Ten steps to better customer service

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The Institute of Customer Service’s quick guide to customer loyalty.

Top tips to achieve customer service excellence

1. Recruit and train the right people
People with the right attitude are essential to building a successful customer service approach – hire for attitude, train for skills should be the maxim. Once in place, consider formal customer service qualifications for all staff such as the Institute of Customer Service professional awards.

2. Keep your staff happy
Staff retention is crucial to your organisation improving customer service excellence. Efforts should be directed at recognition and development programmes to determine potential and a well thought out career plan structure.

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3. Lead by example
Getting customer service right in an organisation, and continually improving it, is a long-term commitment that must be made by those at the top. They need to recognise its importance and believe in the strategy, so be active in leading by example.

4. Welcome complaints – and act on them
Complaints are free market research and should be welcomed. Ensure that you are hearing about all of them; resolve the ones you get and stop them being repeated. Your organisation becomes more efficient a result, because you will spend less time handling the complaints and more time concentrating on the business.

5. Build a reputation
A good reputation for customer service is a key factor in successful business results and research has shown that to do this an organisation should concentrate on four key issues – going the extra mile, treating people as individuals, keeping promises and handling queries and complaints professionally.

6. Tell the world
Being great at customer service is something to tell the world about, as long as you really are great. Customers can see through the marketing hype when it comes to service much easier than they often can with products.

7. Measure your performance
Make sure that you measure the right things, not the easiest things. Measure what is important to your customer, not what you think is important to them. You need to understand the expectations your customers have. Without that information how can you hope to satisfy their requirements?

8. Benchmark your company
Looking at what other businesses do when it comes to customer service and how they handle dissatisfied customers can give you pointers for your own company. Get out there and learn from other firms and not just those in your own business.

9. Communications
The full involvement in, and commitment of, both staff and customers to your organisations customer service excellence programme can depend greatly on your skills at communicating with them. A reputation for great service can be easily lost by a poor telephone manner, or a confusing website.

10. Recognise the importance of customer loyalty
It is essential to keep the good customers you already have and gain their loyalty. A 2 percent increase in customer retention has the same effect on profits as a 10 percent cut in costs.

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