Customer service is one of the true business essentials. Everyone remembers the bad customer service they have had, and most will also remember instances of good customer service. The importance of customer service is recognized by all successful businesses, because it is possibly the number one element in customer retention. If you want to ensure that you get repeat business, looking out for the wishes and needs of your customer base is essential. How you go about providing it is up to you, but there are certain elements which remain the same whatever the nature of your business. These are the principles of good customer service.
Whenever a customer makes a purchase, they will have priorities as to what makes their experience a positive one. Obviously the first priority is that they get whatever they have purchased from the point of purchase to their home. If it is a small item that they can take with them, the business’s responsibility is to see to it that the item is packaged and presented in a manageable, portable fashion with a minimum of waiting. However, customer service begins before this. When a customer enters the store or the showroom to find what they are looking for, they may require the attention of staff to enable them to find it. Some customers just want to browse. Staff is required to ascertain what a customer wants how they want to go about it and whether they will need any help.
Customer service can be defined as any action you take to ensure that a customer is pleased with the transaction on a long-term basis. This includes “after sales service”, which entails ensuring that the customer leaves the point of sale with the item that they were looking for, within the period of time that they intended to spend sourcing it, and then has no problems using it. It is easy enough to ensure a customer goes away from the point of sale with the item they had come to purchase. Ensuring that they are happy going forward may require more care and attention, and this is where after-sales service needs to be at its highest level. Pre-sales, after sales and point-of-sale service are all essential elements of customer service.
A customer is, in this day and age, anyone who uses a service. Although this has its logical extremes – you will find few people who are overjoyed by the idea of being a customer to a doctor, or their children a customer of their school. Therefore everyone who relies on you to do a job that will have an effect on their life, their job, or their use of a product is technically one of your customers.
External customers are anyone outside your company that you interact with — not just the people who buy goods or services from you. External customers are what can be considered ‘traditional’ customers.
Internal customers include anyone in your organization who relies on you for services, resources, or information.
Providing excellent customer service to internal customers sets a positive tone for all personal interactions. If internal customers receive excellent customer service every day, they will consider this the norm. If they interact with external customers, they are likely to treat those customers the way they have been treated. Excellent customer service, like most types of human behavior, is contagious.