lot more through their body language than the actual words that come out of their mouths.
Forbes contributor and marketing expert Ty Kiisel says “Customers really aren’t always sure what they want and many times we don’t do a good job of uncovering what they really need.”
For instance, Colgate tried to launch a line of frozen dinners called Colgate Kitchen Entrees, thinking people would eat their meals and then brush with Colgate toothpaste afterwards.
If you’ve never heard of these (like I hadn’t prior to research) that’s because they bombed big time and were pulled out from the shelves so quickly there was barely any time for people to hear about it.
What to do in this situation: Work on developing a good relationship with your customer. Really invest time in finding out what they need and become an expert at reading their behavior. Conduct focus group discussions and surveys to solicit valuable customer insight. Sometimes they could just be holding back because they feel you are not listening or understanding them enough.
When the customer is not sure about what they want
With the myriad of choices constantly available in the market, a customer can get lost in the variety of options. He or she can be uncertain about the precise thing he needs if the selections are not made available clearly or discussion of the product/service’s features and benefits are unclear. He may or may not have imagined something possible, simply because he’d never seen or experienced it before.
According to Kiisel, Nintendo Wii Creator, Genyo Takeda, was successful in building the Wii because of the unconventional approach he took in building it. He gave even non-gamers a new way to interact with video games, they didn’t think or didn’t know could exist. The creation of a wand like device that mimicked actual human movements was revolutionary in the gaming industry, to say the least.
What to do in this situation: Create a platform for immediate feedback may it be through SMS, email or direct mail. Make it easy for the customer to get in touch with you and show them that you actually pay attention to his ideas and input.
When the customer expects the moon
“This night cream was supposed to make me beautiful!” laments a woman to a sales assistant at the beauty counter of a shopping center.
Statements or complaints like these would be a nightmare to someone on the receiving end, especially if that statement was not explicitly stated on any part of the product itself.
Customers sometimes have their own interpretations of a product’s promise of say, smoother skin in 4 weeks- so they come crashing down to reality when these unreal expectations are not met. They probably feel they were scammed of their hard-earned money when they didn’t receive compliment after compliment upon purchase of your product.
What to do in this situation: Allow your customer to vent. Use nonverbal communication such as nodding your head to show you are listening to every detail. Empathize with your customer. Explain how you’d be as disappointed as she was if you had the same thing happen to you. Then, once your customer has calmed down, offer a concrete solution that is supported by management.
When the customer crosses the line
This would be perhaps the most delicate area that have most of us in the service industry treading water.
Consultant Alan Weiss of Summit Consulting in Providence says, “If customers expect something illegal or unethical” then you can politely refuse.
Cases of physical contact or threatening your life or your job are all instances where we have to draw the line. Individuals such as these are on a power trip and need to be reported to higher management or in extreme cases, to security. Some cases need delicate handling, for example, if the customer is asking you out on a date.
It’s been said that people in the service industry must have the stomach for it, as things sometimes get ugly. Excellent service doesn’t mean having to endure physical punches or being cursed at. With proper training and management’s support, individuals can be better equipped to deal with the delicate areas of customer service.
What to do in this situation: Never lose your cool. Remain calm and professional as you stand your ground and politely explain why it isn’t possible to accommodate the unreasonable request.