Building Customer Relationships Leads to Customer Satisfaction

Building Customer Relationships Leads to Customer Satisfaction

Building Customer Relationships Leads to Customer Satisfaction

When was the last time that you had a positive, memorable customer service experience at a bank, store, laundry or other organization? In an age when technology-based service dominates many aspects of business, many organizations have lost the ability to make customers feel special and appreciated. Smart managers and their organizations can separate themselves from the pack by focusing on old-time customer service. When all employees are trained in the skills necessary for creating and maintaining strong interpersonal relationships with customers, companies can take a lead from their competition. That is because building customer relationships leads to customer satisfaction.

To be successful in creating a stellar customer service environment, organizations must prove that they are customer-centric. Customer service must become a strategic initiative driven from the top and practiced by all. Employees at all levels must be trained and held accountable for making customers feel valued. Service in such organizations is a standard, not an exception provided by a few.

The following are strategies that each employee can use for building customer relationships.

Communicate effectively. With so much communication occurring during any given day via technology, many people are forgetting how to effectively communicate with one another face-to-face or over the telephone. Sound verbal and nonverbal communication, coupled with active listening skills, are the keys to any successful interpersonal relationship. This is especially true in a customer service environment where building customer relationships often determines whether someone makes a purchase and shares their positive experience with others or goes away dissatisfied and spreads that message. Through corporate training sessions, online courses and videos, professional development events, articles and books, there is a plethora of information on how to better communicate with others. Each employee should take responsibility for enhancing and honing the communication skills necessary for building customer relationships.

Emphasize the value. It does not matter whether you are selling products, services or both. When you come into contact with a customer or potential customer, you must share reasons why what you offer is the best possible alternative. Your goal is to show that you can meet the needs, wants and expectations of your customers. A rule of successful sales is to sell the benefits, not the features of you offerings. Show the customer why they should choose what you offer over that of a competitor. This can be challenging in a world where your competition is only a mouse click away. Often, your competitors might offer discounts or sell at a lower rate. The differentiator can be that the service and effort you put forth in building customer relationships exceed that of your competition. Think of a time when you paid a bit more for something because you liked the way an employee made you feel during an interaction. Now take that feeling and put it into action for your customers. Go a little further to listen, respond in a friendly manner and make the customer feel valued.

Maintain a flexible stance. Before you ever encounter a customer, make sure that you discuss with your supervisor the level of decision making that you have when it comes to satisfying a customer. Often, organizations that empower front line employees to take extra steps to satisfy a customer are the ones that succeed in building customer relationships. They have lower customer churn rates and higher levels of brand and customer satisfaction.

Capitalize on complaints. Many people fear feedback and often do not ask for it. This is likely based on relationships they have maintained in the past and how they were made to feel. In a service environment, you should always ask for and graciously accept all customer feedback. Look at it as a way to improve yourself, your organization and the way that you deliver service in the future. You can gather feedback at the end of customer interactions, if other customers will not be kept waiting. Take the time to ask if there was anything else that you might have done to make the customer’s experience more positive. Thank them for any feedback that they provide. After they have gone, think of whether there is a way to implement their suggestions. Share these ideas with your supervisor and peers  so that all employees benefit.

Building customer relationships is not difficult. It just takes practice and a determination to put forth the effort required to exceed your customers expectations. To get additional ideas on ways to enhance customer experiences in the future, search this blog for other articles on topics on which you have an interest or area in which you need to grow. Also, check out Customer Service Skills for Success, Please Every Customer: Delivering Stellar Customer Service Across Cultures and the AMA training course  – How to Be  Great Call Center Representative.

What suggestions can you offer other readers related to how to build stronger customer relationships? Share them in the comments section.

4 Proven Ways to Improve Customer Service Skills

4 Proven Ways to Improve Customer Service Skills

4 Proven Ways to Improve Customer Service Skills

Are you consistently looking for ways to improve customer service skills? If so, that is a smart and professional strategy in today’s globally competitive marketplace. No matter what type of business or organization you belong to, developing and honing your customer service skills will put you ahead of others. The reason I say that is because many customer service representatives and employees really do not care about their job. They need a paycheck and take the first entry job opportunity which comes along to provide a steady income. This is often in the service industry. In the meantime, they are often “looking for a better job.” The result is that they are not doing themselves, their organization or their customers any real good. Instead, they are going through the motions 0f serving others. Of course, all the blame cannot be placed on the employees. Many entry-level employees receive only cursory operational training (e.g. how to run a register, operate equipment, and a basic understanding of products and services offered). Virtually no time is spent on ways to improve customer service skills.

To distinguish yourself from the crowd and gain a reputation as a stellar customer service professional, you should continually seek ways to improve customer service skills and knowledge. The following are five simple actions that you can take in order to deliver stellar customer service.

Make yourself memorable. Customer service is a “people” business. Successful service providers know how to build interpersonal relationships with their customers. To accomplish this yourself, go the extra distance when providing customer service. Don’t just do your job as it is outlined in your job description. Instead, be proactive and identify your customer’s true needs, wants and expectations. Once you know what these are, put your knowledge of your organization’s products and services into play. Efficiently decide the best course of action to serve your customers. Along the way, be personable and create a positive image or yourself and organization. This might be done through smiling, appropriate laughter, showing an interest in what your customer says, sharing interesting or useful information, ideas or suggestions, or reacting positively to a story or information your customer shares. Whatever you do, make sure that you come across as genuinely interested or concerned. All of these strategies can help build a strong customer-provider relationship.

Address customers professionally. Whether you are communicating with customers face-to-face, over the telephone, in writing or via technology, you must always be professional. Never forget that your customers come from diverse backgrounds and have different expectations of what professional customer service look and feel like. Depending on their age, background and other individual factors, they may be more or less satisfied with your approach in serving them. Other factors come into play to influence how they receive messages that you send. These include their personal experiences, emotional mood, available time, perceptions of you and your organization, and their needs and wants. You likely will not go wrong by treating each customer in a professional and respectful manner. This includes not becoming overly familiar (e.g. using their first name without permission). To identify their preferred form of address, you might simply ask, “How would you like me to address you?” Keep in mind that using informal slang terms in references to customers (e.g. “You guys,” “Sugar/Sweetie,” or “Dude”) can irritate or offend some customers. Another potential problem area comes if you adopt and use a term that you hear a customer’s friend or family member use to refer to him or her (e.g. “Mom,” “Dad,” or “Grandma/Grandpa”). This approach can potentially result in a smaller tip, negative comment to a supervisor, or desertion to a competitor.

Visit your competitors. A simple way to find how you are doing compared to other service providers is to contact your competitors in person or via technology. Note how they greet you, handle questions, and generally how they make you feel about the interaction. Pay attention to things that they do well or not so well. Make mental notes and then adjust your approach to service to match or exceed theirs. Specifically, look for ways to improve customer service skills that you have or add new ones to your toolbox.

Apply the 80/20 Rule. The 80/20 rule, or Pareto principle, was first suggested by management consultant Joseph M. Juran. He named the concept after Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto. Basically the rule suggests that 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of causes. In customer service, many providers spend 80 percent of their time dealing with 20 percent of customers or similar issues. You can potentially reduce work effort by identifying these common issues in your workplace. After you have done so, work with your co-workers and supervisors to find a common solution to them. This will free up more time to allow you to focus on other customers and deliver a higher quality of service. It can also help to reduce your stress levels.

To find other proven ways to improve customer service skills, read other articles on the topic in this blog.

What techniques or ways to improve customer service skills do you use that might be useful to other blog readers?

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