11 Star Quality Customer Service Tips

February 25, 2008

Star Quality Customer Service
Image by takingthemoney


It’s really not that difficult to provide good quality customer service, because so few businesses actually do it. The trouble is, they concentrate all their efforts on making the sale, then once it’s made the customer doesn’t hear from them again.

This is a shame, because the chances are, they won’t come back, even if they were happy with what they bought from you. And often, this is because they simply don’t remember your name. So, don’t let this happen to your business. Check out the following tips and keep your customers happy after the sale.

Star Quality Customer Service Tips

1) Keep In Touch: If you’re carrying out a project that will take a while, or they’ve bought something that won’t be delivered straight away – keep in touch and keep them up to date, so your customer doesn’t feel as though they’ve been forgotten.

2) Make Sure They’re Happy: After you’ve made the sale, call or email to make sure they were happy with your product or service. Don’t try to sell during this contact, as you won’t come across as genuine.


3) Get Permission:
Ask if it’s ok to keep in touch with them from time to time, when you have special offers etc. Getting permission makes all the difference in the world to the way your communications are received by them.

4) Thank Them:
Send a thank you email or postcard and make sure it’s personally addressed and signed by a real person.

5) Send A Card:
Send cards at different times a year, but don’t do the tired old impersonal Christmas card. Your customers will take more notice of a card that comes when nobody else is sending them.

6) Keeping in Touch Doesn’t Mean Selling: Keep in touch to remind them you’re there – don’t try to sell each time. This enables you to find out more about your customers so you can give them what they want.

7) Send Small Gifts:
A small gift can sometimes be as cheap as a mailing or brochure. Remember it’s the thought that counts. Things like candy, key rings or fridge magnets are good. Pens are ok, but if you’re going to send these make sure they look half decent - don’t send the really cheap plastic ones.

8) Don’t Go Overboard: Don’t go overboard with gifts. And make sure they are happy with your service before you send them or they’re liable to feel insulted.

For example - three years ago, I rented tens of thousands of pounds of equipment during Carlisle floods from HSS Hire - one of our regular suppliers.

I’d heard they offered extended credit of 90 days to their best customers, instead of 30 day terms. So, I asked them to extend this to me and they declined. A couple of months later, they told me I was their customer of the year and presented me with 2 DVD TV’s.

I was left wondering why I didn’t get extended credit when I was their customer of the year and whether they’d actually overcharged me, since they were able to give me such a generous gift. It left a bad taste in my mouth. Be careful not to treat your customers the same way.

9) Get Their Opinion: Ask for your customer’s opinion when you’re doing research. Most people are flattered that you value their input and they’re glad to help. And you can also use this opportunity to gather further information about your customer.

If you prefer to contact your customers by email, check out this useful post by Ian Denny on how to organise the information you collect from customers and use it in email campaigns.

10) Don’t Expect Your Customers To Be Mind Readers:
Make sure you keep them informed of all the products or services you offer. They’ll appreciate it because people prefer to deal with businesses they already know and trust, so they’re more likely to buy from you.

11) Stay Organised:
Keep your customer details organised and make sure you have a future contact date in your diary for each customer. Customer Relationship Management software is the easiest way to do this. I use Salesforce, because it’s reasonably priced and you can customise it.

If you follow these practical star quality customer service steps, your customers will come back to you again and again.

Do you have any customer service tips to share? What have you tried that has had good or bad results?

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Comments

22 Responses to “11 Star Quality Customer Service Tips”

  1. Ian Denny on February 25th, 2008 11:33 am

    Getting tuned into the customer is actually alot harder than it sounds.

    As a small business-person, you tend to get a very internal perspective now matter how hard you try.

    I know this sounds a little strange, but you almost need to have an out-of-body experience and possess the mind of the customer.

    You have to put yourself in their shoes, and ask the ultimate question AS THEM about your product/service:

    ” COMPARED TO WHAT ? ”

    Once you have done that comparison, there are two specific angles to look at it from:

    - What your competitors are offering

    - Your clients expectations

    You could well be beating your competitors hands-down. But that doesn’t mean that you’re winning. If there’s a gap between the service received and what the clients’ want, you are only temporarily in charge.

    It’s only a matter of time before a competitor - the Richard Bransons of this world - will spot that service gap and enter your market to wipe you out.

    It could be that the industry average delivery time for your product is 3 hours. But you’re better than the rest and deliver in 2 hours.

    But your clients actually need it within 1 hour. If you sit on your hands, smug because you’re the best, someone somewhere will be figuring out how to deliver within 1 hour.

    The compared to what question then becomes extremely relevant as your customers defect en masse.

    P.S. Cath, thanks for the link - hope it helps someone.

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..The Best Bloggers Are Left Handed

  2. cathlawson on February 25th, 2008 11:47 am
    Hi Ian - exactly. That is why keeping in touch is so important, because if you don’t get feedback, you don’t even know what they want.

