2. Go beyond lip service. Barry Maher, a customer-service expert in Corona, Calif., says that for many people, customer service is like the weather: Everyone talks about it, but no one does anything about it. You should spend as much time and effort providing customer service as you do jawing about it, he said.
“I’ve worked with many of the world’s largest companies, and I have never worked with a single company anywhere in the world where the top people wouldn’t tell you, often at great length, just how important their customers are,” Maher says. “But we’ve all been customers. How often do we actually feel important?”
3. Reward your reps. Lenny Laskowski, a customer-service consultant in Wilmington, N.C., says front-line customer-service representatives typically are underpaid. As a result, companies tend to hire young, inexperienced workers to handle customer service. If you properly pay employees who deal directly with customers, your employees and customers will reap the benefits.
4. Empower your employees. Give some decision-making leeway to workers who are on the front lines with customers. “If the employee who has to directly interface with the customer has to ‘get someone else’ or ‘get permission,’ then you lose customers,” Laskowski says. Martin adds: “There is nothing more frustrating than feeling like the person you are talking to either has the IQ of a light bulb and [doesn’t] understand what you need, or can’t make a change even if [he] wanted to.”
5. Remember the human touch. Far too often, companies lean on automated technology to take care of customers over the phone. Given the choice, would you rather hear a recorded human voice or a live one when contacting a company?
“Customers end up yelling at customer-service reps—when they actually do get to talk a human being—because they spent the last 15 minutes trying to select the correct option on these terrible automated answering systems, only to be transferred from one extension to another and end up talking to someone in another country who cannot do a thing for them," Laskowski says. When possible, let real people answer your phones, not automated recordings.
6. Practice random acts of kindness. Businesses extend deals and discounts to customers. They might even send holiday or birthday cards. But how often do they thank customers out of the blue?
“Make it everyone’s job to tell a customer ‘thank you.’ Let them know you appreciate their business,” Martin says. “Send them a real handwritten thank you and mail it with an old-fashioned stamp—yes, they still have those—and see how they notice and are reminded why they are saying ‘yes’ to you in the first place.”
John Egan is the editor in chief at SpareFoot, an online marketplace for the self-storage industry. Before joining SpareFoot, he was the editor in chief at Bankrate Insurance. The Storage Facilitator is a self-storage blog managed by SpareFoot and hosted by partners SelfStorage.com .