By Barry Himmel
Many of the most common customer-service mistakes can be corrected or avoided with employee guidance, supervisor patience and a commitment to putting the customer first. Building a culture of legendary service requires the support of management, as well as the implementation of skills and standards surrounding the customer experience.
Review these 10 common customer-service mistakes and the ways you and your employees can avoid making them. Eliminating these mistakes will create an important competitive advantage and help you define your self-storage facility as the one with the highest customer-service standards.
1. Making a Poor First Impression
It doesnt take long for a customer to get an impression of your business. In fact, it usually happens within the first 30 seconds. The greeting you offer on the phone or when someone enters your facility often sets the tone for the transaction.
The customer absorbs a lot in these first 30 seconds. If the transaction is over the phone, then how quickly the phone is answered and the quality and sincerity of the greeting is very important for making a great first impression. The phone should be answered within three rings, and the greeting should be upbeat and professional.
When a customer enters your facility, you need to consider the visual experience as well. Is your site neat and clean? Does staff deliver the right impression in their appearance and body language? Look at your facility through the eyes of your customer What do you see? Remember, you only have one opportunity to make a legendary first impression.
2. Asking the Wrong Questions
You are the professional, and it is up to you to ask the right questions to accurately assess a customers needs. By taking control of the interaction and asking the right questions from the beginning, you can better tailor your solution to the customers requirements.
When you ask the right questions, the customer gains more confidence in your abilities and starts to trust you with his business. Dont make assumptions, as they arent always right!
3. Failing to Build a Relationship With the Customer
Customers are more likely to do business where they feel most comfortable. This comfort comes from confidence and relationships.
The easiest way to begin developing a relationship is to ask and use the customers name. The reason I keep using the same dry cleaner is he has taken the time to remember and use my name. It makes me feel welcome, like I am a valued customer. It does make a difference.
Once you get the customers name, you can start building that relationship. Building the relationship is the fun part of being in business. It will result in greater customer loyalty and more referrals.
Many employees struggle with getting the customers name, especially over the phone, but the majority of people will volunteer their name when asked. If youre hesitant, try saying, I can certainly help you with that. May I please get your name? It works every time!
4. Failure to Present Value in Your Products or Services
Customers who are shopping will typically inquire about availability and price. They want to base their decision on those components. One common customer-service mistake is providing the customer only thatavailability and price. They know nothing else about your facility and why its the best.
If a customer is just shopping, make certain he knows youre the right choice. Leave him with more than price; leave them with a great impression of your company and specific reasons why he should do business with you. Your price will have more meaning when delivered with value.
5. Failure to Ask for the Sale
An inside sales staff has many responsibilities, but one of the most important tasks is to capture the sale. In many instances, this is accomplished by simply asking.
It seems simple enough. However, research conducted through extensive mystery phone shopping shows the opposite to be true. Most frontline employees are order-takers. They will provide lots of information but neglect to ask for the business.
Employees must see themselves as sales people and asking for a commitment from the caller is an important part of their job. Role-play with others to master this important skill.
6. Neglecting Customers When Youre Busy
This is a very common frustration for customer-service professionals. They get busy and cant provide legendary service to everyone. Some may even use this as an excuse.
Everyone gets busy, so be prepared to manage the situation when it happens. There are a number of effective strategies to avoid compromising your service standards when youre hectic:
Maintain control of the situation. Dont take your frustrations out on your customers.
Offer to call them back. Customers will appreciate that you will call them back when you are in a better position to service their needs. Let the customer know when he can expect a return call, and better yet, exceed that expectation!
Ask for help. Find a fellow employee and let him know you need assistance.
7. Failing to Listen to Customers
We are good at talking, but not quite as good at listening. This is especially true when interacting with customers over the phone. There are distractions all over your facility, with lots of things going on at the same time. Of course, there is always the computer and cell phone that may prevent you from focusing on the customer.
Customers should have your undivided attention. When you do a good job listening, you minimize the potential for mistakes. A good listening technique is to repeat back or paraphrase what the customer is requesting. This way your customer knows you are listening, and you will get his request correct.
8. Failure to Show Sincere Appreciation
We talked about the importance of a great first impression. Now lets focus on making a lasting impression. Approximately 50 percent of the time, employees hang up with the customer without saying thank you. Often the close sounds like, OK, give us a call back when you decide.
There are many ways you can deliver a sincere thank you that will make certain the customer knows you appreciate his business or the opportunity to earn it. Dont miss out on the chance to leave that great lasting impression.
9. Being Too Focused on Operations
Its easy to become focused on the operational aspect of the job. Employees too often rely on policies and procedures instead of focusing on how to truly help the customer and provide a great service impression. Research shows that employees will discuss things such as hours, access policies, deposits and restrictions before even knowing what the customer needs.
Im not suggesting you avoid the operational aspect of the relationship, but employees should focus on building a legendary relationship with the customer by first. Once you have a good relationship and a commitment, the operations related to the sale become more relevant.
10. Failure to Follow Up
We miss a great opportunity to build relationships and close business when we fail to follow up with current or prospective customers. The follow-up sends the right message. It shows you are interested in the business and want to begin or continue to work with the customer.
Following up is an easy task to accomplish. The customer will appreciate and remember that you took the time to check back with him. Its also helpful to let the customer know youll be following up with him in the near future, and be specific about when and how you will do that.
The above are 10 common mistakes that are very easy to fix. Once you do, youre well on your way to setting the customer-service standard in your market and securing more self-storage rentals.
Barry Himmel is a senior vice president for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, Ohio-based consulting company offering sales and customer-service training, marketing, and mystery-shopping services for self-storage facilities. For more information, call 800.398.0518, or visit www.signatureworldwide.com .