The Customer
Why keeping existing customer is important
Customer Complaints are opportunities - you need a raving fan
Resolving Customer complaints
Difficult Customers
Essentials of a service guarantee
How to strengthen relationship with customer
Essentials of a service guarantee
Try to avoid the following phrases

The Customer

The "customer" is the most important person to the company so treat them as such.

The "customer" is not dependent on you. Instead you are most certainly dependent on them.

The "customer" is not an interruption to your work ? but the reason for it. By serving them, you are not doing them a favour ? instead they are doing you a favour by giving us the opportunity to do so.

The "customer" is not someone to argue with or match wits with ? No One ever wins an argument with a customer.

The "customer" is not an outsider to your business ? they are an integral part of it and without them you have no business.

The "customer" is the person who pays your salary ? so you must value their custom.

The "customer" is not a cold statistic ? they are human beings with feeling and emotions like yourselves. Treat them well and more often than not, they?ll treat you well.

The "customer" expects and deserves the best from your company ? so you should give it.

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Why keeping existing customer is important

According to some statistics,

It costs six times more to get a new customer than to keep an existing one.

For every one customer who complains, there are 26 who feel the same way and 13 of these will buy competitors'  products instead.

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Customer Complaints are opportunities - you need a raving fan

Dissatisfied customers who complain are more likely to be the source of additional business than dissatisfied customers who don't. Complaints offer an opportunity to get closer to buyers and gain specific feedback.

Dissatisfied customers will tell twice as many people about their experience as satisfied ones.

Keeping the customer satisfied is the key to a successful company - knowing how to handle customer complaints can make a difference.

Complaints are opportunities when we can see ourselves through our customers' eyes, spot the problems and correct them.

When complaints are satisfactorily resolved, every one wins: -
- Customers know that they've been understood and that their rights and needs have been respected.
- Company learns about problems that need attention. It is also good when satisfied customers (and also complaining customers who have been dealt with courteouly and efficiently) come back again and also recommend your company and products to others.
- You enjoy increased satisfaction and benefits together with recognition for a job well done.

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Resolving Customer complaints

If complaints are received by phone or face to face, following steps should be observed:

1. Be prepared before the phone rings. Have pen and paper on hand. The caller's frustration will increase two-fold if he or she is forced to wait.
2. Know how to listen - you may be the first person to hear the whole story. Let the person get it out of their system, don't interrupt, be alert and interested.
 
Smile when you are speaking, speak calmly, remember a sympathetic ear can defuse the most explosive situation (put yourself in the customer's place; you might feel the same way).

Be friendly before you know who it is. You only have four to six seconds to make a good phone impression. Don't blow it by answering the phone with an unenthusiastic tone of voice.

3. Get the facts - identify yourself, give your full name and job title.
Take notes (First ask for the customer's full name, address, telephone number, date and details of complaint).
 
Ask questions, but be tactful.
 
Restate the complaint in your own words, to make sure there is no misunderstanding.
 
4. Apologise for any inconvenience
Don't lie or make excuses.
 
Admit the problem if there is one, be polite and assure them that you will do your best to put it right.
 
Don't assign blame (like "it's the computer fault" or "fault of another department") - customers don't care whose fault it is - they just want a solution.

5. Find a solution and reach a conclusion

If you must transfer a call, be sure that the person about to receive the call is the right one to handle the problem - avoid giving customers 'the runaround'. Tell the customer who they will be talking to and before transfer, give the person about to receive the call brief details of the customer and the problem.

If you must put a call on hold, explain why or give the option of having the call returned. If returning the call, read customer's telephone number back to them to avoid mistakes. Say when you will call them back and make sure you do so. If you have not resolved their problem by then, call to say you are still working on it. Thank the customer for waiting, once your conversation is resumed.

Be positive on what you can do for the customer, not what you can't do. Explore all possibilities (replacement, repair, credit, refund, alternative choice etc) but don't make promises that you may not be able to keep.

Follow through if necessary, by telephone or in writing. Check internally that any promised solution is actioned and check with the customer later to make sure they are satisfied with the result.

Record all complaints or faults using the system in your department. This is important because the data is analysed so that corrective action can prevent particular problems happening again and therefore continuously improve service to the customers.

Be sincere - treat your customer (whether 'inside' or 'outside' the company) as you yourself would like to be treated.

6. Avoid jargon. Don't assume that your caller understands company lingo. Such phrases will intimidate your customer and foster insecurity.

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Difficult Customers

Never argue - it gets you nowhere but into deeper trouble. Let the customer 'blow off steam' before trying to resolve the problem. Try to find out the reason for the anger, apologise, investigate and deal with the matter immediately. Patiently hear the customer out. Don't interrupt, unless it's necessary to clarify some point.

The customer may be under pressure at work or home, having a 'bad day' or even on the defensive (it may be that the fault is the customer's). Never return any rudeness and do not take any remarks personally - they are caused by an anger with the company. It is your job to dissipate that anger and you can't do that by being rude or by taking offence.

Speak calmly and explain that you want to help. Acknowledge the validity of the complaint. Empathize, using comments like "I can understand how upset you are." Let the customer know that you understand why he and she is upset. If the customer raises his or her voice, lower yours. Spell out what you plan to do.

If the customer does not want to communicate, allow them time, draw them out but do not be too talkative.

Use 'open' questions (start the questions with the words who, what, why, when, where or how) to try and gather facts about what may be wrong.

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How to strengthen relationship with customer

Direct contacts foster relationships: How do you get people to answer customer service surveys? While keeping surveys short is the right idea, never underestimate the value of calling customers yourself. Direct contacts foster relationships, create goodwill, and garner honest feedback.

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Essentials of a service guarantee

A service guarantee allows dissatisfied customers to be converted into satisfied customers.  It enables the organization to learn quickly about customers' changing expectations and to adapt its processes to satisfy, even delight, customers more often.

To be effective, a service guarantee has to be designed with care. It's essential to:
- Guarantee a high standard.
- Promise a significant payout.
- Make the guarantee short and simple.
- Make filing a claim easy.
- Create a "no hassles" guarantee rather than a "no questions asked" guarantee. ("No hassles" allows a firm to ask what went wrong and learn from the response.)

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Try to avoid the following phrases

"I don't know." There's no need to ever utter these words. If you don't know, find out. Usually, there isn't a thing you can't find out.

"We can't do that." This phrase is guaranteed to get your customer's blood boiling. Say something like, "Gee, that's tough. Let me see what we can do."

"You'll have to." Wrong. Instead, say "Here's how we can help with that" or "The next time it happens, here's what you can do."

"Hang on a second, I'll be back." If you've ever said that to a caller, you've lied. Watch what happens when you tell the truth: "It may take three minutes to get the data. Are you able to hold while I check?"

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