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The Importance of Customer Service, Pt. 4

If you've been following this series, you are familiar with the 5 guidelines for providing excellent customer service:

I project a positive image and energy;
I am courteous and respectful to all customers;
I go above and beyond;
I create relationships with my customers;
I am a team player.

This post focuses on #4 — I create relationships with my customers. To create these relationships, it is imperative that you listen to their needs; be knowledgeable of your products and services; be honest and sincere and don't judge a customer "by her shoes." Let's discuss a few of these points in more detail. 

Put LAST First

You want to create relationships with your customers that will LAST, which is a good acronym to use to remember some of the most important points about creating relationships. 

L is for Listen
Let the customer share information with you. Be present in the moment. Let them vent if need be. Let them get it out. Don't rush to answer. Maintain good eye contact and open body language. Ask open-ended questions. Capture the critical details. Consider how the customer's emotions are influencing their words. Make certain that the customer feels completely heard before you start offering solutions.

A is for Apologize
If a customer is unhappy or displeased with their services, express sincere disappointment for the situation not meeting their expectations (no excuses, no blame) and affirm that you are committed to doing whatever is in your power to make it right. 

S is for Solve
Help customers find solutions to their situations. If the situation requires offering empathy, do so. If it's a matter that needs to be fixed — fix it!

T is for Thanks
Thank your customers! Thank them for their business, thank them for their feedback, thank them for their complaints. Often, the best gifts we receive from customers are the complaints they register. While it isn't human nature to appreciate negative comments, those complaints can act as a road map to tell us if we're on track. And if we thank them genuinely and authentically, it will go a long way towards strengthening our relationships with them. 

Knowledge is Power

You can't develop the relationship if you don't know your product. Find out everything you can about the products and services you offer. Get excited about the products and services you provide — if you're not interested, why would you expect the customer to be interested? Believe in the cliché, "knowledge is power." Knowing everything you can about what you offer gives you credibility. And don't just focus on your specific program, service or department — find out everything you can about all the services available to your customers.

The Nordstrom Story

The Nordstrom department store chain is the standard against which other companies and organizations often measure themselves and their customer service. In their book "The Nordstrom Way to Customer Service Excellence," they tell the following story: 

One day back in the 1970s, a woman in her fifties walked into one of their stores. She walked through the sportswear department dressed in tacky clothes and a pair of old white tennis shoes with a hole in the toe. There was no stampede to wait on her. After a few minutes went by, one employee walked over to say hello. Two hours later, she had purchased about $5,000 (in 1970's dollars) worth of sport coats, shirts and sweaters which, she explained, were uniforms for the crew of her boat. She asked the employee to put all the items together for her driver to pick up. The customer turned out to be the daughter of a famous American industrialist, and was on her way to her estate in the San Juan Islands.

The lesson — never judge a book by its cover; open it up. Don't prejudge your customers because of how they look, how they smell or what they wear. Take the time to create a relationship in order to get to the heart — and their heart — of the matter. 

To review this fourth guideline, in order to create relationships with your customers, it is imperative that you listen to their needs; be knowledgeable of your products and services; be honest and sincere; and lastly, don't judge a customer "by her shoes."

Other articles in this series: 

The Importance of Customer Service, Pt. 1

The Importance of Customer Service, Pt. 2

The Importance of Customer Service, Pt. 3

Customer Service, Leadership

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Portrait of Ann Merrifield