Going a Step Beyond What Is Expected
Excellent customer service can make the difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal customer. A satisfied customer will still seek other options if they are available, but a loyal customer will come to you first and is likely to stay with you, even if the price is higher. Going above and beyond what is expected is a great way to turn satisfied customers into loyal customers.
For example, imagine two hotel chains that offer comparable rooms and services, but one of the hotel chains emphasizes the importance of providing excellent customer service in all employee training. Now imagine that in both hotels a guest shows up at the pool in their swimsuit just as a hotel staff person is closing the pool for the night. The employees at the two hotels react as follows:
- Employee #1: "I'm sorry. The pool closes at 10 pm. You just missed it. It will be open again at 7 am. Have a great night's sleep."
- Employee #2: "You made it just in time. I was about to lock up, but I can come back in ten minutes to do so. Enjoy your swim!"
Employee #2, who works at the hotel that emphasizes the importance of providing excellent customer service, went above and beyond what was expected. If a guest receives this level of customer service in all dealings with the hotel's employees, he or she is apt to become a loyal guest of that hotel.
One way to determine how to go that extra step is to listen to your customers. Active listening skills will help you discover things you can do that mean something to the customer, don't cost the company a lot, and are not offered by your competition. Some active listening skills include:
Focus on the customer. Don't try to multitask when you are talking to a customer. If you are preoccupied with your keyboard, a computer screen, or even other customers, you will not be paying attention to what your customer is saying.
Make eye contact. Looking at your customer and acknowledging what he or she is saying by nodding your head, using small words like "ok" or "uh-huh" will let your customer know you are paying attention.
Don't interrupt. Let your customer finish what he or she is saying before you speak and then ask questions or make comments that are appropriate to the discussion, again letting your customer know you are paying attention.
Provide feedback. Use paraphrasing or parroting skills to clarify what the customer is saying. This will not only ensure that you have the right information, it will also show your customer that you care about him or her.
Going the extra step does not mean you have to spend a lot of money or even go far out of your way; it is the little touches that will make the difference between a satisfied customer and a loyal one. Here are some examples of how to ensure your customer leaves with a lasting good impression of you and your company:
- Smile and make eye contact as the customer enters your business. Many times a customer is not greeted at all, or the receptionist just pushes a sign-in sheet in front of the customer without making eye contact and barks out, "Sign in please."
- Before ending a conversation with someone on the phone, ask if there is anything else you can help with. If something you hear during the conversation makes you think of something you can offer that will help the customer, be sure to mention it.
- Efficient and effective problem solving will impress your customer. Looking at problems as opportunities to either teach or learn something, and making the resolution process a pleasant one will give your customer the feeling that you and your company are competent and easy to work with.
- When your customer asks questions, never mislead him or her by making promises you cannot deliver on or stating information about your product or service that is not true. If you can't do what the customer wants, say so, and then find someone who can, even if it is the competition.