Connecting with customers

The customer is always right. The customer is king. Every business owner has heard these clichés before, but that doesn’t make them any less true or meaningful.

No matter what type of business you are in, customer service will always play a key role in your success. You must be responsible, accountable and reliable. And you must offer good communication and product or your customers will not be your customers for very long.

“Customer retention is the most important endeavor of every business,” says Amy Broadbent, the vice president of JRG Advisors, the management company for ChamberChoice. “When you provide a quality experience and complete satisfaction, your customers will be back for more. Repeat customers are a significant source of profit, and profit allows a business to grow and prosper.”

Smart Business spoke with Broadbent about customer service and ways to ensure that your customers are being properly served.

Why is customer service so vital, especially in this day and age?

Regardless of a company’s size or industry, its most vital asset is customers. Your business would not exist without customers. You can offer every product or service imaginable, but if you do not treat customers well, they will not remain your customers for very long. It is important to recognize that every aspect of a business has an impact on keeping customers satisfied. Customer service should be considered an integral part of everyone’s job.

Customers have more options than ever before and oftentimes feel less loyalty toward how and where they make their purchases. People change their preferences and they change their minds. They want products and services to be readily available and inexpensive. When they have problems, they want answers that are correct and to the point.

Positive customer service experiences have a direct impact on retaining business, building repeat business and achieving referrals for new business. Numerous studies show that it costs a company more to acquire new customers than it does to retain existing customers. And, most importantly, happy customers are the best and most effective way to find new customers.

What constitutes good customer service?

There are many ways to describe customer service and define what constitutes good customer service. In today’s world, achieving the status quo is not enough. Customers expect superior, unsurpassed service. The standard of delivering excellence is the result of continually and consistently exceeding the customer’s expectations. For many, this is easier said than done.

You are in business to service customer needs. This can only be done if you know what customers want. If you truly listen, customers will let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Being a good listener requires taking the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Studies show that eight out of 10 service calls begin with prescribing a solution to a customer before the customer need is really listened to, understood and validated. Be aware of making assumptions and do not think you intuitively know what the customer wants. Effective listening and undivided attention are particularly important in customer service.

How can you determine what your customers want?

Some may argue that customers do not purchase products or services at all, but rather they purchase good feelings and solutions to problems. Many times, customer needs and buying decisions are more emotional than logical. A business that knows its customers is better at anticipating customers’ needs. Regular communication with customers — whether face to face, over the phone, in the form of written correspondence or some combination of all of these — solidifies relationships and helps anticipate future needs and potential problems.

How can you show your customers that they are valued?

As simple as it sounds, your customers need to hear from your company often that they are important and appreciated. People want to be treated with courtesy and respect. Be sincere. Thank customers every time you have the opportunity. Never argue with a customer, and let them vent when necessary. Regardless of how a customer is behaving, go out of your way to make them feel comfortable. The goal is to make doing business with you easy. You know very well there are instances when the customer is not right but, by all means, do not tell them this. Instead, focus on the missteps of the particular situation and find a solution to fix or overcome it. The customer may not always be right but the customer should always win.