Thursday, December 5, 2019

Customer service is NOT sales!



young business woman answering phone Shutterstock
photo courtesy of Shutterstock

Any glimpse at modern ‘help-wanted’ listings will reveal a huge list of openings in ‘customer service’. Call any of them and chances are the job will include phone and web-based sales, often including cold calling and the expectation that the staff member will close each deal on the phone as a result.  This is completely separate from ‘customer service’, which by its very name entails the serving of a customer (who is already a ‘customer’!). 

Customers phone or visit vendors for many reasons; but the ‘I need technical help!’ plea may be the most crucial for both sides.  If your business is based on product knowledge (that is: you are not Amazon), providing an appropriate degree of assistance to really anyone who asks is a key part of your job.  Demonstrate to each caller your eagerness to listen, to care, to offer the right products and services, and your sense of respect for his needs and your sense of professionalism, and your reputation will flourish.

No; you might not get paid today; but a satisfied caller is a loyal customer already in the making.  Customers patronize vendors who elicit their confidence.  Consider this an investment in your business’s success - for you will reap the dividends, usually before long.

Here are a couple of my usual admonitions regarding customer service:

1. Don’t leave people on hold.  If it cannot be avoided, limit it to about 45 seconds (max).  If you can’t assist the caller at the moment, take his name and number and get a one-sentence description of the problem and inform him of when, realistically, you can call him back.  Then, do it in less time than he expected to have to wait, and give him your full attention.  If you’re unable to do this on a regular basis, you need more customer-service people on staff. 

2. A staff member answering incoming customer-service calls must do one of only two things: immediately help each caller competently or immediately route the caller to someone who can.  If the first thing a caller hears from a customer-service staff member is ‘Um -’, or ‘Well -’ or ‘So -’, his first reaction is to believe he’s reached the wrong person to help him - an impression that will not go away soon.

3. Upselling is fine - so long as it is truly relevant to the caller’s needs.  A caller asking about thermostat housings doesn’t want to hear a rehearsed script about life jackets on sale. Regular customers won’t mind - they already know you - but a caller out of the blue should receive your very best impression, and that doesn’t include treating him like ‘just another’ (even though, to this point, he may be).  Advise him of which tools he needs, caution him about specific signs of engine overheating, and absolutely sell him the correct gaskets and adhesives, and he’ll consider you a font of information whom he will definitely call again.

Technical customer service is one of my pet areas for sharing ideas and developing sound strategies.  Call me; and we'll see how we can improve your customers' experience when they're calling on you. 

 - JC2

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