There are retail shops or service providers that you get into and you feel important, appreciated and welcome.
Their products might be expensive, but somehow people keep coming back again and again.
You walk into some places you feel unwelcome, uncomfortable and people that would be dealing with you make you feel inferior and when you ask about their service, it's like you are troubling them.
For almost a decade now, I have been training companies and, as research says, the skill that is lacking is good customer service.
In a company, it would be advisable to employ or keep someone with good customer care even though their qualifications do not measure up to it. There are people with great qualifications, but with a "stinking" attitude.
One customer service guru, John Tschohl (2011) in his book; Achieving Excellence Through Customer Service writes: "Most businesses do not understand that customer service is really selling because it inspires customers to return more often and to buy more.
One of the greatest problems in customer service is reluctance of managers to look at service as a marketing strategy.
Too many of them see it as an after-sales service, something relating back to a previous sale rather than ahead to the next one.
The most important person in any company is the one that has direct contact with the customer and, as such, customer relations management is crucial. As an individual in a company: Would your customers miss you or your business if it were no longer around?
In business, it's not only making a good impression, but creating an experience for the customer. This experience at times comes when you bump into a customer, who compels you to lift your standard. When the customer complains, it's an opportunity to build a relationship.
When the customer complains it's not necessary to justify yourself or prove a point. Complaints are good for your company.
It's time to engage the customer by listening and improve your service or product. As Peter Drucker, a management consultant once said: "Quality in a service or product is not what you put into it. It is what the client or customer gets out of it."
The one big thing that companies are able to do is to attract customers, but some cannot retain them.
Customer service is a situation you want to make your customer as comfortable and happy as possible and meet their needs and expectations and solve any problem that they may have.
Customer Relations Management (CRM) is a buzz word in business. CRM is: "Any application or initiative designed to help an organisation optimise interactions with customers, suppliers, or prospects via one or more touch points — such as a call centre, salesperson, distributor, store, branch office, web, or email — for the purpose of acquiring, retaining, or cross-selling customers."
(Goodhue, D. L., Wixon B. H., and Watson, H. J., Realising Business Benefits Through CRM: Hitting the Right Target In The Right Way MIS Quarterly Executive, Vol. 1, 2, 2002, pp. 79-96)
Here are great tips on good CRM:
Respect: As a service provider respect your customers. You are in business because of your customers. If the customer no longer brings the penny, you are out of business. When a person feels respected it's easy for them to give you money to buy your product or service.
Rapport: Money easily flows in positive relationships. Be open to your customers, get them talking, give them an opportunity to complain and build that rapport. Look for tools and techniques that will build a relationship with them on a personal level.
Resolve: Customers will complain. In fact, they are always complaining most of the time. The customer is always right, even though you know that they might be wrong.
The customer is always king even though you know they don't measure to it. When they complain find out the problem. Ask or find from them how you can resolve the problem.
Make a promise to resolve and then action that. After that has been resolved, follow through and follow up.
Relevant: Learn what the customer wants and provide what they want.
It's useless to give an unwanted product. This takes you to research and learn the trends of your customers. Follow them and be relevant.
Reliable: One big problem with business is being unreliable. Can your customers trust you? Can you adhere to your promises or Service Level Agreement (SLA) consistently?
Responsive: There are moments when the customer needs help or the product. For example, government institutes should offer a top-notch service, but with Zimbabwe, it looks like the opposite is true. I have trained two top government hospitals and a lot has to be done.
A public example is our passport offices. The service is poor and customers are not respected and because there is nowhere they can get the same service, they are compelled to come for the service. When thinking of crossing Zimbabwe's borders by road, your hearts thumps a little bit.
It's always a hustle, worse still if someone is ready to receive a bribe.
One institute that needs extra training are the uniformed forces such as the Zimbabwe Republic Police. Are our uniformed forces still respected in this nation?
I was speaking at a careers' day at a Bulawayo school; I was really surprised during the introduction of
the dignitaries that students booed at the police officers.
That sent a wrong message.
How can we bring back the glamour and the glory of the police force? They must be trained in customer service, so as to understand most of the pieces of advice given in this article.
Relatable: Relate on a human level with customers. Seth Godin said: "Traditional corporations, particularly large-scale service and manufacturing businesses are organised for efficiency. Or consistency. But not joy. Joy comes from surprise and connection and humanity and transparency.
If you fear special requests, if you staff with cogs, if you have to put it all in a manual, then the chances of amazing someone are really quite low"
Convenient: For your business to excel be found where the customer is. Hunt for the customer.
Parting Point: Our country needs to be respected as a good brand and so are companies. They must be trained in Customer Relations Management.
As Richard Branson pointed out: "The key is to set realistic customer expectations and then not to just meet them, but to exceed them — preferably in unexpected and helpful ways".