Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after the purchase of any product. Customer service is a series of activities designed to enhance the experience of the customers. The sole purpose of the customer service is to meet the expectations of the customers so that they are satisfied with the outcome. These services are also available to understand the queries of the customers and ensure that they enjoy a cost-effective experience after purchasing any product from the respective company.
A good customer service benefits the business or companies as it will eventually produce satisfied customers. However, a bad customer service might end up generating unhappy and unsatisfied customers. It may result in effecting a business in a negative way.
What is customer support?
Customer support is a series of customer services to support the customers in making the correct use of a product. Customer support provides the customers with a series of services in order to make cost-effective choices and appropriate use of a product, customer service is just one aspect of customer support though remains the primary and most important aspect.
Different kinds of customer service
Many businesses today follow the trend of providing the customers with good customer service to ensure the customers’ good experience during the use of their product. This eventually helps businesses to leave a positive impact on the customers and keep customers satisfied. Over the years, companies and organisations have been coming up with different kinds of customer services to have a cost-effective marketing experience.
For instance, customer service can be of many kinds. It may be in person through sales representatives or over the phone. One more popular kind of customer service is known as automated service. One excellent example of automated service that many people might be able to relate to is through internet sites.
Irrespective of what kind of customer service an organisation is providing, as long as the customers benefit through it and enjoy a cost-effective experience it will always prove beneficial for both; the customer and the company.
Some customers also require at home customer services for the installation, maintenance or upgrading of their products. In order to provide the customers with excellent experience, customer support teams tend to the problems through at home customer services.
Customer service – From the beginning to the present
The need for customer service has been felt by people ever since the very beginning of time. It might be hard to figure out a definite year or time when the customer services began. As soon as people buy something, there is an on-going need for finding out more about the product through the seller in order to have a cost-effective experience.
Dawn of civilisation
Like mentioned earlier, there is no definite year that can tell us when the customer service first began. As soon as a person purchases something from the seller, there is a level of customer service experienced by the buyer. It is the duty of the person selling a product to answer any queries that the buyer may have. To sum up, the first customer service may have begun at the dawn of civilisation when trading items, buying and selling various items was first practised by the people.
In-person customer service
When trading items first began, that was the beginning of the very first kind of customer service; in-person customer service to be exact. Trading began as soon as the people started to realise their need for better items and necessities in life. The people involved in trading, buying and selling items at the dawn of civilisation were unknowingly implementing customer service as a part of their activities.
However, now with the advancement in technology, in-person customer service has evolved quite dramatically as the sales representatives are trained to provide the customers with a good and cost-effective experience.
Automated customer service
The evolution of customer service led to the beginning of automated customer service. As the majority of the people began to rely on technology for various purposes, organisations and businesses felt the need to gain direct contact with the customers.
This could be done effectively by making use of their websites. Today, there are many large companies and organisations that offer automated customer service software and other solutions.
Using customer service for your benefit
The sole purpose of customer service is mainly to ensure that all of the questions and problems of the customers are answered and solved. Most customers who seek help from a company’s customer service department are mainly looking for a chance to get to know the product better.
A good customer service may not just benefit the customers, but it may also help in growing the company or the business. It may help the company figure out where they might be lagging behind or change the way any unhappy customer feels about them. A good customer service may do wonders for any start-up or known company.
Builds reputation and client loyalty
When a customer has any queries about a product, it may be an opportunity for any business to earn the loyalty of their customer by providing them with good customer care. When a company takes the queries or the problem of a customer seriously and offers a good solution, they are building a good reputation for their company.
A content customer will most likely recommend a company’s product or service to their friend which is great especially for start-up businesses.
Customer service today
Customer service has evolved drastically over the past few years and with it, the needs, requirements and attitude of the customers towards the sales representative has also changed. A sales representative today may have to face several challenges while listening to the customers’ queries and problems.
Today customers can be very straightforward with how and what they feel and expect instant results and answers; this makes the job of any sales or service representative quite difficult. It is also important for a customer service representative to understand that while listening to a customer, it is their job to change the way a customer feels and not the facts.
