Category Archives: Customer Service

Having a safety net for your products and services is one of the social responsibilities of a business owner. It is one way of securing the safety and quality service to our customers. Likewise, in the process, we also earn the loyalty and trust of those that we have rendered quality products and services to.

Customer service is one of the ways we can show the customers that we are interested not only at selling products and rendering services, but also with providing them with quality assistance and support so that they can fully enjoy the benefits of our products and services. As a general rule of thumb in customer service: quality is the best policy.


Brilliant Customer Handling Hints

Every business thrives with the support of its loyal patriotic customers. Every businessman’s secret fantasy is to rake in as much people as he can get to patronize his product to get his business going.  Just how is that possible?  Simply show them thoughtfulness and caring.  Make them feel important because that is exactly how they are:  Important.

Recently I came across an internet write-up made by a self-confessed food lover and apparently a good cook too.  And just like any other kitchen fanatic I know of, he searches for food outlets anywhere he wants to which offer just the right ingredients for him to concoct his own majestic dishes.  According to this guy, he came to find a new deli downtown which offers almost the same excellent ingredients as any of the other stores.   That is, the new food house doesn’t offer exclusivity when it comes to parma ham, parmesan cheese, pepperoni or what have you.  He doesn’t even notice if this new-found place offers fresh picks at a cheaper price.  So as a new customer, what made him patronize this place when it does not particularly offer an edge to other food stores?  The answer is pretty simple: he was made to feel important there.  Unlike any other store, he experienced careful customer handling within its walls.  I believe the words he chose to describe his experience were “they have good customer service and are just so darn thoughtful.”

If every businessman’s goal is to gather more and more customers each day, every customer’s desire is to feel valuable.  Customers don’t like to wait.  But of course, in reality, it can be unavoidable at times so making them realize their wait will be worthwhile is the trick.  As a businessman here’s a suggestion: try to rustle up what may appear to be impromptu activities to entertain your waiting customers.  As our blogger experienced while waiting, he was offered a little bit of everything that is being sold in that establishment!   Bits and pieces of everything sure can’t hurt your day’s income most especially when you are not looking to spend costly advertisements.  At the close of business, surely you will have chuck up bits and pieces of everything anyway so why don’t you convert these loose pieces into advertising tools, right?

Give and receive is the golden rule we’ve learned for ages.  This time, it’s not just being said but it’s actually being done.

Every now and then, a businessman encounters an indecisive customer.  This is your typical fence sitter who wants something but due to the vast choices available, finally falls into the indecisive trap.  The key to reading this customer’s mind is to offer them what you have.  If for example he wants to buy coffee beans, offer him an idea how to choose!   Just how to do this? Make him a small cup of coffee of that recommended bean. Make him taste it.  Start from that little gesture and work your way to getting him to buy it.

In the end, it all boils down to one thing: let them feel important.  In all honesty, this is how you get to have loyal patronizing customers who will get your business going.


Complaints Resolutions – Promote Your Business

Customers who plunge into purchases that result to unsatisfactory performance dread the moment when they have to notify the shop they patronized because more often than not, poor post-sales customer service handling is what is expected.  Breakdown of an item do happen, albeit rarely.  But if businesses learn how best to handle these rare post-sales customer issues well, threat can actually turn into opportunity for return businesses from the complainants themselves.  Here’s a short sample of how that can happen.

Last winter, a blogger client decided to shell out $170 to have a fire grate made in his new home.   After installation, the customer was satisfied with his purchase.  Craftsmanship appeared impeccable, functionality and operations, smooth.  But after only twenty fires, the whole device started to lose shape, bend in several places and eventually conked out.   Generally, this would instantly be concluded as a bad purchase and will result to irritation and dissatisfaction.  Coming from an active blogger, this can spell disaster and bad publicity for the shop and the product itself.

Fortunately, the client is a sensible man. He has professed he generally avoids conflicts at all costs.  Placing the problem in the back-burner, so to speak, for a couple of weeks so as to delay the eventual confrontation of the problematic item, the client finally realized he should take it back.   “Sorry, mate, our guarantee only extends to 14-days” or “Sorry but you shouldn’t have kept using it” were the standard parroted words expected.  One cannot really blame him for expecting those.

