Win Business With Customer Service
"All printing is created equal."
It's not true, of course, but this is what our customers tend to believe.
They've come to expect things like fast, dependable service, a quality product and value for their money. So when they try to differentiate between printers, they often focus on price. And while price is important, the best way for an in-plant to distinguish itself is through superior customer service and satisfaction.
Technology is driving our business forward but is also driving our customers' expectations, which are constantly changing. While many in-plants focus on using technology to improve customer satisfaction, we must always remember to develop a personal relationship between the customer and the in-plant.
Customers may equate a late return phone call with late product deliveries or a lack of attention to their needs.
We must truly take an interest in the customer and in his or her business and let them know on a regular basis that we care. Customers want to feel welcomed, be understood, feel important, feel appreciated and be remembered. You don't get that from technology. You get it from your staff's customer service skills and from relationship building.
Improve Employee Phone Skills
Individuals who interface with customers must perfect several types of service skills. The telephone is one of the most important and least focused upon customer service communications tools. Phone techniques are critical not only for customer service representatives but for each and every individual in your organization.
When the phone rings answer it promptly, preferably by the second ring. This communicates the message that you are ready to listen and that the call is not an inconvenient intrusion. Consider providing cordless headset phones for your customer service representatives so that they have hands-free mobility to collect files, interface with your production management system and move about. Identify yourself and your department properly and remember that your tone of voice accounts for much of the message the caller hears.
The following are other phone techniques that will significantly improve your service level.
- When the phone rings, take a deep breath, exhale, and relax.
- Smile before you speak. It will be noticed in your voice.
- Keep the phone one to two inches from your mouth.
- Take your time. Speak slowly and clearly.
- Use pauses to make points clearer.
- Use inflection.
- Don't shout or whisper but match volume and pace of speech with that of the customer.
- End with a sincere thank you.
Use Phone Features The Right Way
Other helpful techniques involve the use of phone features. Know the correct hold procedures. Never make a customer wait on hold more than one minute. Offer to call back if it appears that resolving the issue will take more than one minute. Never ever ask a customer to call you back. Always call them. That's customer service.
I'm often surprised at how many times I see individuals burden the customer with calling back, thinking they have adequately serviced that client. In reality all they have done is relieved themselves of the responsibility.
Know the correct call transfer procedures. Always explain what you are going to do beforehand. Provide the customer with the number you are transferring them to in case a problem arises, and request the customer's number for call-back purposes. Make sure everyone who handles the phone knows exactly how to transfer calls, and this includes the production staff. Losing a customer during the call-transfer process is a reflection of your service level and organization.
Message taking is also an important aspect of customer service. When taking messages for a co-worker, be accurate. Make sure to include the caller's name, the date and time of the call, the phone number, a detailed account of the message and the expected outcome. The expected outcome is an extremely important aspect, as it allows the recipient to begin gathering information up front before responding to the caller.
Plan Your Conversation
Before calling your customer, think through the key points of the discussion. When calling, visualize the recipient and expect to encounter voice mail. If you do get voice mail, take your time and provide your name and department along with a warm greeting. Indicate that you are disappointed not to be able to speak directly with the individual. Your message should be clear, concise, and complete. Speak slowly. Repeat your name and phone number once again, and end with a sincere thank you.
Avoid over-reliance on voice mail. Person-to-person communication is always best. Check voice mail at least hourly, preferably every 15 minutes. In an office with several individuals, consider the use of a common password so that others can check on your voice mail when you can't. Response time back to a customer is often used as a "reliability indicator." While it's unfortunate, customers may equate a late return phone call with late product deliveries or a lack of attention to their needs. That perception is their reality and could cost you business opportunities.
In summary, the in-plant manager should pay close attention to how the phone is answered. Monitor phone techniques closely. It's ironic how we often delegate answering the phone to individuals new to our organization, temporary staff, or those who might not have the skills necessary to maximize the opportunities presented.
Business opportunities will be lost without your knowledge if this particular work is not done courteously, accurately, and with a real consideration of customer needs.