Business: Customer Service & Relationship

The Voice of Customer Service
Customer relationship management tools abound, yet let’s hear it for old technology. Your voice is the most multifaceted customer service tool in your toolkit. Your voice can convey concern, care and compassion. It can alternately convey boredom, neglect or contempt. Your challenge: to insure your voice reinforces the service you strive to deliver through your actual words and action.
Customer service is about more than mouthing the words customers want to hear. You have to sound believable. How do you sound? Try this experiment. Call your own answering machine and leave yourself a message normally intended for your customers. Now replay it. Are you convincing? Does sincerity ring from your voice or are you just mouthing clichés in a disinterested fashion?
Depending your tone of voice you can alternately sound:
Compassionate or Condescending
Confident or Insecure
Knowledgeable or Ignorant
Attentive or Disinterested
Focused or Scattered
Alive or Comatose
Pick one of the following phrases:
“Thank you for calling. We’re excited to serve you.”
“Welcome back. It’s so nice to see you again.”
“We’ve missed you. Thank you for coming in again.”
Mouth it a few times to a colleague next to you or over the phone to a friend.
– Now ask your listener: “How do I sound?”
– When you’re monotonal you may sound flat and lifeless.
– How does this sound when you’re tired? Uninspired?
– How does this sound when you’re expressive? Do you generate good will and energy?
– How does this sound when you’re sincere? Is there a genuine quality to your voice?
– How does this sound when you’re friendly? Does warmth emanate from your conversation?
– How does this sound when you are smiling? Does your good humor come translate?
Mirror Mirror on the Desk
There is a reason many telesales and customer service representatives have mirrors on their desk. It’s not to admire their beauty or to insure the proverbial spinach isn’t stuck to their teeth. In this case, the mirror has two purposes. First, as a reminder to reps to smile while on the phone. Even though their smile isn’t seen by listeners, it is felt. When we smile it loosens up our jaws and relaxes us. This is then conveyed through our voice. We sound more relaxed, friendly and open because we are. The act of smiling activates certain muscles in our face and neck and actually alters our disposition for the better. The mirror both reminds us to smile and confirms we are when we glance at it periodically. Not to sound overly Dramatics, but “What you see is what they get.”
When we consider the message our voice sends customers, don’t forget to consider your inflection. It is important to understand where in a sentence you put the emphasis. What words do you accentuate? Which words do you emphasize? Depending on your placement of accent you can send different messages with the same set of words. Consider the following statement: “It’s all over my friend.” Depending on the placement of accent and pause, this statement could either lament the end of a successful run of some sort, or be describing the result of a sick bird flying overhead of your pal.
Similarly, this statement, based on inflection, may send two entirely different messages: “What’s that in the road ahead?” or “What’s that in the road, a head?” You can see how inflections inform. Let’s make sure the information we convey is supported by our inflections.
Actors often take the Shakespearean phrase “to be or not to be, that is the question” and repeat it alternately while emphasizing different words. For instance, one variant might be “To be or NOT, to be THAT is the question!”
Revisiting our triplet of phrases let’s see how inflection alters their meaning:
“Thank you for calling. We’re delighted to serve you.”
We can place the accent on different words to convey different sentiments. The capital letters indicate the words being accented through our inflection.
“THANK you for calling. We’re delighted to serve you.”
“Thank you for CALLING. We’re delighted to serve you.”
“Thank you for calling. We’re DELIGHTED to serve you.”
“Thank you for calling. We’re delighted to SERVE you.”
“Thank YOU for calling. We’re delighted to serve YOU.”
For yourself, try this same exercise with each of the statements below, accenting different words within each sentence so as to find the inflection that best conveys your sentiment.
“Welcome back. It’s so nice to see you again.”
“We’ve missed you. Thank you for coming in again.”
Voice Your Concern
Using a pleasant tone, effective intonation, and empathic emotion your voice can go a long way toward helping customers feel heard, valued and cared for. Mama was right, it is more than what you say, it’s how you say it too.

The Unbeatable Laws Of Customer Service
Your business can’t survive without customers. That’s the number one law of customer service. Find out what the other laws are in this article.
If you want to be number one in customer service, you have to do a number of things that make you stand out from the crowd. Here are 7 ways that will put you on top.
1. Roll Out The Red Carpet For Everyone. If there’s one thing people hate about poor service, it’s getting treated differently from others. It makes them feel inferior and second-class. Gary Richter says you should roll out the red carpet for everyone, but particularly those who don’t expect it. “I tell my employees, if we roll out the red carpet for a billionaire, they won’t even notice. If we roll it out for millionaires, they expect it. If we roll it out for thousandaires, they appreciate it. And, if we roll out the red carpet for hundredaires, they’ll tell everyone they know.”