Upon placing the complaint formally on the counter’s shop, lo and behold, he got the surprise of his life!  How so?  The fellow who received his concerns promptly apologized for the item delivered and immediately laid out a resolution plan complete with timelines.   Instead of referring to the client as a “mate,” the shop fellow pleasantly referred to the client by his first name on his apology immediately striking a more personal, professional connection and at the same time, pacifying the irritation and offering a resolution that would be done within two days!  The end result? The problematic fire grate was fixed on the same day at no extra charge.

Now that is what you call Impeccable Customer Service Handling.

How you handle customer complaints can create an opportunity to promote your business.

Clients acknowledge that although products are supposed to deliver what they promised in their unique selling propositions, problems do arise and mistakes do happen.  From the business owner’s perspective, the learning here is how best to handle situations like these when they arise so as to ensure continued patronage and understanding from their business providers.

The blogger client who was pleasantly surprised of the experience did, as expected, blog about the whole thing.  In his online article, he swore he could tell the fellow who handled his complaint resolution had no formal training in corporate customer service.  However, what set this fellow apart from his peers is that he took ownership of the business, exercised wise judgment, and did what seemed right.  In business-speak, this bright fellow listened to his customer’s request, offered a reasonable resolution, provided a sensible timeline and delivered.

Don’t get it wrong: good customer service handling does not mean giving in to every whim and fancy of complaining customers.  Admittedly, there are moments when clients are simply unreasonable.  But in every situation, there is a solution.  The only message this article wishes to imbibe is that good customer service handling, especially post-sales, is another important selling experience a client must enjoy.  Have a good ear for listening, be sensible and mature about your options and deliver promptly.  The last of these elements is as essential as the first: delivery.  After all, nobody likes to be delayed. Nobody likes to wait. Prompt action not only delivers but it also seals the deal.

How businesses handle customer complaints reflect how clients will look at them for similar future requirements.  Handled well, these once irate customers can turn into loyal, happily raving patrons.  Search for that blog of the fire grate blogger client – he has sworn he’d buy another fire grate soon at Flash Weld in Mornington, Victoria.


Tell Customers If You Can’t

In the digital age of communications, business owners scramble to cover all data information highways just to ensure that the target market finds their product or service immediately and if the need to purchase it arises, the avenues to contact, inquire and seal the deal is present.  Speed and availability is the name of the game.  Sadly though, the abundance of these so-called avenues often does not match the time and focus business owners must allocate to keep everything going all at the same time.  More than helping, too much glass balls over a juggler’s head may end in disaster especially for serious consumers who expect to basic customer service: attention.

Take this multinational cosmetic production company, for instance. With all their paid advertisements and collaterals plastered with their official website and fan pages, one blogger shared that she once tried to write them a straightforward note via the contact form available on their website for something about their product to be further clarified.  Upon hitting the ‘send’ button, a computer-generated reply promptly appeared in her inbox thanking her for her very important query with a smart assurance of “We will get back in touch soon.”

Unfortunately, several months have passed and yet, no “getting back in touch soon” happened.  To most clients, this is a sign that that company clearly does not feel that that effort poured into contacting them did not merit any kind of reaction so they will simply bring their business elsewhere.   This is a glass ball falling to the ground in pieces.

Remember that no matter what the size your business is or how wide your distribution network covers, you are not only responsible for managing customer expectations by letting your customer know how to contact you but also to actually pay attention to your customers by ensuring all these contact information centers are manned and attended to.

Review where your target market is and what avenues are easily available to them.  Is it landline voice calls, facsimile, short messaging services or email through your company website?   Depending on your capabilities to handle these lines, prioritize which ones you will adopt and ensure sustained interaction in them once you make them available and known to the public.  Beware of falling into what others call the “Always Available” trap by giving customers every option available just because you can take advantage of it but not really be capable of sustaining it in the long run.  A phone line that goes unanswered can be more detrimental to your business than an unpublished number.

Your customers are sensible enough to understand that you are not going to be available 24/7 (unless you are in the business of saving lives) but when you say “Thank you for your inquiry. We will get back in touch soon,” mean it.


