How does your company rate on customer service? Start by considering what happens when someone calls.  Are customers on hold a long time? Is the person on the other end of the line, the best qualified to take the call? Do customers have to wait a long time before someone returns a call?

A call into your company could be the start of a ‘beautiful relationship’ or the end of one, and that’s not all. Consider the following statistics from a White House Office of Consumer Affairs study– conducted in the 1980s by consumer research company TARP:

  • A customer who is dissatisfied will tell between 9-15 people about their experienced. Around 13 percent of customers who are dissatisfied tell more than 20 people.
  • Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4-6 people about their experience.

It’s not hard to see that unhappy customers can have a significant impact on your marketing efforts, and considerably more so today than 30 years ago because of the power of social networks. Outstanding customer service builds loyalty that ensures customers keep coming back even when there are competitive options.

Seven steps to excellent customer service

Customer service needs to part of your company’s vision and values. If you aren’t already, make sure to:

  • Listen: When you actively listen to your customers, you will respond appropriately to their needs and not just give lip service to their problems.
  • Take time: Don’t just answer questions, interact. Social media is a great way to engage with your customers to answer questions and provide them with needed information.
  • Anticipate needs:  The more you communicate with your customers, the better you understand their needs. Make recommendations ahead before problems come up. In this way, your customers see you as providing solutions, not just products and services.
  • Go above and beyond: Don’t just answer the question. Find out if your answer has resolved the customer’s problem and then inquire to see if there is something else you can do.
  • Explain how your business runs: Explain your systems and processes so customers can understand how things get done. This can eliminate a lot of frustration if they perceive something as a delay or breakdown in the process.
  • Convey appreciation: Don’t underestimate the power of saying “thanks.” Consider other ways to show your customers that you value their business with a surprise delighter. I’ll never forget when I unexpectedly got free two-day shipping from Zappos.  A complimentary service or a discount can strengthen a bond with a valued customer.
  • Ask for feedback:  You may have a process in place for customer feedback. Still don’t overlook checking in periodically to ask how things are going.  You might even ask for a referral.  You’d be surprised at how many customers are willing to talk about the good service that they receive from a vendor when asked to.

Satisfied customers keep coming back and better yet, they “tell a friend.”