2. Take Time To Know Your Customers. The fast pace of modern living together with advances in technology have together put a non-human face on much of our customer service. If you can find a way to re-connect with your customers one-on-one, you’ll strike a chord with your customers that will be like a streak of gold. Kathy Burns remembers a time when people took time to care and listen. “Some of you may remember, and others may have heard stories about, a time in life when the doctor would come to your home to check on you if you were ill. Or maybe you’ve heard about going down to your local pharmacy and having the owner greet you by name and ask how you’re doing. Not only did they ask, but they really wanted to know the answer and they took the time to listen to what you had to say. That’s customer service – taking the time to know your customers, really caring about how they feel, and wanting to go the extra mile to make sure they’re happy.”
3. Be Easy To Do Business With. One of the problems with modern businesses is that the systems we use to save time and money are often devised for the company’s benefit and not the customers. As a result, the customer experience is frustrating and difficult. Tracey Lowrance says this needs to be reversed. “Customers expect single source service. Customers don’t want to be transferred to every unit of your business to have their problems solved. They want to be able to do business with you with the slightest amount of discomfort. You must be easy to do business with.”
4. Go Out Of Your Way To Make Sure They’re Happy. One of the most important things your customers want from you is a guarantee that your product or service will work. So move heaven and earth to make sure it does. Bob Leduc suggests you shouldn’t make people pay until they are fully happy. “Instead of offering a money back guarantee, a service business can provide a guarantee to solve the customer’s problem. For example, a plumber can guarantee to come back without charge as often as necessary to stop the leak. A landscaper can replace without charge any plants that don’t survive for at least 6 months. A sales consultant can continue working without charge until the promised sales results are achieved.”
5. Notice What Customers See. A big part of what customers think about you comes from what they see and believe. Personal Selling Power noticed the following difference in two candy stores. “Although two competing candy stores had the same prices, neighbourhood kids preferred one store to the other. When asked why, they said, “Because the person in the good store always gives us more candy. The girl in the other store takes candy away.” True? Not really. In the good store the owner would always make sure to put a small amount of candy on the scale and then keep adding to it. In the bad store, the owner would pile a heaping amount of candy on the scale, and then take it off until it hit the right weight. The same amount of candy was sold, but perception is everything.”
6. Work On Everything The Customer Experiences. The customer experience isn’t just receiving the service or buying the goods. It’s about all the other little bits and pieces in-between. Such as the manner of the receptionist, the state of the floors and tables, the attitude of other staff, the ease of parking, the tone of the notices, the smile or lack of it on the face of the checkout team. Be like the Mirage hotel in Las Vegas who have a slogan that says: “We spend 600 hours a week pampering the plants. Imagine what we’ll do for our guests.”
7. Believe In Customer Service From The Bottom Of Your Soul To become a great service organization, you have to believe in customer service from the bottom of your soul. It has to be part of the way you work. Anita Roddick, founder of retail cosmetic franchise group Body Shop puts it like this: “I am still looking for the modern equivalent of those Quakers who ran successful businesses, made money because they offered honest products and treated people decently, worked hard, spent honestly, saved honestly, gave honest value for money, put back more than they took out and told no lies. This business creed, sadly, seems long forgotten.”
If you take time to look, there are many examples of great customer service around you. Follow these 7 laws of unbeatable customer service and you’ll join them.

The Simplest Solution To Customer Satisfaction
“Thank you for calling XYZ Company. Your call is important to us but not important enough for us to answer it. Please hold for eternity or leave a message and a representative will contact you as soon as it is convenient for us.”
If you’ve ever used the telephone to contact a business you can relate to the frustration that can result from voice mail or automated answering services. Undoubtedly, when they first became “the way to do business” it was extremely annoying; however, times are changing, folks are automating and imprudent business practices such as this are gaining acceptance (or at least tolerance).
Of course the ole’ time principles of customer services – such as answering the phone before the third ring, avoiding putting a customer on hold if at all possible, and providing personal service – are still superb solutions to customer satisfaction. But, in our automated world, it is vital to recognize the importance of responding to customers quickly and appropriately, especially if they have been forced to listen to a long recording and traipse through a jungle of push buttons in order to leave a message for you instead of being afforded the luxury of speaking to a warm-blooded human.
Whether a customer makes contact in person, via telephone or through email, businesses should strive to provide a timely, if not an immediate response. Customer satisfaction is reliant on responsiveness.
So, you may ask, “What is a timely response?”
Honestly, the definition of a timely response really depends on the customer’s perception. The urgency of their need may play into the mix or their idea of a timely response may be linked to their expectations.