Service Culture: Key to Establishing a Business Entreprise

In my spare time I make it a point to drive through the local mall and stroll within its hallways just looking at the endless lines of well instituted pubs and shops.   I cannot help but read through most of their labels and brands.  One thing I have continually noticed on countless occasions: their business logos which would bear the words “Established in ___ or Since ___.”   Looking back at it now, I can only ask myself, how do they do that?  Just how do they manage to put up a business then keep it through the years even through the centuries?

In the world of competitive trades and economics it is not a brilliant idea for a budding businessman to slash prices in half every time business opens.  This is what one of our internet bloggers recently realized.  He concluded, that it is impractical to lower your prices to assume a leverage of some sort from other business ventures as this will surely bring an untimely demise on your business endeavor.  Instead, he insisted on keeping one trade secret: encouragement of service culture.

What is service culture all about?  It is simply the expounded idea of the age-old rule: give and take.  That is, a transaction is considered complete if the services your customers received are enough to motivate them to return.  This is encouraging customer loyalty.   Customers need to feel valuable.  Once they are made to feel that they are needed and that they are important they will come back for more.  That is human nature.  Besides, loyal customers are the best publicity. As the saying goes:

“ Not only do loyal customers spend more, they also help your business to grow by bringing in more new customers. ”

Creating customer awareness, channeling your principal message and crafting customer loyalty takes time and effort.  However with the help of service culture, these can be made effortless.  It is best to keep in mind three important steps: first, determine a shared goal between the business and its customers. Second, maintain rapport.  That is, keep an open communication.  And third, generate positive feelings.  Use compliments,  and personalized messages to convey gratitude and appreciation.  Don’t get me wrong, service culture is not present within the transaction level.  It is seen during the time when customers are not with the business men and they are not well within the business area.

Looking back, I have reached a level of understanding about how brilliantly these established businesses created a group of customers and kept them loyal all these years.  I can only imagine how intricately they have managed to weave three important factors: the establishment of a common goal, the introduction of an open communication and the building of rapport which are truly exquisite they have kept the business going.  Trust, in its most fundamental sense of the word, is a indeed a product of loyalty.  Customer loyalty is the key to win the ruthless competition in the alternate universe of a traders’ world.


Bad Customer Service Can Take a Toll on Your Business

Ever wondered why companies left and right spend millions of advertising dollars just to come up with loyalty cards and programs for their business? It is simple: it is because they have realized that loyalty leaders in business who more often than not design their whole business systems around customer loyalty rise up to be winners in the end. If you start wishing your business to harness this intangible trait of allegiance with your existing customers and take steps towards its realization, you and your business should be bound for success as well.

Client loyalty is the act with which happy customers adopt making them come back to patronize a chosen product or service.  It is a self-imposed system wherein a company strives to deliver high impeccable quality in all their products or services all the time making high-quality and able customers stay with them for the long haul.  In some successful cases, even company employees turn into these happy customers that customer loyalty transcends market place walls.

Owing to the fact that the rate of return for high customer loyalty is measurable, businesses today are jumping into the celebration wagon.  When a business owner consistently produces products or services of value and win customer loyalty, market share, bottom lines and top lines all rise while the cost to acquire new customers goes down.  How so? Loyal customers do a business much service through word of mouth advertising and referrals without the company having to spend any advertising dollars further!

Various ways are available today for companies to capture customer loyalty among their current client base.  Programs in the form of incentives or risk-free trial periods for a product or service are some of the ways a business can introduce this scheme.  Cash outlay at the onset may appear big and daunting but in the long run, the high yield these programs deliver drive up profits and expenditures essential to attract new patrons.

Despite these new ways of attracting and keeping your target market to patronize your excellent product or service line, remember that there is still no excuse from delivering excellent customer service at each and every transaction, be it pre- or post-sales, to support the thrust you are introducing to your clients.  After all, “nothing is harder to regain than lost trust” and to earn customer loyalty, consistency is a vital key.

A blogger mentioned before that “People do business with people they trust.” That much is true. A client will only bring their business to people they perceive to be trustworthy not only in business dealings but also, those who they perceive to be knowledgeable – an expert in their area – whose high dependability to deliver what they promise is without doubt.

Today is the age of being critical – when customer trust is hard to win unless you successfully settle all the doubts in their head.  Keep in mind that building trust is a slow process but once won, you reap the benefits for your business in the end.


