People have a lot of choice today when it comes to choosing sport clubs. It's important to find ways to set yourself apart and retain your customers so and one way to do that is to maintain a high level of customer service.
Ultimately, the experience and interactions we have with our customers may just very well be the reference that helps you land your next customer.
Here are a 6 tips to high quality customer service...
TIP 1: Listen to the 10% of your customers that require 90% of your attention
It’s often said in customer service that 10% of your customers require 90% of your attention. Ok I spun that a little, it actually goes, “10% of customers give you 90% of your problems”. There are times when the 10% may seem like problems but in a lot of cases, all they’re presenting is a challenge and perhaps a different perspective. That 10% of your customers that are challenging can drive you up the wall but we're all human beings so in those times, emotions can creep in. So instead of racing to end the call, listen and let your customer know you'll take their feedback and get back to them. Try to embrace the feedback and look at it objectively. You may find you just haven’t looked at it from your customers perspective.
TIP 2: Be proactive vs. reactive
I bet you’ve heard this statement all too often! We’d all like to think we’re proactive but the reality is, majority of us are not. Why? Because it’s really difficult. It requires us to be organized and have systems in place to “feel the pulse” of our customers on a regular basis. This can take months or even years to develop and even with processes and system in place to deal with it, it's still incredibly difficult to maintain. So where does it start? It starts by developing systems to automate mundane tasks so you could have those minutes or hours in your day to reflect and ask your customers questions like, “Jim, are you happy with our service and are we meeting your expectations". I know, I know, it sounds easier said than done but think about the time when someone genuinely took the time to do that and how appreciative you were.
This topic can turn into a lengthy discussion but in short, take time to review your day to day tasks and ask yourself, can I perform this task more efficiently and are there tools out there I can use to make my processes more efficient so I have more time to be proactive with my customers.
TIP 3: Help when a customer is in a bind, even if it doesn’t result in a cheque on your desk
Let’s examine a case scenario. You receive a frantic call from a customer who’s one of your lowest grossing clients and they’re completely stuck and turn to you for help. What they’re asking of you requires a lot of your time and perhaps, it isn’t even part of their service package. The usual response is, “Sorry but that’s not the service we provide for your package”. Instead, try, “I recognize you’re in bind and although we generally don’t offer this service, I don’t want you to be stuck so let me help you. In the future, here are resources x, y and z that can help you and you may want to consider service x for such inquiries”. You’ve just converted a customer into an advocate. This does come with a caveat because if your return on time invested is consistently negative, you might need to examine your relationship with the client.
TIP 4: Kill many birds with one stone
If you’re noticing that the same issue or question is arising on a regular basis, the first things you’ll want to do is address the situation. If the inquiries are an inherent part of a complex service that you offer and the reality is that you’re just going to have to prepare yourself for ongoing inquiries, create support resources in place to point your customer to the answer. We often feel that it’s just easier to answer that email on the spot so that you can get back to your customer quickly but your quick answer may not entirely satisfy the customer and you’ll be going back and forth on phone calls and emails. Instead, try crafting a thoughtful and comprehensive response and save it as a document template for future inquiries of a simliar nature. It may require some tweaks to personalize the message but at least you'll have the foundation of a complete response to close the support ticket rather than just answer it. This brings me to the next tip...
TIP 5: "Close" a service interaction until the person is satisfied don’t just answer it
All too often we forgot what this really means to "close" an inquiry because we’ve answered a customer's inquiry and we wipe our hand clean thinking the customer is satisfied. If at that time you were to send out two separate surveys, one asking “was your question answered?” and the second asking, “were you satisfied?”, the insight from the latter is much more useful.
There may be a time when you've answered an inquiry but satisfaction to your answer can be tough to gauge because you may feel like the person came away with the answer and is satisfied but it may not be the case. Trust your gut and if you're unsure whether the person is satisfied with your answer, follow up with a genuine approach. A quick email along the lines of, “I’m following up with you because we’re really keen on making sure you’re happy with our service. I may have answered your question but if you weren’t completely satisfied with our previous correspondence, please let me know what I can do better so that we can learn and serve you better in the future”. You can set yourself a reminder or use software that allows you to generate automatic satisfaction surveys and flag inquiries for a follow up.
TIP 6: Move on if it’s not right fit
Sometimes, your product or service just isn't the right fit for a particular client. When you're a small business, it's crazy to think that you'd even consider ending a client relationship right? The reality is that you may just be wasting each other's time.
You may be in a position where you’re constantly trying to alter your product or service to keep the client but you don't have the resources or your client is requesting new services that just don't present a good business case for you to implement. Be respectful of each other’s time and it may be best to let your client know that you don't have the right offering for what they're looking for. It's really important in this situation that you don't leave your client hanging and suggest other alternatives.