Effective Customer Service / Introduction

Since I had been employed in customer relations for almost five years (decided to quit the job in April 2012), I want to share with you the experience I gained during this period. As we all know, effective customer service is one of the key concepts when it comes to developing your business. Either a small book shop in the corner or a huge company with international branches, sales always depend on customers. You lose customers - you get sales level decreased. So how does one maintain effective customer care? How to keep current customers and attract new ones at the same time? The task is not easy, but it's not hard either. Actually customer service is a huge topic and I won't be able to describe all moments in one post. I don't want to write a huge post so today's post will be only an introduction to effective customer care. Later, I will try to cover customer care teams for huge companies. Ok, as I've already said above, my customer care experience lasted for almost five years (2007 late Summer - 2012 Spring) in Telecoms sphere (huge Cell phone operator) and that's what I've learnt so far:

1) People say: "customer is always right" and apply it to both small and huge businesses. Wrong! Customers are usually wrong rather than right. This is not written anywhere, this is something I've experienced. But it doesn't mean that if customer is wrong he can be asked "to go to hell". A solution must be found for every case, even when you can't do anything else for your customer and you've already done exceptions still, handle the situation so that when he leaves, he leaves satisfied. Even if he didn't get what he wanted.

2) Don't be a robot! That's what I hated about my job at first. Sometimes we were forced to act like robots, just follow standard procedures and speak standard answers. This is not right. Every customer needs an individual attitude. Don't put everybody in the same line. It doesn't mean that you can differentiate your customers. Never do that. Everyone has the same status, status of a loyal customer. A parliament member and a shop cashier must be treated the same way. What I mean by not being a robot is being able to bend rules sometimes and find alternatives. Every customer is a different human being and needs the right attitude.  Be flexible.

3) Make your customers feel special. Let each of them think that he is special and whole company staff cares about him. Be friendly, but not too much. Be official, but not too much. Let your customer feel special, as if he is a member of your family. One of effective methods is to mention his/her last name and occasionally first name while conversation, not just "sir" or "madam".

4) Maintain effective request and complaint handling. During five years of my employment in Customer Relation Department, I spent first year in Front Office team and the rest four (almost four) in Customer Requests and Complaints Handling Group. This group was the most "bashed" and "stressed" group of whole Department. Imagine most problematic customer whose problems can not be solved by Call Center and even Front Desk members. Customers who sue the company, customers who come to punch and kick rather than converse. Those were the people I had to deal with. I was so nervous because of them that sometimes I took certain medicine. Sometimes I had headaches and my hands were shaking. I came home every evening and didn't want talk to anybody. Because every day I had at least 10 to 20 problematic customers whom I had to meet with or talk by phone. Especially those phone calls were driving me mad. You know how people can be heroes on phone line: cursing, threatening, blackmailing and etc. And you have to listen, you can prove yourself and company right, but you can't be rude, you have to be tolerant. So this was a big stress. But, despite all those negative sides of my job, our group was concerned as the toughest in whole department. Were were like elite troops, not just regular infantry. And I liked that part of it. Management did appraise it and it showed all the time: in corporate parties, in presents, in bonuses and etc. So what I want to say is that complaint and request handling is one of the most important factors in effective customer care. Set deadlines, work to them. Be professional and be independent. Show customers that not a single request and complaint can be left without notice and it will find its solution in no time. Feedbacks, feedbacks and feedbacks again.

5) Finally for employers in big companies: Never let a customer service agent work more than 2-3 years in the same position. Working with customers is very stressful and your employees can lose enthusiasm, motivation and all the goals they had in their first days. Make rotations. Learn everything about each of your employee and find their potential. Offer them rotation to gain experience in other departments too. That's one of the reasons I decided to quit my job. Rotations were not ever practiced in our company. I just decided that five years is too long. By the time I gave a two-week notice I immediately received a promotion offer but decided to leave due to the fact that I wanted to try something else. Plus I knew that my performance level was dropping lower and lower due to lack of interest in Telecoms sphere. My team leaders didn't notice it. But I knew that and it would be unfair to get that decent salary every month but not work with full capacity.

So, this is all for today. It was just an introduction. Hope it wasn't too boring. I'll add more specific customer care articles soon. I will try to write both for small and big businesses.

Good luck and take care!