It doesn’t matter what line of business you’re in, interaction with customers in one form or another is guaranteed. Ensuring that the highest possible standards in customer services are not only reached but maintained is something that all companies worth their salt aspire to, but too few actually achieve. When you think about it, when you consider how important good customer service is to an organisation’s reputation, it’s astonishing how many are found wanting in this regard. It doesn’t take long to recall from personal experience a company that demonstrated poor customer service, just as one that excelled sticks in the mind also.
That’s the thing about customer service especially in the digital age; perform poorly and you’ll soon acquire a damaging reputation that precedes you and the likelihood is that prospective customers will be turned off from dealing with you. Conversely, show a commitment to outstanding customer service and you could well find that those who have benefitted from it have already recommended your company to their peers. Perversely, it’s sometimes companies with arguably the best product or service in their industry that demonstrate the worst levels of customer service, and those with offerings that are thought to lag behind who exhibit superiority in this area. It goes to show that quality of product and quality of customer service do not necessarily go hand in hand, yet they should because it’s the way that customers are treated and the efficiency and professionalism with which their enquiries are handled that largely determines whether a customer will continue to do business with you.
With this in mind, organisations that truly aspire to be the best at what they do will always be looking at ways to improve their customer service. A desire for 100 per cent service quality success is admirable and should be strived for, but it’s inevitable that failures will occur from time to time. It’s how businesses recover situations that matters and can make the difference between losing a customer and gaining a long-term advocate. Research has shown that a customer who has had their complaint resolved satisfactorily will tell an average of five people about the service they have received, whilst an unhappy client who has been the recipient of poor or ineffective service will tell ten people about their negative experience. Here are five tips for handling complaints more effectively and improving your chances of keeping customers onside:
1. Simplify the client complaints process
You are much more likely to retain business from customers who complain. For this reason, the complaints process should be as simple as possible. If it’s difficult to navigate for the customer or requires a lot of effort on their part, their dissatisfaction will grow and they will probably give up and take their custom elsewhere.
2. Accept responsibility for service failure
Nothing is likely to infuriate an already dissatisfied customer more than not acknowledging your mistakes. Being accountable is vital, as is ensuring that an issue is resolved quickly and to the satisfaction of the customer. Speed and clarity of service delivery is important, as you do not wish to have unhappy customers who are uncertain of the complaints handling process and the likely outcome.
3. Equip your customer facing teams with the tools to resolve issues
Passing complaints from pillar to post is unlikely to appease disgruntled customers, particularly if there is no satisfactory resolution! Give your employees who field complaints the ability to put things right, with the minimum of fuss. Wherever possible, enable your staff to take the initiative and take decisive action without always having to refer to a more senior member of staff.
4. Use training and coaching to improve customer service skills
Commit to pursuing a development programme that seeks to instil high performance standards throughout your organisation – including senior management. It’s especially important for frontline employees to have the required customer service skills so that, even when they’re under pressure, they can deliver the desired service standards and are comfortable handling customer complaints effectively.
5. Don’t rest on your laurels – monitor and improve
Use key performance indicators to measure the quality of your customer service standards. Implement mechanisms that allow recurring problems to be flagged easily, perhaps due to ineffective systems and processes. Finally, ensure that your business rewards and recognises team members that handle difficult complaints effectively.
Remember – handling customer complaints effectively increases customer loyalty, so it makes good business sense to strive for and ultimately embed excellent customer service skills throughout your organisation. This may sound like a tough ask, but with the help of ILX Group it is eminently achievable. With our help and the implementation of best practice project management standards, like those embodied in the PRINCE2® methodology, sustained excellence in customer service standards can be a reality quicker than you might think.