“Great customer service” has to be one of the most commonly used expressions in modern business. Yet how often do we see evidence of it in action – and what does it really even mean?
Every business needs customers to survive. And unless you happen to be the only business in the world offering the products or services that you do, you’re going to need happy customers, otherwise they’re just going to look elsewhere.
Happy customers come back again and again, perhaps ordering new or increased stock each time. They leave good reviews. They spread the word about your business, helping awareness grow and providing the holy grail of modern marketing – personal recommendations.
Yet “customer service” can be an empty phrase, trotted out alongside a host of other overused terms.
So what makes a customer happy?
When a customer chooses your business, they are placing their trust in you. They trust you to provide what they want, when they want it, for the amount they have agreed to pay – and they trust you to do it with good grace, good manners, and leave them feeling valued. When trust is rewarded with good service, that builds loyalty. Trust takes time to build up – but it can be broken very easily. So the relationship you have with your customers is vital. If the relationship is strong, minor issues can be overlooked and the customer will return. If those issues occur frequently, or too early in the relationship, or are not dealt with satisfactorily, then you’ll be waving goodbye to that customer and watching as they choose a competitor instead.
Strong relationships with your customers are built over time through a combination of factors:
Communication: find the right balance between keeping customer informed, whether that’s about offers, out of stocks, deliveries, lead times or orders placed, but don’t overload them all the time, and don’t oversell. Personalised communication is best too, keeping offers relevant and well chosen, and making information about orders or regularly purchased products specific.
Reliability: It’s one thing to promise good service – but it’s only by actually demonstrating it that your customers will come to trust your business. Stock control is of course a huge part of this; ensuring you have the right stock in the right places is crucial, so it’s really important to have an excellent stock management system in place which allows for multi-site information to be accessed instantly – so if one branch is out of stock, you know where you can source it. Using intelligent analysis to predict demands based on historic trading data can be a massive help in this area, ensuring that you are catering to the most likely needs of your customers. Actions, as they say, speak louder than words, so always being the merchant who has the right stock, or can always get it easily, will put you ahead of the pack.
In short, show that you’re listening. Respond quickly to queries and questions, update information promptly, act on feedback and prove that you’re really taking notice of what your customers want. The “you spoke, we listened” approach is amazingly effective when done with sincerity and not as an empty nod to service. Everyone wants to feel they’re being listened to, so make sure you are really hearing what’s being said.
Good old-fashioned manners. Everyone in your business has a role to play in promoting excellent service, from the delivery drivers to the trade counter operators, yard to back office. Smart appearance, friendly demeanour and considerate actions will always make a good impression – there’s no point having the best prices and products in the region if your delivery drivers are rude or inconsiderate, or your checkout staff are surly and unhelpful. Good manners are expected and yes, they’re quickly forgotten; but bad manners are remembered badly and can tarnish the reputation of your entire business. Make sure every staff member understands how important their role is in providing good service, and remind them that at every point, they are representing your company and playing a part in the customer’s experience. Nothing travels faster than negative reviews, so cover the basics and make sure your staff are on board with your business approach.
Go the extra mile. This is a hard one to quantify but it’s something that will stand out a mile and make sure your business is remembered for all the right reasons. It’s the staff member who really goes out of their way to help a customer, the deadline met against all the odds, the way a company apologises for a mistake from the heart and genuinely makes it up to a customer – those are the things that will be remembered, and will build trust and loyalty over time.
Be grateful. Without customers, your business will not survive. Customers don’t owe you anything and you are always competing with other businesses for their attention, their time, and their hard-earned money. Never, ever forget that. Celebrate their successes, ask what they want from you, and make sure every person at your organisation is as committed as you are to making every last one of them happy.
The culmination of all these things is really all about making customers feel valued. Everything you buy these days comes with a thank you note or email attached, so it’s quite hard to do. Think about the last time a company made you feel genuinely valued – how did they do it? A public acknowledgement on social media? A special offer, tailored to you? A handwritten note from the MD personally thanking you? An invitation to an exclusive event? Often it’s the personalised messages that really stand out, offers that really make your life easier or offer exceptional value, or some other little detail that just stands out and resonates with you. Listening is a big part of it; not badgering constantly for more sales, more orders, more business. Loyalty schemes can be good but they need to add real value and qualify the holder for real benefits, not just be yet another card to carry around which never amounts to anything of any worth.
Always consider how you feel as a customer and, as with so many areas of life, treat others how you would like to be treated. If everyone in your business from the CEO to the student intern is on board with your commitment to customer service, then chances are that attitude will come across in every interaction. Make their lives easier, add value, be considerate – and always keep your promises.
The Ten-25 Service Charter
We have always prided ourselves on our customer service – we are 100% dependent on the success of our customers. Their success is our success and we always try to take on board any feedback we get.
The customer comes first. Our customers rely on our software to run their businesses. Nothing is as important to us as providing the very best means for them to do that.
No change for change’s sake. In a society where there’s always a new iPhone, TV or digital service to upgrade to, it’s easy to be swept up in a tide of progress. We only make changes when we know it adds real value. Technology advances fast and we are committed to remaining at the forefront of it, harnessing its power for the benefit of our customers – but we don’t do change for change’s sake. We only do change for our customers’ sake.
We are always listening. Every system we have ever built has been guided by what our customers want. You ask for a feature, and we’ll do our damnedest to make it for you. You give us feedback, you can be sure that feedback is circulated throughout the whole business, and we make sure we act on it.
Quality over quantity every single time. We are not mass-market. We are specialised, knowledgeable and committed to excellence. That’s why we only work with businesses where we know our software can make a difference, and we won’t take on more customers than we can excellently serve. So when you work with Ten-25, you know you are getting the dedicated care and attention your business deserves. You put your trust in us, and we’ll go above and beyond to prove that you invested that trust well.
We’re here to make your lives easier. All our systems and processes, from the software we design to our helpdesk and account management teams, training and onboarding plans, are designed to take effort, time consuming jobs and pressure off your plate, so you can focus on your own customers’ needs. Great service is an ongoing chain – so we work hard to give you everything you need to deliver great service onward.
What does good customer service mean to you? We’d love to hear your examples – get in touch on Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook with your customer service stories (good, bad and ugly!)