Good customer relations: Think detail

How do you ensure good customer relations?

How do you ensure good customer relations?

Have a tough day… thinking about good customer relations?

If the giant supermarkets can get good customer relations wrong by not deeply enough considering their interaction with the public, then there is hope for all new entrepreneurs.

Tesco has just admitted it boo-booed with that screeching voice which gives a verbal whiplash warning to self-service checkout customers of an “unexpected item in the bagging area!”

That stern, shouty electronic woman so reviled by shoppers for irritatingly putting them under pressure is being replaced by a mellifluous-voiced bloke who, we are told, will be friendlier, more helpful, less talkative.

We’ve all been blasted by that robotic harridan since 2003 and now there are 12,000 automatic Tesco checkouts throughout the UK, yet it took only recent “customer and colleague feedback” to underline the obvious.

That, surely, should be a good customer relations lesson learned by all new venturers, namely people skills and gut instinct aren’t enough. Nor are assumptions.

So how do you ensure that you are getting the basics right? Dealing with people can never be an exact science, as this article about customer service skills illustrates, but patience, attentiveness and communication are essential prerequisites. However, there are broad good customer relations principles to guide you. Here are five.

1. Know your market Understand the needs of your industry. Customer service in supermarkets is different from ensuring that those potential clients visiting your car showroom “have a nice day”. And that’s as different again from making kids and parents gleeful in a toy store. So learn as much as you can from your sector rivals and on top of that formulate something else, a caring added extra, to make your potential clients appreciate you and your product or service. That way you stay ahead of the game.

2. Generate warmth Smile, I mean really smile. Literally “beam in” to the customer. While you’re demonstrating that you’re open-hearted they will be prepared to be open-walleted! Smiles magically transform you into the kind of sweet, decent, honest human being that people delight in dealing with. It not only alters your demeanour but gives your voice a happy geniality on the telephone. But a warning: the smile must not be a paste-on. It has to be genuine. Customers sense masks from a thousand paces. So how do you make it come naturally? Try the following –

3. Love your customer He or she ultimately makes the profits to pay wages. They’ve chosen your business to make inquiries. That’s flattering. What’s not to love? And having sensed your love they’ll love right back and become a word-of-mouth ambassador for your venture. They need your guidance and advice to spend their cash on you, so welcome them with “how can I help?” And mean it with all your heart.

4. Listen & show you’re listening Richard Branson often quotes this as the key to his success. Bosses who talk more than they listen tend to be insecure entrepreneurs who convince themselves there is nothing left to learn. Try that attitude with a complaining customer and see where it gets you. So listen. Learn from all sources. And come up with a solution that will win back his or her trust.

5. Don’t assume In line with good advice you’ve carefully crafted words for your all-important 24 hour business answerphone and recorded your message with seemingly melodious precision. But have you really ticked the box to ensure that missed calls don’t equal missed opportunities? Oh yes, you say, you’ve checked. You phoned yourself to listen to your voice and it seemed perfect. But was it? You’re biased. Get a trusted friend to listen to the missive and honestly tell you whether it was too strident, garbled or arrogant. Don’t forget, it took customer and colleague feedback before finally squelching the Tesco screecher.

Key Learning Points: Good customer relations is common sense but unless you manage to continually apply common sense principles and learn from objective, independent viewpoints, service standards will falter. And if unchecked will fall way below those offered by competitors.