For some reason there is a perception amongst business people that a 24 hour response to a customer inquiry is sufficient. From the customer’s perspective; however, having to wait 24 hours for a quick answer to a simple question or a viable solution to a serious problem is ridiculously aggravating and neglectful on the part of the business.
When customers have a bad experience, from the customers’ perspective, they are sure to seek other options for fulfilling their needs. Plain and simple – poor customer service results in lost business.
Regardless of the type of business you are in and whether you receive customer inquiries via telephone, email or a website contact form, it is absolutely critical that you get back to your customers right away. Placing responsiveness at the top of your customer service objectives is the simplest solution to gaining a competitive advantage, producing satisfied customers, maintaining your customers through repeat business, and building your market share through client referrals. Responsiveness is the single most important factor to enhancing customer satisfaction.

The Golden Rules Of Customer Service
Everything I know about customer service I learned from working at McDonalds as a teenager. Hard to believe, but true! In this day of highly competitive cyber business, the companies that will succeed will be those that offer superior customer service. The value of a lifetime customer is immeasurable. So once you get a customer, how do you keep him? The answer is killer customer service! Here are some of the secrets that have made McDonalds the success it is today!
*Service with a Smile*
“Hi, Welcome to McDonalds! May I take your order?” Got a new prospect? Welcome him to your business. Introduce yourself and tell about your services in e-mail. Let your customers get to know you. People are more likely to do business with someone they trust. You can’t overstate the importance of building strong customer relationships.
Smile when you are talking on the phone. Customers will hear the difference in your voice. Be careful when you send e-mail. It’s easy to be misunderstood. E-mail lacks the visual and audio cues of face-to-face communication. You must make an extra effort to ensure that your “tone” is cheerful and friendly.
Also with an e-mail, people expect a quick reply. A fast, friendly response will let your customers know that you are working hard to keep them happy!
*Suggestive Sell *
“Would you like an apple pie with that today?” When a customer buys a service do you have something complementary that would add value? Business folks, who are pressed for time, will value the convenience of one-stop-shopping. Look at your line of products and think to yourself, What can I do to make this more useful to my customers?
Is there a helpful article I can send them?
Is there a service that would complement my business’s other services?”
*Have the Menu in Plain Sight!*
“What all comes in the #3 value meal?” People like to know what to expect when they order from you. They want to know up front what things cost, how soon to expect it, etc. If a customer doesn’t see this information on your website, he just might leave. You know how nerve-racking it is buying a car when you don’t know what you are going to pay or if you are getting a good deal!
Knowledge of what to expect takes the fear out of buying.
*The Customer is Always Right*
“I’m sorry your order was wrong, how can I make it better?” Nothing is worse than a “screw up” in an order. The best way to turn a negative into a positive is to go out of your way to make it right and make that customer feel satisfied with the results. After you make it right, apologize for the screw-up sincerely, and offer an incentive for him to try you again–for example, a discount on future service.
Everyone knows one complaint will scream louder than 30 complements. Make sure to answer ALL complaints. Don’t give anyone a reason to leave and say that his or her needs were not met.
You can learn a LOT from your customers. Make sure to LISTEN. Other customers may be experiencing the same problem. Learn from your mistakes.
List your phone number on your web site. An angry customer wants to know that his complaint is being heard NOW! Sending an e-mail response from the customer service department within 24 hours might not cut it!
Quality, Service, and Cleanliness Quality–Is there any way you could improve your service? Do you set a level of excellence for your products and services that you meet or beat? Service–Do you make your customers feel like they are number one in your book? Do you listen to customer needs and fill them? Cleanliness–Does the atmosphere of your virtual business make customers happy and want to come back? Is your website visitor-friendly? Is your website easy to navigate? Does it load quickly?
*Brand Awareness/Corporate Identity *
Is your URL as memorable as those famous golden arches? Many visitors find your site not by clicking, but by remembering your URL. Is your URL on business cards and stationery? Is it listed in your yellow pages ad? Keep your URL short and simple: long URLs with hyphens, punctuation, or ones that are hard to spell won’t give customers a fighting chance. Include your company’s URL and other contact information in your email signature. Does your secretary know your URL? The answer may surprise you!
*What is your USP *
(Unique Selling Point)? “We’ve got the best fries in town!” Tell customers right on your home page why they should do business with you and not the guy down the cyberstreet. Tell your visitors in one short sentence who you are, what you do, and why you are better. Will you save them money? Can they
rely on your experience? Try to list these in terms of benefit to them, and NOT features of your product.
