Outstanding customer service is the key to creating a successful organization during any economic time… but especially during challenging economic times.

It’s amazing how most organizations will invest millions, if not billions, of dollars on new computer systems, new displays, new phone systems, and new marketing campaigns to try to acquire new customers. The moment of truth comes, however, when the new customer has first contact with these organizations. If the customer is ignored, disrespected, and disappointed with the customer service experience, that customer may never come back. When this occurs, these organizations apparently haven’t heard the old saying, “You only get one chance to make a great first impression.”

What about the present customer base? Many times these customers are treated with indifference and, in many cases, quietly go away to do business with a competitor.

Why not jumpstart your organization’s success with outstanding customer service? It doesn’t matter if you are involved in retail, restaurant management, consumer products, or even the government, customer service is being recognized as the key to increasing productivity, decreasing employee turnover, and increasing an organization’s bottom line. Especially during challenging economic times, the quality of your customer service determines if you remain in business to serve customers or cease to exist.

The following are eight secrets to giving outstanding customer service so that your organization will be successful:

1. Hire Right for Outstanding Customer Service
Organizations that give outstanding customer service invest in hiring right each and every time. They realize that they want the best employees interacting with their customers. Who is the best customer service employee to hire? Hire for attitude, not for aptitude. Hire the employee that has a great customer service attitude and has a great personality, takes initiative, has great communication skills, can show empathy, and has an eye for detail. If a prospective customer service employee has a great attitude, you can always train that employee to learn the skills. Also, the employee should be a solution creator, not a problem maker.

2. Make Outstanding Customer Service Your Mission
What is your organization’s mission statement? What does the mission statement say about how you should treat your customer? Are you communicating this to all your employees, no matter what position they have in the organization? Take the time during meetings, e-mails, phone calls, and other communication opportunities to express the mission statement and how it relates to giving outstanding customer service. Ask during your meeting, “What did we do this week to live our mission statement and its customer service values?”

3. Create Standards for Outstanding Customer Service
What is the minimum you will accept when giving outstanding customer service? Once you and your organization agree on your customer service standards, work to exceed your standards. Do not, especially during challenging times in your organization, sacrifice the quality of your customer service. Once you go below your standards, you customers will immediate know and take their business elsewhere. Take time to exceed your standards and be successful.

4. Train, Coach, and Mentor for Outstanding Customer Service
Invest in continuous customer service training, coaching, and mentoring so that your customer service representatives “get it right” with each and every customer service situation. This is even more important during challenging economic times when organizations have the temptation to cut back on their customer service budgets. If your customer service budget is cut back, find creative ways to provide the training for your employees. Provide your employees with “lunch n’ learn” programs instead of full day programs, allow your more experienced employees to coach and mentor less experienced employees, provide online training, and look for “learning moments” within your customer service team meetings.

5. Take Care of Your Internal Customers for Outstanding Customer Service
The best customer service oriented organizations understand that if you make your internal customers (employees, support departments, vendors, etc.) happy, this will translate to happy external customers. Invest in communicating your customer service goals with other departments and ask for their help. Also, create happy internal customers by delivering what you promised; whether it’s information you promised, a key task you promised to perform to help them help you, or giving them enough notice ahead of time so that their schedules and needs are met. This will translate to happier customers and a more successful organization.

6. Deliver More Than What Is Promised for Outstanding Customer Service
Have you ever heard of the expression, “Promise them the moon and give them the universe”? Well, this applies to customer service. An important component of outstanding customer service is managing your customer’s expectations for service. If you promise a certain level of customer service and exceed that level of customer service, you have a happy customer who will come back again and again and tell others about your organization.

7. Ask for Feedback for Outstanding Customer Service
Take time to acquire feedback from your customers. Embrace your customer’s feedback as opportunities to improve your service and create additional opportunities for you and your organization. If you ask for feedback, you must be willing to listen to the feedback and take positive action. For example, I am impressed when I go shopping in one particular supermarket. When I check out, the cashiers will always ask, “Did you find everything today?” Then they will actually wait for your answer before moving forward with the transaction. When was the last time you received that treatment?

8. Thank the Customer for Outstanding Customer Service
The two most important words in customer service are “thank you.” Invest in the time to train your customer service representatives to thank the customer. Be sincere in your thanks by smiling, looking the person in the eye, or even if you are talking on the phone, smile and clearly say “thank you.” Thank customers for their time, for choosing your organization, for their patience, etc., but thank them. Thank your customers by starting a customer appreciation program. There are too many competitors, especially in a challenging economic environment, just waiting to take your customers. Create loyal customers who feel appreciated and will come back to your organization again and again.

Invest your time and efforts to applying the above customer service secrets, and you and your organization will be far ahead of the competition and excel in any economic time.

Author's Bio: 

Ed Sykes is a highly sought after expert, author, professional speaker, and success coach in the areas of leadership, motivation, presentation skills, stress management, customer service, and team building. You can e-mail him at mailto:esykes@thesykesgrp.com or call him at (757) 427-7032. Go to his web site, http://www.thesykesgrp.com/CustomerSvctrg01.htm, and signup for the newsletter, OnPoint, and receive his free ebook, "Secrets of Outstanding Customer Service."