I recently did a presentation for the inside sales representatives of a rental company. It is a great company with many passionate and talented employees.
They all agreed that exceptional customer service was critical to the success of their company and their own personal satisfaction and success. They also agreed that customers deserve their best — all the time.
We then began discussing what happens when they are busy, short staffed or some other business pressure which, in theory, prevents them from being their best. Under what circumstances do you compromise your customer service standards?
I understand there are situations that can prevent delivering an exceptional level of service. I also understand that not everyone can be serviced immediately or completely at all times.
It is important, however, that these situations do not become the norm. You need to treat these situations as exceptions and develop a plan when it occurs.
You need to remember that your customers still have high expectations and part of being the best service provider in your market is delivering exceptional service in all customer interactions.
The first step is to identify those situations which cause you to compromise the service you provide. The most obvious is being busy, but what else is there? Others might be:
- Customer calls just as you are closing or opening for the business day.
- Product or equipment is not available.
- Product or equipment does not work as promised.
- Customer calls during lunch.
- You are short staffed.
- You don’t have experience in the product or service the customer needs.
When those moments occur where you are not able to service the customer, be prepared to adjust your strategy of service excellence. At a high level, your strategy should include the following fundamentals of overcoming or reducing the issues related to not being able to uphold your customer service standards:
- Offer an apology. If a customer has been inconvenienced, you should apologize. This is the case even if you did not cause the situation. For example, if the customer is asking for equipment you don’t have available, it is not your fault, but a sincere apology is appropriate.
- Be empathetic. Empathy involves recognizing a customer has been inconvenienced. A simple and sincere acknowledgement of that inconvenience will go a long way.
- Have a plan for correcting the situation. Customers like options, so provide some choices which will resolve the situation. Even if it is not good news, there should be a plan for moving forward.
- Confirm the plan. This will be important to assure there is no miscommunication and that expectations are set.
- Thank the customer. This is always a good practice.
Barry Himmel is a senior vice president for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, Ohio-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing and mystery shopping services for a variety of service-based industries. For more information, call 800-398-0518 or visit signatureworldwide.com.