Transforming Customer Service from Good to Exceptional

Time and time again, I’m sure you’ve heard of how living it has changed people, businesses, and industries. If you haven’t heard of it, then you need to go out there more and maybe experience it yourself. I’m talking about exceptional customer service.

In a recent business trip to Hong Kong, some colleagues and I went to a restaurant for dinner. Another colleague was running late and called up to ask for directions on how to get there from a certain landmark. The cab driver seemed to have missed the exact address and dropped him off a few blocks away.

Being in an unfamiliar place, we asked the restaurant manager to give him directions over the phone. Even with the directions, our colleague still can’t seem to find the location. After a few minutes, the restaurant manager borrowed the phone and went out of the restaurant to personally look for him and escort him to the place.

Now, that’s going the extra mile! I know exceptional customer service when I see it.

This experience got me thinking as to when the last time I provided exceptional service to a customer was. During my reflection, I gave myself a very honest answer. I always knew that I provided good customer service; and customers can attest to this. I just can’t remember the last time I provided  service that was exceptional. As a fellow business owner, I am now challenging you to ask yourself that same question.

Realistically speaking, it would be impossible to always go out-of-the-way for every customer at every moment of every day. It is possible, however, for you to plan ahead and offer exceptional customer service every now and then. Think of the difference it would make to yourself, your business, and your customers.

So, I am now challenging you to demonstrate exceptional customer service to one of your clients by following some guidelines below.

1. In terms of business relationships, think of a customer you’d like to build a stronger working relationship with.

2. On a customer service standpoint, think of ways on what you can do to add more value to the relationship. Make sure that it’s over and above what you or your business normally offer.

3. Plan ahead and go do it.

Think of the endless possibilities of doing this to each and every one of your customers can bring to your business.  Visualize how your business will benefit if you turn a neutral customer into a promoter, or a promoter to an advocate. How do you think would you and your customers feel? How would this impact you and your business? What would this change in the way you or your customers do business?

It might just be that exceptional customer service is the ‘difference that makes the difference’ to your customers.


The Bad Customer Service Numbers Game

If you’re too busy welcoming new clients through the front door, and haven’t even noticed that some existing ones are slipping out the back; then definitely exceptional customer service skills will help you overcome this obstacle.

During business planning workshops I facilitate, I’ve always asked business owners if ever they’re too busy entertaining new or potential customers that they forget to provide exceptional service to retain existing clients. Quite a lot of them say ‘yes;’ and most of these business owners are also unable to identify who their most profitable clients are right away.

A leaky bucket is the best example for this situation. Let’s take two small business owners in the same industry. Let’s say both of them attract ten percent of new clients every year; which is not bad,  considering the business climate and the saturation of their industry.

Business Owner A is able to maintain ninety five percent of his customers, while the other five percent leave because of different reasons. Business Owner B , on the other hand, retains ninety percent of her clients, while the ten percent is lost due to fallouts.

These are very impressive figures, I might say; but after fourteen years in the business, Business Owner A was able to double his business size while Business Owner B stayed the same.

This is where the metaphor of the leaky bucket comes in. Business Owner B suffers from a ‘leaky bucket.’ It means that too many customers are slipping through the holes at the bottom. Most of her customers’ reason for fallout was her company’s poor customer service. What’s worse is that Business Owner B doesn’t even know it!

Research shows that a typical business doesn’t get feedback from about ninety-six percent of their unhappy customers. When it comes to ‘word of mouth,’  every customer complaint will reach twenty six other people with the same concern. What’s more is that these twenty six people will tell an average of nine to ten people each about how bad a company’s customer service is. Thirteen percent will tell more than twenty people about their horrendous experience.

This is how the numbers look like for businesses whose customer turnovers are due to poor customer service skills. Though the numbers might initially look good, there is always a bigger effect in the long run. But, it’s not all about bad news; because for every resolved complaint, customers tell five people about the experience, on the average. This is usually positive feedback.

Another example is that ninety five percent of complainers engage to do business with the company again compared to customers who don’t complain. This number now goes to the ninety-five percent customer retention if the complaint was dealt with quickly and efficiently.

Keeping your clients happy through exceptional customer service will plug the holes in your leaky bucket. Keeping your bucket leak-free will, of course, result to a more successful and sustainable business.


