GREAT service is the lifeblood of any business. You can offer promotions and slash prices to bring in many new customers, but unless you can get customers to keep coming back, your business won’t be profitable for long.

Great service is all about sending customers away delighted enough to pass positive feedback about your business along to others and bring themselves and other people back.

The essence of great customer service is forming a relationship with customers — a relationship that individual customers feel that they would like to keep.

How? By remembering the one secret of great customer service: “You will be judged by what you say or do.” If you truly want to have great customer service, you have to consistently do these things:

1

 Answer your phone

Answer all calls within three rings.

Train your staff to say: “Good morning! Thank you for calling X company, this is Y speaking. How may I help you?”

Invest in call forwarding or an answering service. People who call want to talk to a  person, not hear a “robotic recorded message” 

2

 Don’t make promises you can’t keep

Reliability is one of the keys to any great relationship and applies to great service too. Your word must be as good as gold. Otherwise, don’t give it.

The same rule applies to client appointments, deadlines, delivery dates and so on.

Think before you promise anything — because nothing annoys customers more than a broken one.

3

 Listen to your customers

Is there anything more exasperating than saying something to someone who hasn’t been paying attention and who needs to have it explained again?

From a customer’s point of view, I doubt it.

Let your customer talk and show him that you are listening by making the appropriate verbal and non-verbal responses, and take steps to solve the issue he is concerned about.

4

 Deal with complaints

Look at complaints as opportunities to make things right, to turn things around. If you are able to turn things around and please the customer, it will communicate to him how important he is to you.

5

 Be helpful always

The other day I popped into an optical shop because my spectacles had lost a screw that held the frame together.

After I explained my problem, the proprietor took my glasses, found the right screw, attached it to the frame — and charged me nothing!

So when I needed to make a new pair of glasses, where do you think I went? I spent $580, and not only that — how many people do you think I’ve told this story to?

6

 Train your staff to be courteous and knowledgeable

Do it yourself or hire someone to train them. Talk to them about great customer service and what it is (and isn’t) regularly.

Explain the basics of ensuring positive staff-customer interactions.

Most importantly, give every employee enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions, so they never ever have to say: “I don’t know, but so-and-so will be back at...”

7

 Go the extra mile

If someone walks into your shop, hotel or restaurant and asks you where something or someone is, don’t just say: “It’s in Aisle 5/on the next level.”

Lead the customer to the item, place or person. Whatever the extra step may be, if you want to provide great customer service, take it.

They may not tell you, but customers love and notice it when someone makes an extra effort  — and they will tell other people. They become a walking-talking advertisement for you!

8

 Under-promise and over-deliver

Whether it’s a coupon for a future discount, a free starter in a restaurant, an additional service, a bonus gift or delivering earlier than promised — people love to get more than they thought they were getting.

Great businesses always look at how they can do this. If you can do this consistently, people will love you and your company.

It is not the size or value of the “extra service”, but the pleasant surprise of something not promised but delivered!

If you implement these eight standards consistently, your business will become known for its great customer service.

The best part? Service excellence will bring in more new customers and keep old customers than any promotion or price slashing ever will.

Article by Leslie Choudhury, the author of a self-help book series called Once Upon A Time, and the chief executive officer of Leslie Choudhury International and director for Directive Communication International (Asia). He has been voted the World’s No. 9 Communication Guru by Gurus International, in the Global Who’s Who Directory. For details, visit www.lesliechoudhury.com and www.l-c-international.com