Friday, May 25, 2007

Tips for improvingcustomer
service skills

Dave O'Neill, operations manager of Fairview Motors in Dublin has a few excellent tips for anyone wanting to improve their customer service skills.

First contact:

O'Neill says that it's crucial that the first contact made by a customer is handled correctly. "Make sure that the customer isn't put through to an answering service. The personal touch is really important. This marks the first stage in building up a good relationship with a new customer, so it's important that he or she is greeted well and pleasantly."
You should also know what to do with a customer who isn't sure which person or department to contact. "No customer wants to be given the run around and to be put through to several people before they find the right person to deal with. A good response at first point of contact makes the customer feel at ease and gives the impression that the company is 'switched on'."

Knowing your customer:
"Knowing your product is essential for customer service", says O'Neill. "But knowing your customer is even more important. You need to be able to qualify his or her needs and help him or her to make the right choices and decisions." O'Neill explains the usefulness of enlightened foresight. For example, someone buying a family car will need to think in terms of both present and future needs, because what seems right today may not be suitable two year from now. Effective customer service professionals will take the time to discuss all the options - and they won't try to sell something that the customer doesn't want
"The customer has a certain price, quality and quantity in mind and it's your role to ensure that you understand and respond to this specification. People will not buy a suit that does not fit. Neither will they buy a car, or any product that does not suit."

Keeping your customer:
Your responsibility does not end with customers parting with the readies: the back-up service they receive is key to retaining their loyalty. "The quality of the product and the service will be remembered long after the price is forgotten," O'Neill points out. "Make absolutely sure that your sales are backed up with excellent service."
"Customers will tell their friends and other people about good quality service. And they will want to repeat the experience if it was a positive one. This word-of-mouth recommendation is the cheapest form of advertising you can get. If you want to stay in business for the long haul, then you must cherish your customer
Dealing with complaints:
"The ability to deal well with negativity and to turn it around when confronted with it is the mark of a true professional", O'Neill argues. "The customer may not always be right, but the customer is always the customer. People hate to be made a fool of. They like people to be up front. If you have made a mistake or if there is a problem with the product, then be prepared to react as fast and efficiently as possible. Admit there is a problem and be prepared to sort it out."

How we are treated is a key to any relationship, so if the person dealing with customers behaves in an arrogant or unhelpful way, they will take their custom elsewhere.

"Appealing to people's common sense is also key to dealing with negativity. Take the attitude: Let's work through this. Let's see what we can do."
Professional pride:
Finally, O'Neill advises that you take pride in your profession: "Maintain high standards and aspire to higher ones. And above all be a team player in your organisation." Enjoying and respecting your work will shine through to others.

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