Customer Service … transaction or relationship?

Customer Service CourseCustomers do not think of themselves as “customers.” They see themselves as people who need your help. The customer is a person seeking empathy, someone who sees their problems and issues as they see them. Every customer or client is different. Every problem and conversation is different. Some companies use prepared scripts when they take calls or interact with customers. That approach may be efficient, but is frequently perceived as having less value to the customers.

Customers or clients who have a service issue do not like the feeling that they are talking to a spokesperson that represents the bureaucracy. Since they are addressing you, most customers will feel that you should be able to resolve their issue or it is a waste time talking to you. It is important to display a positive attitude because the customer is the final arbiter and judge of great service. Customers tend to vote with their feet. When they feel under-served, they may not even bother to let you know. They simply shop or establish relationships elsewhere. It is therefore imperative to have a system to ask customers how they rate your service. Do not fall into the trap of relying on internal customer service ratings. As accurate as they may be, it’s what the customer or client thinks that counts.

It is also important to share customer service issues with the appropriate members of your team. This helps to create rapport with customers and they begin to feel that you care. Zig Ziglar said that, “One of the first principles in customer service is that customers don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” The opportunity to resolve a customer’s issue is more than a transaction. It is an opportunity to establish the rapport that creates a bond between you and the customer or client. Every opportunity to resolve a customer’s issue is an opportunity to create a sale and a long term relationship.

Listening carefully to the customer or client issues may even solve problems for other customers, particularly if the problem is systemic. Don’t be reluctant to take notes during the interchange with the customer. Over a period of time, you will be able to detect patterns of customer behavior that will help you to demonstrate your ability to quickly and genuinely establish rapport with the customer. Additionally, the more product knowledge we have, the better our judgment can be. It is also a good technique to ask the customer to identify his or her desired resolution.

Rapport with Customers

One objective of the customer service strategy should be to build rapport and trust. People tend to do more business (or have better relationships) with those who understand them and who they like and trust. If we examine our own buying experiences, we have probably decided against a purchase or relationship because we did not trust the salesperson or internal colleague to deliver as promised. On the other hand, you have probably established long term relationships with those who are honest, caring and helpful.

Don’t be afraid to let your customers and clients get to know you. We are not suggesting that you exceed normal business boundaries; however let them know that you believe in your product or service. Depending on the type of business and your position in the organization, it is helpful to get involved in industry or local organizations where you can meet potential and present customers in a more relaxed environment. This allows the present or potential customer to experience another dimension of your personage other than as a vendor, salesperson or customer service representative. Don’t pass up this chance to sell yourself as well as your product or service.

You can also maintain or increase rapport and trust by keeping your promises for follow-up calls and deliveries. Regrettably, things get off track from time to time. When this happens, let your customers or clients know and provide as much advance notice as possible. If the change or delay presents a serious problem, you have more time to develop a solution that minimizes the disruption with the customer. If you have a positive balance in the rapport and trust accounts, the occasional service problem will not destroy the relationship. As a matter of fact, resolution of a customer problem will often strengthen a relationship with a customer or client.

Customer Service and Sales

Some customer service positions are not classified as sales positions, but are involved in the sales process to some extent. Even if a person is not classified as a sales associate there are several traits or behaviors that will be helpful to anyone who is in business. Jim Cathcart, a well-known speaker and author of Relationship Selling, writes that, “the key to getting and keeping customers is not determined by the business they are in, but by the way they are in business.”

Customer service professionals are in a unique position to use their relationships with customers to increase sales. The principles involved have always worked, and are even more important in today’s highly service-oriented market environment. Relationship selling does not consist of a set of techniques or closes you have to master. It is a way of conducting yourself in the business world that is flexible, cooperative and professional.

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James E. McClain is the author of Successful Career Development: A Game Plan, the book upon which some of our training programs are based. He has over 30 years' experience as a corporate HR executive, small business owner with ongoing experience in career development and as a college instructor. His educational background includes a B.S. and Masters degrees Education and Certification in Financial Planning. Our promise is that "you can pay more for training but you can not buy better training." The mission is to deliver the most effective and cost effective training and development programs.

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Posted in Customer Service, Selling Skills

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