The expression, ‘the customer is king’, epitomizes just how indispensable a brand’s customers are to its continued success. This phrase reminds us that while CEOs and employees come and go, a brand’s reputation depends on how well it cultivates and caters to its customer base, which is the true arbiter of its fortunes.
This is why it is critical to anticipate and attend to a customer’s needs, since it is his/her censure and approval, expressed in monetary terms, that assures an organisation’s survival.
Key metrics to help gauge customer-service quality
Employees who serve the customer, from call centre personnel to shop assistants—anyone who has direct contact with the customer, and can potentially influence his or her choice of purchase—can either reinforce customer loyalty, or weaken it. Customer service is, in truth, an unsung and highly underrated act of diplomacy. Given its immense importance, how best can you ensure high quality customer service?
Methodology: Customer satisfaction surveys and frequent call monitoring–of telephonic conversations between employees and consumers—can help you arrive at an estimation of the strengths and weaknesses of your company’s customer service, and to gauge its overall quality. The following are some markers of quality service.
Product expertise: How well do your employees know their product area? This is a key determinant of a successful interaction with a customer. Employee knowledge of the product range, variations in pricing and models, along with an awareness of the company’s overall goals and objectives can help an employee sell not just the product, but the company that sells or makes it (as the case may be) as well. If he or she is unable to answer a customer query, it’s best to be upfront about the lack of knowledge, and to refer the customer to someone who is equipped to address their doubts.
Interpersonal skills: Whether on the phone or in person, it’s easy to spot those customer service reps who are personable and considerate in their interactions with the customer. Eye contact and a friendly smile help establish an initial rapport between employee and customer, and function as welcoming gestures. On the phone, a warm tone of voice and well-articulated speech convey the impression that the representative is confident and knowledgeable and is concerned about communicating as clearly as possible with the customer.
Trouble-shooting abilities: In addition to product knowledge and interpersonal skills, customer service personnel must also possess the ability to trouble-shoot—to figure out on-the-spot solutions to unforeseen complications. As the saying goes, “there’s many a slip between the cup and the lip”—a lot can go wrong in the course of a transaction, between paying for an item and having it delivered to your door, for example.
In such situations it is critical that the customer service representative keep her cool. A calm demeanour and quick thinking can deescalate extremely volatile situations and work in the company’s favour. Unflappable customer service personnel and quick (not quick fix!) solutions to seemingly knotty problems are great selling points for any organisation. How do you know if your quality assurance mechanisms have been successful? One indicator is a fall in number and types of complaints, with a concomitant increase in your sales numbers.
Another sign of a satisfactory customer service experience is enhanced customer loyalty or a steady stream of recurring customers. If the customer is king/queen, then the service that you render them should befit their stature!