I recently had to call my bank. Specifically, I needed to speak with the department that handles my IRA. When I called, I was told the wait time would be 25-30 minutes and I was asked if I wanted to be called back so I wouldn’t have to be on hold for that long. Brilliant. I selected that option and they called me back about 20 minutes later. Unfortunately, when I finally got in touch with a human and explained my issue, they needed to transfer me to yet another department.
This time, there was no callback option and I was placed on hold for over 35 minutes (not an exaggeration). Once I got in touch with someone, they transferred me yet again. This is just ridiculous, I thought. They acknowledged how long I was on hold and did their best to expedite what I needed to get done and answered all of my questions as fast as possible. But still, there must be a better way!
Meeting customer expectations
I get it, you’re running a small business and you have a lot of irons in the fire. I’m sure failing to meet customer expectations is just one of your many concerns. But, if you’re dealing with customers, it’s inevitable that they would expect exemplary service from your company.
Despite all the technological advancements companies have at their disposal, customer service seems to be lagging behind. Those of us on the receiving end are begging the question, why is this not more of a priority? Also, what initiatives are companies taking to address this issue?
Here are 5 steps small businesses can implement to satisfy customer service expectations:
1. Motivate your employees to put customers’ needs first.
Do you know the saying the customer’s always right? That rings true no matter what industry you’re in. It’s important for small businesses to train their customer service representatives to always put the customers’ needs first, whatever that entails. They are there to solve their problems and if they can’t, they have to be resourceful and know which department/person they can transfer the customer to for additional attention. Whether this is on the phone or in person, make it your goal not to waste too much of their time by placing them on hold or waiting for the manager. If there is a delay, be transparent with the customer and explain why, but still make them feel like they’re a priority.
2. Don’t make them repeat their information.
When I was divulging my personal situation above, I had to explain my situation to 3 people in addition to being transferred from one person to the next. It got pretty monotonous–it was like going to the doctor and telling the receptionist, nurse, and doctor what my issue was. Develop a better assembly line of communication. If you can’t help the customer, but you know who can, take a minute to briefly explain what the problem is so the next person can take over the situation with some knowledge. The customer will find it very refreshing. The same goes for inputting information online. Don’t make customers repeatedly submit their account numbers, customer ID, contact information, etc. on multiple screens when they’re trying to get their concerns addressed. It’s discouraging and will make them feel helpless and as if they’re getting nowhere.
3. Be empathetic.
It takes a special person to work in customer service and be empathetic toward customers. Once you find that person, hire them on the spot, as not many organizations are making that a priority. Find someone who not only can follow directions and implement data, but can also help customers feel good about the positive and productive interactions they have with your company.
4. Set a good example.
As a business owner, you want to set the bar very high when it comes to having a positive attitude within the company and with the customers. Treat employees and customers with the same amount of respect. The customer experience needs to be felt throughout the entire organization. That means it’s up to the senior executives to maintain a good attitude and to exemplify what the company stands for in everyday operations. Make an example of an employee who exceeds the company’s principles and acknowledge them with a bonus or a reward, enticing the rest of the staff to follow suit.
5. Know your purpose.
Be forthcoming regarding the organization’s objectives and what it will take to meet them and maintain your good standing. Help employees understand what’s expected of them and how their actions can impact customers’ lives for the better. Remind your customer service reps that they’re part of a greater good and help them feel as if they’re part of something special.
Creating a healthy work environment, encouraging your employees, and eliminating ambiguity in what’s expected of them will make for a positive attitude that they’ll pass on to customers. Patrons can sense the difference between a customer service rep who enjoys their job and feels appreciated, and one who doesn’t. It’s not the most desirable job–it really does take a special person to be on the phone all day dealing with irritated and sometimes hostile people. Their primary reward is the satisfaction of knowing they've helped a customer in need.