Is great customer service important? High-quality customer service leads to customer happiness and that leads to word-of-mouth promotion, the most effective way to promote your business or build a great reputation. By improving your customer service, you’ll help your customers feel important and that helps build long-term relationships.
Perhaps you’ve heard the frequently quoted statistic that 68% of customers leave due to perceived indifference. If you’re an MSP or a VAR, that’s a success-defining statistic. If you’re an internal IT department, that may be the difference between keeping your department in-house or, gasp, outsourcing.
Create a Great Customer Experience
Customer service is about creating a great customer experience, whether you’re a managed service provider, a corporate IT department, or a small break/fix shop. Help your team members realize that they’re all customer service representatives, whether they’re an engineer, a technician, an account representative, a business manager, or anyone else in your organization. Make sure they know that you expect them to exceed customer expectations by solving their problems, being polite and courteous, and putting themselves in the customer’s position.
So, here are 5 simple ways to deliver excellent customer service.
The Principle of Competence
Your ability to assist customers starts with your technical competence. You must have a sufficient level of competence to solve their problems quickly and permanently.
If you’re an MSP owner, a CIO, or a help desk manager, insist that your technical team members get certified on the products they support. That ensures their knowledge is current and accurate. It’s also a great selling point to your customers, whether external or internal.
(To be clear, I’m not suggesting they get a “paper” certification in which they simply memorize questions to pass a test. This is about taking the certification process seriously by setting up a lab, working through exercises, and studying to gain a more thorough understanding of the technology.)
The Principle of Compassion
Compassion is simply caring about the well-being of your fellow humans. Great customer service is a way of showing compassion. Effective customer service means you notice when your customer is frustrated, angry, or scared and you use kindness and patience to show you care.
As IT people, it’s easy for us to forget how maddening computers and other digital systems can be for our end-users. Remember that even really intelligent and successful people can be intimidated by computers and software.
Also, remember that you never fully know what’s going on in another person’s life. That person who seemed cold and rude may have just received a bad diagnosis from their doctor or they may be dealing with a troubled family member. Be patient and kind, especially when the other person is being difficult.
The Principle of Empathy
Customers want to believe you understand what they’re going through. A big part of customer satisfaction is when they believe you understand their situation and treat them the way you’d want to be treated. That’s really what empathy is about. When your customers are using your products or services and something doesn’t go right, they need to believe you can relate to their frustration and disappointment.
Even when you can’t relate to what happened with the other person, try to relate to their emotion. Certainly, you’ve been sad, angry, frustrated, excited, or any of a multitude of other emotions in your life. Remember how you felt at the time and know that your customer is feeling that way now.
The Principle of Listening
One of the greatest gifts we can give each other is to listen. Just listen. When you’re providing customer support, the other person needs to feel heard. So, work on being a better listener. Listen without judgment, without interrupting, and without sharing your perspectives.
Listen to understand and remember what they’re saying. Listen closely to ensure you fully understand their problem or complaint.
Your long-term success, whether as a small business owner or an employee is based on the relationships you develop and the reputation you cultivate. If you want to build great relationships and a good reputation, learn to use active listening techniques to show respect to others. When you do speak, be a person more of questions than of statements.
The Principle of Respect
Finally, the principle of respect deals with your respectful behavior toward other people. This is not about someone earning your respect, it’s about the choices you make in how you act around others. In fact, you don’t need to feel respect for another person to treat them respectfully.
Even when someone is treating you poorly, you can hold yourself to a higher standard. When you allow yourself to get dragged down into the mud, the mire, and the muck of disrespectful behavior, it reflects poorly on you. Learn to maintain your calm demeanor by practicing emotional intelligence techniques, thinking before you speak (especially in anger), and not attacking another person’s character, nor their personality.
One simple technique for acting respectfully is to remember your basic manners. Say please, thank you, and you’re welcome.
Another technique for acting with respect is to be on time. If you find yourself frequently saying things like, “I’m sorry I’m late. The traffic was terrible.” or “I’m sorry I’m late. There was a train blocking the road.”, you weren’t late because of bad traffic or Union Pacific. You were late because you didn’t leave early enough.
Television writer David E. Kelley, in an episode of Boston Legal, wrote, “We teach our children that everyone is entitled to dignity and respect. How pathetic it is when adults can’t abide such a basic lesson in humanity. How unconscionable!”
When you combine your technical competence with the relationship-building tools of compassion, empathy, good listening, and respect, you’ve got a powerful combination for delivering excellent customer service and building a great career!
These five principles are the foundation of a great customer service experience. They’re covered in more detail in my book The 5 Principles of IT Customer Service Success. They’re also at the heart of our on-demand customer service training for IT professionals.
Want more? Check out our on-demand customer service training for IT professionals, based on my books The Compassionate Geek and The 5 Principles of IT Customer Service Success.
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