Understanding the needs of the customers
Most customer service departments today neglect the queries of the customers. A customer’s complaint or query may change the outlook for your company. One-time bad service to anyone customer may leave a bad impression for many years to come. Neglecting queries of the customers may bring harm to the reputation of the company built by a lot of hard work.
However, by simply understanding the needs of the customers, companies today may gain the opportunity to rise above their weakness and leave a good impression on their clients and customers.
Challenges for customers service representatives
A customer service representative faces several problems in one single day. There are many challenges in this field and all of them need to be taken care of quite efficiently, or it might leave a bad impression on the name of the company.
With the rising demand and needs of the people, the complaints and queries of the customers rise equally when these demands and needs are not fulfilled. There may be several questions that a customer may have or numerous things that the customer does not understand, and all of these must be answered efficiently, and it may help any business flourish.
The most common problem that is often faced is unsatisfied customers. Sometimes their reason for being unsatisfied with your product is valid, and sometimes it is not. It is the duty of a customer service representative to tackle all their queries and reasons for being unsatisfied and seek a suitable solution. To avoid any misunderstanding and miscommunication in between the customer and the customer service representative, the best thing to do is to be upfront and clear about what solution a company is willing to offer and what a customer may expect.
A customer might also be unsatisfied with the service that a company is providing and that is also one of the most crucial challenges faced by many customer service departments. To always be on top, a customer service representative needs to be upfront and very clear about what the company is willing to do in order to provide them with a satisfying service.
The ever-changing needs of the customers
The needs of the customers are ever changing. With every second call and query, their needs and demands change. It is often a drawback for the company to fulfil the needs of all the customers, hence, a company and customer service representatives are often unable to satisfy all the customers. With the changing needs of the customers, it becomes difficult for the companies to focus on one goal.
When a company tries to satisfy all the customers, they often end up satisfying no one which is often a very common problem for large companies and business. However, for any company to have a customer-focused business, there is a need to acquire all the resources such as trained staff, time and innovative ideas.
Developing a successful customer service model for a small business
Now you understand what customer service is, discover how you can create and develop a customer service team and customer focused business that will support small business growth.
Create a culture of ownership
In larger organisations, there are customer service teams, technical staff, managers, sales superstars and all number of hierarchies with distinct and easily defined job roles. In early stage startups, there are usually less than ten people. Customer service is something which can easily fall through the cracks.
A Founder-CEO might want to treat every customer to a personal response. That’s fine if they have the time. If not then there should be a structured, accountable process for fielding customer contacts. One person should be responsible. It should be their primary function. They should have clear and open accountability with every case so that the whole team can learn from wins and failures when it comes to service delivery since how you do with one will impact how you handle one thousand customers.
Fast responses for the win!
Have a back-end service in place which sends automated updates to both staff and customers when contact has been made. Make sure inbound social contacts are assigned automatically too since no one wants to have a Tweet – which is public – go unanswered.
Customers need to know: a.) they’ve been heard; b.) a timescale for a resolution; c.) who’s responsible; d.) updates if there are any unexpected delays.
The same principles which apply in call centres should apply in startups. Aim for a fast resolution (under 24 hours). Don’t keep the customer waiting so long they feel the need to email, Tweet or call again. If there is no resolution, then it should go up to a more senior member of staff.
Always aim to exceed expectations
Giving a customer false hope is the same as ignoring an email or hanging up during a phone call. All they want is the truth. It will set your customer service free.
Aim to give them as realistic a timescale as possible. So if you solve a problem sooner, then they’ll be even happier with the result. This means the person responsible has to know they can resolve the issue within the allotted time. If this doesn’t look likely, then let the customer know in advance, rather than on or just before they were expecting an answer.
The one advantage of being in a startup team compared to a call centre agent is your customers probably don’t have very high – or low – expectations. As a new company there’s little precedent; except for the fact that customer service is a universal experience, so get it wrong and a customer won’t hang around for long.
The customer isn’t always right
Work in a shop, restaurant, call centre or any customer facing role long enough, and you’ll meet Mr. Belligerently Obnoxiously Right, even though they couldn’t be more wrong. He’s the customer, so he’s right, obviously.
