The importance of listening to your customer.
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Customer service is a process of forming and maintaining a relationship with your existing as well as potential customers. The way a business handles their customer service is a good insight into the business itself. If a business cares about their customers and it shows through excellent and dedicated customer service, than such business has a future and potential for growth ahead of them. On other hand if a customer service the business gives is bad this is a sure sign that there may be other areas this business is experiencing the problem with.
Therefore effectively managing the customer service and developing the excellent customer service policies is an important part of any business as there is more in the customer service than just happy customers. A customer service is the window into the overall state the particular business finds themselves.
LISTENING TO YOUR CUSTOMER: A FUNDAMENTAL OF GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE.
Many businesses make a fundamental mistake of assuming what their customers say or want and basing their customer service policies based on such perceptions. When they discover that the customer is even further alienated and unhappy with the business the key people in charge of developing and maintaining the customer service relationship policies and strategies often scratch their heads and ask why?
CLARIFY ISSUE AND ENGAGE THE CUSTOMER
During the course of the conversation try to engage the customer to tell you what they see as being the source of the problem. Probe deeper to understand how the problem developed and what the customer would expect the satisfactory resolve to their issue be? If you understand what the customer is really asking for, you will be much closer to resolving the issue as well as avoid the issue to escalate further.
There may be situations where you may not be able to offer the customer what they are asking for. So do not promise what you cannot deliver. Be calm and be diplomatic. Explain to customer that you cannot deliver what they are asking and offer them the alternative that you can do. By setting expectations to what you can do for the customer you will be turning the issue towards the resolve rather than further alienating the customer by wrangling with details you are not capable to resolve.
STAND TO YOUR PROMISES
If you promise something to the customer make sure you follow up on your commitment. Take a note to follow up with the customer to make sure their issue had been resolved. Make sure that you or someone else delegated to the task is available for customer to call upon if he or she requires further assistance. By properly redirecting the situation to where you can offer the solution and following up on customer's concerns you will remove potential the source of the stress and further aggravation for the customer therefore avoiding the potential standoff.
BE PROFESSIONAL ABOUT IT
Even in worse case scenario never raise your voice at customer, never call customer names even if you are called or referred to something that offends you, but be firm. Point to the customer that they are being unreasonable, unruly and warn them that if they do not stop being offensive you will walk away from the conversation. If you are dealing with customer over the phone, remind them that their conversation may be recorded and offer them the phone number or a way to communicate with someone if they still think they are treated unfairly.
If you are dealing with the unruly customer in person, make sure you are aware of the surroundings. Do not let yourself be trapped in the corner or in the place where you cannot quickly retreat or call for help if the verbal abuse escalates in potential for a physical abuse. Make sure you are visible by your co-workers or other customers in case you need any help.
Even though the conversation may turn to be very emotional for you retain your calm. Do not drop the ball on the customer and try to further de-escalate the situation if you can. Be aware of your posture, your voice and most importantly your actions.
In a worst case scenario if the customer is unruly and still refuses to work with you even after you tried everything, try to give them one more opportunity by clearly stating that you will end up the conversation unless they stop being unruly and offensive. If the conversation is over the phone warn them you will disconnect the call if they continue acting unprofessionally. If you are in person, warn them that they will be asked to leave the premises if they continue to cause unrest. Point to them that their behavior is affecting other patrons in the store and ask them to leave.
Hopefully there will be very few instances where the customer will drive the conversation to this level and if you had tried all steps to de-escalate the situation as explained in this article in 99.9% of cases the conversation will never progress this far.
Most of customers that are angry, unruly, frustrated, etc. are so for reason. They may not know how to communicate their frustration, they may not even be aware of their behavior, they may be feeling they are not treated right, etc. Find what their problem is, engage the customer to see what they acceptable solution for them would be, communicate what you can offer to them and ask them what they would like to do? If you follow those golden rules you will find that you will find yourself in lesser situations where you are loosing the upper hand and where the customer is still unruly or disrespectful after you had addressed the situation properly.
AVOID BEING AUTHORITATIVE
This advice applies not only for dealing with the unruly customer but in any conflict resolution situation. Try to avoid strong close ended statements from which you cannot back out or which can further aggregate the situation. Statements like I CANNOT, I WILL NOT, YOU CAN NOT YOU WILL NOT, YOU MUST, etc. are very close ended and authoritative statements that do not fare well in any conflict resolution situation. Instead try to be diplomatic and rephrase yourself in less authoritative way. Remember you are on equal footing with the customer and you do not like it either if the customer is to authoritative or demanding. If you have to make strong statement make sure you offer the explanation to follow the statement." I cannot because ." (give the customer clear and reasonable explanation why you cannot do what they ask you to do) will work better than simply saying "I cannot".
DO NOT LISTEN JUST WHEN CUSTOMER COMPLAINS
Listening to your customer is an important part of a good customer service. By understanding what the issue is when your customer complains you can resolve the issue to the satisfaction to both parties in most cases. But you should not just listen to your customer when they are complaining. Happy customer has lots to say as well. They may reveal to you that they need to purchase more goods or services from you, they may be source of referrals for new business and customer acquisition. Following up with your customer and listening to what they say is important not only for resolving the conflict situation but also for overall business growth and new customer acquisition. Your customers are best source of information and if you ask them and listen to what they say they will readily share this information with you.
THANK YOUR CUSTOMER FOR THEIR FEEDBACK
Many people forget this important step but it is very important to always thank the customer for the time they spent with you be it that you are resolving the complaint they have or that you are soliciting the feedback from them regarding the product or service they purchased from you. A simple "thank you" is a powerful customer relationship building tool that only takes few seconds to say but can produce the benefits and business relationships to last for many years.
Listening to your customer helps you understand your customer. It helps you understand and help your customer with their concerns as well as probe deeper for additional opportunities for sale or acquiring additional customers. It is often said that people who have excellent relationship with their customers are champions of the customer service field. Those people are not only good listeners but they effectively use the information they acquire from listening to their customer.
But no matter what you do with the information you acquire it all has to begin with listening to your customer. If you miss on this step than everything else you do or try down the road is simply ineffective You rarely will find yourself in tune with your customer if you do not listen to them or if you do not understand what they are trying to communicate to you.