What Makes Exceptional, Exceptional? It’s all in the Attitude!

The goal of each business is to provide exceptional customer service; but do we really understand what  exceptional service really is?

There are two mindsets when it comes to how a certain business interacts with customers and the industry – one is a selling mindset and the other one is a service mindset. These two mindsets determine the personality of the business and how it is perceived not only by clients, but also by the entire industry.

The selling attitude is deeply rooted in the business’ goal of maintaining revenue and managing customer turnover. The sales mindset pretty much stems from every business’ direction of being profitable and sustainable. Moreover, adapting this mindset entails that every customer interaction should always start with a question of “What can I sell you today?” There’s nothing really wrong with adapting a selling mindset; but it all goes awry when the attitude itself becomes the only focal point of an organization. Getting sales as the only focus will lead the business on a downward spiral of short term solutions and short-lived results.

A service attitude, on the other hand, begins with the primal instinct of assisting others. With this type of mindset, there is an unquestionable interest in problem solving so that others can also achieve their goals and be successful. More importantly, having a customer service mindset dictates that the level of engagement demonstrates genuine commitment.

Below are some tips on how to demonstrate exceptional service to your customers.

  • Approach each new customer with questions like “How can I help” and “What challenges are you currently facing?” Showing unpretentious interest towards your customers, their businesses, and their challenges is a true demonstration of exceptional service.
  • Always remember to partner with your customers. Use partnering words like ‘we’ or ‘us’ in any communication. In whatever challenge the customers are facing, make them feel that you’re also in there, facing it with them.
  • Treat your customers’ businesses like it’s your own. A customer’s challenges are your challenges; and their success, your success. Always be ready to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty.
  • Put value add into your products of services.  Assure your customers that you can help them make a difference. If there are issues that you’re unsure of your ability to help, tell them honestly; but don’t forget to help them look for other ways and means to overcome those obstacles.
  • Champion your client’s goals. If you truly believe in your customer’s business, then you are a right match for each other. Having the same direction and championing each other’s cause provide a lot of motivating power and will generate results. If both your goals are contradicting, then there shouldn’t have been a partnership in the first place.
  • Sensible time management is also paramount. Always make sure to set clear project scopes,  job specifications, and time-keeping. Honor the value that your business brings to the relationship by making sure that you get what is appropriate for your efforts. Absolutely say ‘no’ to customers who won’t pay the set price for your services as they do not see what value you can provide their business.

Adapting a genuine customer service attitude allows you to exceed all expectations; without  having to follow any guidelines or rules in doing so.  It just shows how exceptional service is natural to your way of doing business. Taking time to listen, showing that you care, and demonstrating a willingness-to-help attitude will almost always win you faithful customers.

A selling mentality may well be good in achieving short term goals; but having a customer service  mindset most likely results to solid, long-term, and loyal partnerships; with tons of referrals to boot. Still, the decision is up to the business owner; you. If you want a big stream of customers of who you never hear from again, then focus on  a selling mentality. If you want customers who hang around for a long time, give you repeat work, and refers you to their own customers or colleagues, then we suggest putting focus on exceptional service.

mobile phone

A Phone Call Can Save the Day: A Story about Keeping in Touch with your Clients

There really are times when projects aren’t going that well, but keeping your clients informed  in spite of shortcomings or challenges, can save that treasured relationship and even boost business. One of the rules to providing exceptional customer service is keeping  in touch with your clients and how often.

Here’s an example of a project that almost ended in a complete disaster, but it was saved by a single phone call.

Bill was a new client; and he had contracted my services to promote an upcoming event. The project was halfway done as Bill had let go of the services of the first publicist, mid-way. Just by looking at the project timelines, objectives, deliverables, and goals, I realized that the planned event was difficult to sell to the media. The previous publicist wasn’t able to successfully do so; but still, I decided to give it a try.

In one of my meetings with Bill, he had complained about how my predecessor handled the project badly. Bill mentioned that she had badly laid-out media release plans, basic spelling and grammar errors, and never called him back. The last one made me cringe: “never called back.” When Bill mentioned this, I knew that from the tone of his voice, being consistently informed was his main concern. And yes, like Bill, being ignored is the thing that clients hate the most.