    You know, I’ve lost count of the number of businesses I’ve dealt with who provided a great product or service. Then I never heard from them again. It’s so wasteful.

  3. Ian Denny on February 25th, 2008 12:43 pm

    Agreed - I think I missed that point. Communication is so hard. It costs time more than money. But you can get a good blend of automated and personal communication.

    I’m in the middle of such a challenge.

    Ian Denny’s last blog post..The Best Bloggers Are Left Handed

  4. jsanderz on February 25th, 2008 12:58 pm

    Unfortunately many businesses constantly grave for new customers and forget all about their old and existing ones.
    What I can’t understand is that alot of companies offer great and exciting rewards and discounts to new customers, but faithful customers who have been with them for years get nothing.
    Regards.

    jsanderz’s last blog post..Out With The Old in With The New

  5. Hunter Nuttall on February 25th, 2008 2:41 pm

    If you’re a real estate agent and you send someone a card or something with your picture on it, make sure it’s a good picture! I’ve seen pictures where the person looked angry or like they were about to sneeze.

    Hunter Nuttall’s last blog post..Free Ebook: The Zen Of Blogging

  6. cathlawson on February 25th, 2008 4:38 pm
    Hi Ian - I know. It takes a lot of co-ordinating and putting together. Then you have to train your staff to do it, and show them how important it is, which is a challenge in itself.

    Jeff - that is so true. Banks are particularly guilty of this and they lose a lot of customers because of it. It’s crazy when you consider the lifetime value of some of those customers and the cost of acquiring new ones.

    Hunter - I’ve seen those type of pictures. The usual advice is to include a picture of yourself, as it conveys trust - but there’s quite a few people who would be better off not including one at all.

  7. Sophia Levis on February 25th, 2008 6:49 pm

    #12, or perhaps #1b, should I think be: Meet deadlines.

    I’ve dropped vendors for not meeting deadlines, and I’ve lost business for it myself. Habitual lateness kill a relationship quicker than you can say “one more day.”

    Sophia Levis’s last blog post..Wahm-Tip #19: Time Management

  8. cathlawson on February 25th, 2008 7:12 pm
    Hi Sophia - Great point. Meeting deadlines is so important isn’t it?

    So many business overpromise and underdeliver just to get business. And it’s a fatal thing to do, because they wind up letting customers down and losing future business.

  9. Barbara on February 25th, 2008 7:15 pm

    Hi Catherine,

    These are all great tips.

    With regard to the postcards (Hunter’s comment), I’ve seen Realtors send postcards to the new home owner and the picture is of their new home. It makes for that “special touch” and chances are, the home owner won’t throw it away.

    Several years ago, I ordered a drawer part for my refrigerator online, and inside of the perfectly packed box, was a thank you card with a magnet which was an advertisement for the company. They email me quarterly with “no selling” tips, but it was that magnet I was able to revert back to when I needed another part last month.

    Often, something very small ,can leave a lasting impression.

  10. Barbara on February 25th, 2008 7:39 pm

    I wanted to add, with regard to #9 “Ask their opinions”, when you do, ask them if they have time to participate in a short survey. Nothing annoys me more than to have someone assume I have five or ten minutes to participate.

    If they don’t ask, I usually say I don’t have time, but if they are courteous, I almost always participate.

    Barbara’s last blog post..Blogger Exposes Herself - Traffic Soars

  11. cathlawson on February 25th, 2008 7:59 pm
    Hi Barbara - The photo thing is an excellent idea. We are wanting to add more services for the home so maybe we could try it.

    I used to use fridge magnets in my last business. I loved them and you have just reminded me to get some for this one.

    We used to actually put the magnets on the refrigerator when we’d done the job, so that they weren’t shoved into a drawer and forgotten about.

    My daughter also took a heap of them to school. A woman I know remarked that every single house she went to had a Rainbow fridge magnet on the fridge.

    I’m going to order some now before I forget.

    Re: The surveys. I know what you mean. I really hate it when they ask if they can ask you a couple of questions and it turns into 50. You really have to be honest about how long it’s going to take don’t you?

    It’s even worse when you’re not really sure about an answer, or it’s not applicable to you and they tell you to just pick something. I’m like - well if it doesn’t matter to you, why on earth should I care.

  12. Giun Sun on February 25th, 2008 9:58 pm

    Good collection of CS advice. Often times these tips are overlooked, although they could be “make” or “break” deals. My favorite one is “don’t expect the customer to be a mind reader”. I’ve dealt with companies that assume I know something in which they didn’t even tell me!

    Another tip is to be genuine, which I guess is encompassing the whole act of customer service. Your behaviors and attitudes will be transparent if whether you are really caring for your customers, or considering them as just a sale .

