If there’s one thing I’ve learned about customer service, it’s that problems don’t begin with customers — they begin with you and your team. A missed customer service opportunity usually doesn’t seem like the end of the world, but even small mistakes can cost you in the long run if they’re left unresolved.
When you force customers to wait in long lines, make them walk around searching for someone to help them, or create unnecessary layers of approval for employees to resolve customer issues, these poor experiences can become ingrained in your organization.
Customers talk about their experiences — both good and bad — and if their needs aren’t being met every step of the way, those mistakes could mean big losses in terms of word of mouth and brand perception.
The customer experience begins the minute people come into contact with your brand and continues throughout every stage of the buyer’s journey. Here are a few areas where I’ve seen companies fall short:
- Customer rapport: Failing to engage effectively with customers is the first step down the bad service rabbit hole. Your staff should make the customer experience its top priority and focus on building relationships in every interaction with customers.
- Staff layout/distribution: Having too many team members on the floor or concentrating them in one place can create gaps in other sections of the store, which makes it frustrating for customers who just need someone to give them a price check. Encourage constant communication between managers and staff so everyone understands his or her role and feels empowered to serve customers.
- Energy levels: Even your entry-level staff members are salespeople for your brand. If they’re not conveying joy and delight over what you’re offering, you can expect customers to have a ho-hum reaction, too. Create an energetic retail environment tailored to customer impressions, and empower your staff to go above and beyond to delight customers.
- Meeting customers’ needs: We’re often quick to answer a customer’s first question without assessing the real underlying need. If a customer asks where the electronics section is, don’t allow employees to just point them in the right direction.
Train employees to ask what customers are looking for, walk them over, and explain their options. Your goal should be to provide solutions to customers’ problems — not just a helping hand.
How to Turn Disgruntled Customers Into Brand Advocates
No matter how much time you dedicate to training your staff, mistakes happen. When they do, the goal should be to remedy the situation as quickly as possible. Angry customers are talkative ones, and you don’t want their bad experience blasted all over social media.
Train your staff to:
- Own the mistake. Acknowledge the customer’s complaint, and offer a sincere apology.
- Solicit the customer’s recommended action. Find out what the customer needs to feel better about the incident.
- Put value back into the relationship. Even if you can’t deliver exactly what the customer wants, make sure you’re giving her something. In my experience, most customers just want to feel heard and recognized.
- Remove organizational barriers. Give employees the space to act swiftly and offer compensation to repair the customer’s experience. Allot a certain amount of money for employees to spend on customer reassurance, and don’t make their actions dependent upon manager approval.
Customer experience is the backbone of your company, so don’t let any service opportunities fall through the cracks. Train your team to serve customers well, and empower them with the tools and autonomy to do it. Customers will remember how you made them feel, so treat them all like VIPs.