Every startup will eventually encounter Mr. B. O. as well. Do your best. Always do your best to resolve every problem and answer every question. But when the facts are against a customer, and you’ve done all you can then sometimes you have to let go and walk away. After that, the best solution is either to do your best to repair the relationship or move on.
Go above and beyond
Every customer contact is a chance for you to show them why they made the right choice when they bought your service. Every contact is an added value extension of that service. A chance to keep building the relationship.
That’s why you should never miss the chance to exceed expectations. It doesn’t have to be a big gesture either. A personal, handwritten note can go a long way in a digital age. Send a box of tissues and flu tablets if you know a customer has a cold but is still in the office. With red cup season at Starbucks just around the corner why not send an e-gift card? The little things are what counts in our personal relationships, so as a startup employ that mindset when it comes to customers.
As you grow your customer base, keep finding ways to delight them. The happier your customers, the more secure your revenue, the more inbound leads you will start receiving. Growth will get incrementally easier with a strong customer-centric approach.
Dealing with angry customers
We have all been angry customers. We have also had to deal with angry customers. A customer can be anyone who has been involved in a transaction or deal. Such transactions or deals need not be confined to the world of business, and indeed it is more accessible to generalise.
An angry customer is someone who feels that the transaction or deal has gone sour for them. They may feel exploited, cheated, undercut or overcharged. They want someone to listen to them. You want resolution. What matters to both of you is empathy.
Say sorry to the customer
Everyone knows the best way to deal with anyone who feels that they have a right to be angry at you or something you stand for is an apology.
The rest of the article is not filler but an approach to a more pragmatic way of thinking and delivering the apology. The sorry is the start, and the heart of the message and the customer should know that. The angry customer should walk away with the apology, a resolution and hopefully a changed perception. The resolution and the changing in perception is what follows.
Empathize with the customer
We have all had to deal with this situation and consequently there is a range of language to deal with it. The skill used to deal with angry people generally is negotiation and this is no different for the customer. The angry customer situation has arisen because the customer’s expectations have not been met by either the product or service offered or by the deal itself.
The customer may be angry because of poor performance of the product, lack of understanding of it or the transaction, or even bad media coverage. An example of angry customers could be those of Vodafone (which has the worst Trust Pilot score I’ve ever seen and makes for entertaining reading.)
Understand your customer’s expectations
Can it be the case that the customer’s anger is not legitimate or it is misplaced? Yes, this can be the case, however, if it is, then what’s the incentive to drive the anger towards your company?
Your product may be associated with something that the angry customer has a grievance with or it may be that this type of customer tends to find faults with all products or services. In both cases, it would be worth evaluating whether you are pitching the right people in the most efficient way.
Seek a resolution
The resolution is the fix to what made this customer angry. Explaining to your customer how it will be resolved gives you the opportunity to show that this person means enough to you and your business to permanently change your ways so that this scenario does not happen again. The resolution, therefore, deserves the right message.
Getting the right message across
Getting the right message across is even more important when negotiating with an angry customer. You have to put the message in terms they can understand, and the most effective means of doing this are getting them to give it to you.
Giving an angry customer the opportunity to rant will give you the opportunity to explore their justification. Understanding why someone thinks and feels the way they do will give you the tools to deliver your message and dispel their anger.
Use the right words to deliver your message
There are specific words that we like to rely upon. These words form the core of our vocabularies. Words often used in the vocabulary of anger and frustration are hate, not, why and don’t. While these words are unhelpful, there will be words that a customer will say that will have meaning for them.
Demonstrating your understanding of their anger with the use of these words will resonate with them. Relay their words back to them in a different structure and with the same meaning. The next part of your resolution is the re-pitch.
Demonstrate your understanding
The angry customer is still a customer. That implies at some point this individual valued your offering enough to part with money for it, or that they intended to. This aspect of your company, product or service is what appealed most to them and to remind them of this demonstrates your understanding and more importantly allows you to remind this person what makes your company great. The understanding is as much about the reason why your customer is angry as it is about the anger itself.
Demonstrating your understanding that this person is upset is expressing your empathy. Delivering your explanation as to why their upset gives you the scope to change this angry perception. To summarise this article, the most overwhelmingly important aspect is to remain calm. If you remain calm, then the rest should naturally follow.