    Giun Sun’s last blog post..Turning Off Comments For New Blogs? Things to Consider Before you Do

  13. cathlawson on February 25th, 2008 11:25 pm

    Hi Guin - that is so true. I hate it when a salesperson comes over as really false when they’re just trying to sell you something. It sucks.

    And they’re always the ones who don’t follow up to make sure you’re happy.

    cathlawson’s last blog post..11 Star Quality Customer Service Tips

  14. Christine O'Kelly on February 26th, 2008 12:00 am

    I’m sure it’s challenging for businesses with lots of customers to come up with ways to personally thank each and every one of them.

    For business that do have fewer clients, one really great way to thank customers is to become their customer. I always try to buy things from my business clients when I need what they offer.

    Great list!

    Christine

  15. John Hoff on February 26th, 2008 1:39 am

    @ Hunter - lol. That’s funny about the pictures. I’ve seen those and just laugh. I’m a part time real estate investor and when dealing with Realtors you can always pick out the ones with less marketing experience.

    @ Barbara - that is a great idea and one I haven’t thought of. So many businesses send out magnets with maybe a calendar or something which I keep sometimes. But if the “bug guy” left me a calendar with a picture of my house on it, I’d consider keeping it.

    @ Catherine - I noticed the 11 points were pretty much geared toward non face-to-face customer service.

    Here’s some “Star Service” ideas when dealing with them face-to-face:

    - Mind your body language, it speaks louder than your voice sometimes.

    - When giving directions, motion with an open hand, don’t point.

    - When dealing with an angry customer (face-to-face or not) remember these 4 steps:
    1. Listen to their problem and understand
    2. Apologize for the situation and let them know you’re going to fix it (though some argue you should never apologize as it shows you did something wrong. I’m just saying apologize for the situation).
    3. Solve the problem they are having
    4. Thank them for letting you handle the situation

    - Try not to say “no” if possible. Instead, tell them what you can do.

    Good post. I actually have a note to write a similar post and will link to this one when I write it.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..The Art of Persuasion (Part 1 of 3)

  16. cathlawson on February 26th, 2008 2:15 am
    Thanks Christine - that’s another great tip and a wonderful way to thank your customers. Plus, if they provide a good service to you, you’ll be able to refer them to others.

    Hi John - not necessarily non face to face - they were mostly aftercare tips, so based on the assumption that you’re not seeing the customers on a regular basis.

    You mean you actually deal with angry customers? We just shoot them.

    Only joking - those are great tips.

  17. John Hoff on February 26th, 2008 3:56 am

    @Catherine - lol. Yeah, now that I went back and looked I see the post was directed at aftercare tips. Goes to show you should go back up and review the post before you comment sometimes :)
    John Hoff’s last blog post..The Art of Persuasion (Part 1 of 3)

  18. Mrs. Micah on February 26th, 2008 4:06 am

    On #8, I’d rather have great service than gifts. And yes, I’d also worry about being overcharged.

    Sending a card is tricky. One idea is to learn the person’s birthday and send on then. Or on some obscure day. The problem is that the cards can too often seem like sales pitches…especially if you haven’t done business with them recently.

    And just say no to tiny one-month scheduler/calendars with your company’s name on them. Not helpful.

  19. cathlawson on February 26th, 2008 4:13 am
    John - I wouldn’t worry. Sometimes, when I have a few windows open at once - I leave the wrong comment on the wrong blog.

    Hi Mrs M - I certainly did. If a business goes too overboard on gifts, you can’t help wondering why.

    I think the trick with cards is not to go for those ones branded with your company logo. I did Easter cards last year, and we just sent regular ones with bunny rabbits on and signed them all. Now I need to think of something different for this year.

    I was just looking at some of those titchy calenders and you just can’t read the dates on them. Total waste of time. I’ve tried big calenders before, and the desktop ones seemed to go down better than the wall mounted ones.

  20. John Hoff on February 26th, 2008 5:45 am

    Try sending a postcard on like a Chinese holiday or something LOL.

    John Hoff’s last blog post..The Art of Persuasion (Part 1 of 3)

  21. Barbara on February 26th, 2008 7:47 am

    Hi Catherine,

    I have a friend who does car detailing. When she is done detailing the vehicle, she takes a picture of it, then creates a postcard. When a month or so passes, she sends them the postcard, asking them if they would like to get on her schedule.

    It reminds them how good their car looked when it was clean, and may motivate some to schedule regular detailing.

    I don’t think this would work for your business if you have repaired a toilet. :).

    Barbara’s last blog post..Help For Life Issues From The NBOTW

  22. cathlawson on February 26th, 2008 10:41 am

    Hi John - That would definitely be different.

    Hi Barbara - I think you might be right. I can see how it would work better for some businesses than others

    cathlawson’s last blog post..The Pros and Cons of Outsourcing

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