CUSTOMER SERVICE

10 Customer Service Details You Have No Excuse Not to Get Right

When a customer visits your business in person, they notice the little things about your operation. And so should you.
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I've been the recipient of extremely poor customer service lately.

Maybe it's because I've met with a lawyer and an accountant to work through some tax issues, or because I've had to talk to a healthcare professional a few too many times in recent weeks. During these meetings, I paid attention to a few small things that really irritated me. The difference between good customer service and a bad experience comes down to details. Here they are, in order...

1. Learn the customer's name quickly

You'd be surprised how many of the professionals who met with me in the past few weeks had trouble remembering my name. A few called me Brandon (I hate that), but one made a point to write my first name on a scratch pad immediately. (Our brains like to see a visual reminder, so this is a good trick.) By remembering my name, the customer service rep made the first step in building a relationship with me. Those who didn't remember took the first step in crushing the relationship and making me wonder if they deserve my business.

2. Get a super-fast printer

Quite a few of my office visits included an awkward pause because the rep had an incredibly slow desk printer that chugged-chugged along printing a document. Newer printers like the HP ENVY 5530 are small, desk-friendly, and print docs in seconds. It means you can print faster and make customers wait less.

3. Keep your desk free of clutter

Having a pile of documents on your desk does not tell a customer you are busy with projects or have a full customer load. It says you are not that efficient and will probably not get around to helping that customer anytime soon. Clear out the junk, put papers into folders and stash them in a filing cabinet, and make sure your office is squeaky-clean. It sends a message that you can get things done.

4. Have a stash of high-quality pens

Maybe you have decided to cut corners with pens--or have those ultras-cheap pens you can order from Vistaprints.com with your company name printed on the side. A branded pen has your phone number, email, address, and slogan on the side and that's a good thing. But not if the pen runs out or doesn't work. Invest in some high-quality writing instruments. I like the Parker Pens Urban series, even though they are spendy. Maybe you don't have 50 of them, but make sure you have at least one.

5. Make sure you have ample seating

In several of my meetings, I took my father to get some tax advice. In a few cases, the customer service rep had only one chair for a customer. Maybe that's a cost-saving measure, but it gave me the impression the rep was not prepared. You can drag a chair into the room, but that takes extra time--and also makes you wonder if the rep is going to be prepared for much more important surprises.

6. Get a comfy office chair for the customer

Speaking of extra seating, I noticed in several meetings that the chair seemed like the company had purchased it from Target in the late 90s. It was squeaky, not that comfortable, and possibly even ready to break apart. The customer's chair should be the newest item in your office. If you're sitting on an expensive desk chair, you're sending the message about who is the most important person in the room. Something simple like the Steelcase Protégé works fine.

7. Add some personal touches to your desk

I wrote recently about removing clutter from your desk to help you stay productive. Those Mr. Potato Head figures have to go. At the same time, it's fine to add a few personal touches to let a customer know you are a human being with a family and maybe a sense of humor. Maybe it's a funny high school picture of yourself or another conversation starter. Or maybe it's just one lone Star Wars figure to let people know you have class.

8. Write notes as the customer speaks

Nothing says "I care about what you are saying" like a customer service rep who is jotting down notes on a notepad. When you do that, you let customers know they are a high enough priority to record what they say. You don't need to jot down everything verbatim--in fact, maybe you already have their contact details and the story of their insurance mishap. It's just a kind gesture. Taking notes sends a clear message that you want to understand the problem and will follow up on it.

9. Obtain the full customer details

You should try to record more than just a name, phone number, and address. A good CRM (Customer Relationship Management) strategy hinges on having full details for every customer and a way to track sales progress--so include alternate phone numbers and email addresses, place of employment, and emergency contacts. If anything, it lets the customer know you are going to go to great lengths to stay in contact.

10. Verify your list of action items

When you are ready to wrap up the meeting, don't just shake the customer's hand and send her on her way. Be sure to communicate exactly what you will do next and get confirmation from the customer about next steps. Otherwise, you leave her high and dry. She will walk to the car wondering if the meeting was even that productive.

 

Last updated: Apr 30, 2014

JOHN BRANDON | Columnist

John Brandon is a contributing editor at Inc. magazine covering technology. He writes the Tech Report column for Inc.com.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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