*Customer Appreciation *
“Thank you and come again!” Thank your customers for doing business with you. Send them an e-mail as a follow up to see if your product or service was what they expected. Would they recommend you to a friend? How about a hand-written note or card to tell someone that you value his or her business. There is a lot to be said for good old-fashioned customer service. Treat your customers like gold and they’ll be customers for life. The most powerful tool in your marketing arsenal is a customer referral. Give your customers a reason to brag about you and you’ll have a lot of customers knocking at your door!

“Do unto others as you’d have them do unto you.” Don’t worry; I’m not trying to take you to Sunday school under the pretense of a business article! However, in one form or another we have learned this rule for as long as we can remember. Many people try their best to apply this rule in their everyday lives. But, how many of us try to follow such a simple principle when it comes to business?
If you think about it, it could single handedly be the most important rule to follow in business. After unpleasant sales encounters, most customers are not most upset with the product or service that they purchased. Sure that may have been the root of the problem. But, most people understand that we don’t live in a perfect world and sometimes things don’t work!
The reason most people leave these situations upset is because of the way that they’ve been treated. They feel that they have spent the money for your product or service that for one reason or another did not perform properly. This upsets them, but what really angers them is that they feel that no one cares.
We’ve all had negative customer service experiences. Those of us in sales have most likely been on both sides of such exchanges.
When we’re in the salesperson role, we may be running ragged from an extremely busy day. We may have issues going on in our personal life. We might simply have gotten up in a bad mood that morning. There’s nothing innately wrong with any of those things. However, it is our job to find a way to put all of those things aside to help the people we’re paid to assist. This is why I feel that sales people should really be required to take Acting 101! Ideally, we would always be able to genuinely be interested in listening to our customers and helping them find the solutions that work best for them. But, we all know that that’s pretty much impossible everyday, absent a fairly large prescription of Prozac! Salespeople are just that, people. We’re not always going to be at the top of our game, but we must be able to “act” as if we are. Convincingly, act as if we are!
On the other hand, being that salespeople are people, we are constantly faced with these situations in which we are the customer. Undoubtedly, you have run into a few salespeople who have irritated you or who may not be quite as helpful as you’d like.
Now, obviously, we will never be able to be perfect in all of our customer interactions. However, if we were to try and keep the good old “Golden Rule” in our consciousness at all times when dealing with customers, I think we’d find our jobs more enjoyable, our customers happier and yes, even our profits growing!

The 7 Secrets Of Wow! Customer Service
When you give your customers a service that is way out of the normal, two things happen: your customers come back again and again; and your job becomes a source of pleasure. This article shows you how to do it.
Your aim in giving your customers exceptional service is to make them say “Wow!” as soon as you disappear. You can do that if you make the following 7 tips part of your normal pattern of service.
1. Give Your Customers Plenty of Strokes. People love to be stroked. Just like domestic pets, we like it when we are fussed at, smiled at, and given gentle touches. Strokes can include any greeting, the use of people’s names, and good wishes of the “Have-a-nice-day” kind. But the best stroke you can give others is your undivided attention.
2. Surprise Them With The Unexpected. British Airways airline discovered that passenger goodwill increases when staff do unexpected extras such as spontaneous conversations or invitations to visit the flight deck. These have to remain extras and not the norm if they are to retain their surprise value.
3. Attend To The Little Things. Paying attention to the little things which don’t significantly affect the main service is a way of saying: “If we look after the little things, just think what we’ll do with the big ones.” Such detail includes sparkling washrooms that you could eat your meals from and customer notices that don’t talk down to people.
4. Anticipate Customers’ Needs. In a survey of airport check-in staff, customers rated the best staff as those who anticipated their needs. These were staff who would routinely glance down the queue and anticipate the different needs customers had, from the grandmother needing help with her luggage to the business executive wanting a quick service.
5. Always Say “Yes”. Great customer carers never turn down a request for help. Even if they can’t do it themselves, they’ll know someone who can and put you onto them. They always use positive language. Even if the answer is “No, we’re closed”, it’s expressed as “Yes, we can do that first thing tomorrow for you.”
6. Treat Them The Same By Treating Them Differently. We hate to see others get better customer service than we do, for example in a restaurant. It makes us feel second-class and devalued. Equally, we don’t want to be treated the same as everyone else if that means a standard, soulless response, as you sometimes get in a fast-food restaurant. The secret is to treat everyone the same by treating them differently.
7. Use Tact With Tact. Tact means using adroitness in handling other people’s feelings. In awkward or embarrassing moments, tact saves everyone’s blushes. It’s something your customers will notice but that you should aim to go unnoticed.
Practise these 7 responses until they are as familiar to you as breathing, and you are guaranteed to have customers queueing up for your attention.