With this in mind, I made sure that I found out when Bill likes to be contacted and how. I gave him regular updates, whether him or I had anything much to say didn’t matter. These calls just lasted  just about three minutes each, two times a week. More importantly, if he called, I’ll make sure to call him back within the day.

At the start of the project, Bill liked my media plans and he found that the releases didn’t contain any spelling or grammatical errors. Even though this was the case, I still didn’t get much publicity for the event. Still, I consistently gave him a call, reported the challenges, and explained what my next action plans were. Even though we faced big challenges on the project, our conversations always ended on a constructive and positive note.

Bill wasn’t the only client I was providing services to. During the time, I had multiple clients all with high-demand projects. While I am proud of my efficiency and reliability when handling multiple projects, something unforeseen happened with another client. This caused a snag in my timelines; and the deliverables for Bill’s event were delayed by two days.

I picked up the phone and explained the situation to Bill. I told him what my action plans were, and assured him that everything was still on target. Bill could’ve been furious at these delays. Yes, he was disappointed; but at the end of the call he appreciated my honesty and was satisfied that he wasn’t forgotten. He was also happy to know that I was getting a move on.

In the end, we did get some publicity, but not the amount that we were shooting for. The event didn’t get the numbers that was needed; and it was ultimately cancelled. Based on the results, my relationship with Bill should’ve gone sour; and that would’ve been bad publicity on my end. Yet, Bill still paid me in full.  He also told me that he would have me handle another event in the future. He must’ve noticed my doubtful look, and so he said, “I know you did everything you could.” Bill was right, I did everything that I can; and he knew that because I consistently kept him in the loop of what’s happening.

A year later, Bill fulfilled his promise and phoned me back. The event, this time, was the perfect one for media attention. It was a huge success for Bill, myself, and everyone involved. The event also generated new clients for me. Never had I been so grateful that someone called, just like they said they would.

young professional woman making an announcement through a megaphone.

Communication: The Hidden Key to Business Success

We’ve learned early on in high school that communication always involves four important aspects.  Sender-Receiver-Message and Feedback.  These aspects, when woven together, creates the two-way system we now call communication.  In life, as well as in business, it is an openly known fact that relationships begin with communication.  That is , correspondence and interconnection works wonders.  It allows people to learn a thing or two about you and it enables you to reciprocate the same gesture about them.  A simple greeting, a cordial exchange of compliments, and even a brief conversation can roll the dice to knowing each other.  Alas, that is communication!

In business,  opening channels for communication sets you apart from the rest of your competitors.  It is not enough that you deliver your promises to your patrons but it is more than enough that you keep up with your word and you communicate with them.  Just how are you going to make this happen?  Think of the wonders of technology.  In this era of emails, text messaging, and icloud applications reaching your patrons seems to be just a few clicks away.  Indeed it is.  A simple gesture of sending them a note, a letter, or simply a message about a recent update of trends and craze will send your customers driving through your establishment and inquiring about thesenew up-and-about vanities!

One blogger shared by writing an example of how she reaches out to her customers, and for your convenience I have included it here:

Dear Sally,
I hope you’re well.
Just wanted to give you a quick update on _______.
Everything is progressing just fine and will be delivered on Wednesday morning.
Kind regards,

The idea is straighforward: address them with their first names, channel your message, be quick and thorough about it.  Simplicity is the key.  Then complete it by sending  your warmest regards.  This humble act will settle the worries of your customers most especially if they are the type to be easily rattled with deadlines,  targets, and cutoffs.  Reassurance will be the single greatest favor you can do for them.  You need not change your work ethics or even your work attitude.  You basically just have to work on you communication skills.  This is bound to set you apart from your competitors.

It is always best to keep in mind that when customers patronize your business it is not just your products or your services that they are after.  Instead, they want to settle for a trader who will make life easy for them.  All you have to do is to grab this opportunity to give them peace of mind.  How so?  The power of words.  You are bound to be surprised that most customers, especially those who are in the corporate world, will pay a fortune to experience this.  Your action is simple, the rewards you’re guaranteed to reap are great.  After all, high school lectures do have its toll in the business world.  Sender-receiver-message and feedback constitute the important aspects that make you and your customer stand-out from the rest of the crowd.