Customer service in 2020

How to improve customer service

How to improve customer service. This is not magic, it is basic everyday common sense applied to a business. Things you can do to improve your image.

Where does customer service start?

I started writing this blog following a cup of coffee with a friend this morning. We started talking about customer service because we have worked together for many years and also in similar industries over time.

We understand that customer service is absolutely paramount to your business success and that when you get it wrong it will impact immediately on your bottom line.

The chat over coffee leads us to think of writing a manual or training course on the things you must do to achieve a superior level of interaction.

So let's go over a few items that can make a difference.

How did customer service originate?

Any form of contact either verbal, written or visual with a customer sets an expectation. The customer wants his position to be considered as a priority and in front of all else.

A report by Right Now technologies indicated that a huge 86% of USA citizens were willing to pay more for good to great customer service.

The article went on to say that 68% of people with a bad customer service experience would tell family or friends.

When you consider that the average person has 155 Facebook friends things can get out of hand quickly.

So where does it all start?

  • Live one-on-one consultations
  • Faults and complaints
  • Email and virtual communications
  • Post-sales experience

The art of listening

Image of a light bulb moment
The most critical ability to maintain

This is one of the most important functions in communications and one that is so often ignored as we try to impress with our wealth of knowledge.

What is the customer trying to tell you and how can you best respond to the request?

I recently worked with a bunch of young people on a display stand that had a stream of people wanting information.

One of the girls was a champion, full of enthusiasm and ready to talk to anyone that would listen.

She would grab passers-by and virtually nail their feet to the floor as she put them in a place she wanted them to be.

I started gently explaining that an oversell never works before I had to find her stop button.

Anne is a lovely girl and really wanting to tell people about the great proposal and was doing a wonderful job except she would not listen.

She wanted to fix every problem with a solution no matter what the objection.

The short version is that she talked too much and lost most of the potential that just wanted to get away.
We just need to get her to answer questions and concentrate on hot points.

A guy walks into a car dealer and says I want to buy a Ford, the salesman says “No you don't Chevs are a far better car” So starts an argument about which there can be no winner.

Perhaps if the salesman had said, “what is it about Fords you really like?”

Many of us want to tell, explain, verbalise layout a whole picture with irrelevant crap.

The role of customer service is to satisfy a need and make the customer happy, not for the customer to fill your needs.

When you have made the sale stop selling.

This is a golden rule of selling and one that you should never forget.

It is an awful moment when you realize you should have stopped and the customer with pen in hand says “you know what, I believe I want to think about this?”

The sale is gone and there is nothing you can do or say to recover it. We have all done it at some time and absolutely hate that moment.

When the deal is done, talk about anything else that can distract the buyer.

Is upselling a good thing in business?

This is an exception to the above rule because it is a new sale, a new situation, and new rules.
Upselling can increase your sales turnover by a considerable amount.

A great example is an automotive industry.
If you have ever purchased a car you will understand the role they play.

They do a deal on the car right through to signing the papers, getting finance and ready to roll out the door but wait.

Would you like new floor mats to protect the lovely carpet, maybe some paint protection or extended warranty? The sale was done and now they go for the extras that have a great margin to make them money.
These are simple yes-no commitments.

I went to the Butcher on the weekend, my wife wanted half a Portuguese chicken at just $10.
It does us for a meal so it is good buying.
While the lady is wrapping the chicken she points out a couple of filo pastries that would really go well with the dinner, only $5 a great idea.

Did I buy them? Of course, I did and her sale went up by 50%

My point is that the original need is satisfied and committed to before you move on

Should you admit to a fault in customer service

Most time consumed and problems originate from avoiding the issue.

A recent example was the carmaker Volkswagon. VW bypassed the law on Diesel ommissions and it was discovered accidentally in a US test on various other models.
VW went into denial and now the whole management team is gone. They were in the wrong but tried to cover up the fault. a process that cannot end well. For VW a $30 billion problem.

The role of a service provider is not to cover up, it is to negotiate the best solution for vendor and customer in an economical manner

I contacted Weber barbeques recently about a faulty igniter on my three-year-old Baby Q.

Their answer was to ask my current address and say it would be in the mail today and at no cost.

I had explained that the battery had leaked and it was probably my fault.
Not a worry Sir, if you have problems installing the new one call us and we will help you.

Would I buy another Webber product before anything else I certainly would?

The igniter probably cost them $10. A half-hour phone call debating with me is worth more than that, they are in front, I am happy and customer service has been satisfied.

Do emails work in Customer service?

image of an email

How many times do you see an email that says along the lines of;

“Your request has been received, we endeavor to respond within three working days”

This is just not good enough when I have a problem now. I want your support and not a three day wait.

We all understand that time is important but if you are running three days late fix your problem so you can fix mine.

I don't believe this is acceptable in any form, particularly when they do eventually return an email and ask a mundane question.

If you are using emails, and I am not opposed to that, ensure there is a timely response.

Do chat boxes work in customer service?

This is a relatively new concept that is fast fulfilling a market need. You can ask a question and get the answers in a timely manner and probably handle a couple of calls at the same time.

For me, it takes a bit longer than a phone contact as you type back and forward but certainly has a place in today's market.

Are there jobs available in the service area?

There are opportunities for growth

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (USA) projected customer service representative job growth at 5% between 2016 and 2026. That's close to the average for all occupations.


Online shopping will contribute to this and help this area grow. The use of customer service agents will never go away and you provide a valuable service to the business and the community.

Post-sales customer service specialists

Nerd talking on a phone

The role of post-sales can be one of many activities.

  • Survey format to see if you are happy
  • Feedback on the whole business deal
  • Upsell opportunity
  • Preparing for the next sales cycle opportunity.

I get a lot of mail from Charles Tyrett, they are an English based men's clothing shop.

They are really good at fixed mail marketing and spend a small fortune on attracting business.
After any purchase, you will get a thank you note with a discount voucher for your next spend.

Sometimes a shoe special to go with the shirts you just bought, a cross-sell.

When I purchased my last car they came back with a low ball three-year service contract.

The customer now knows, likes and trusts you so strike when the fire is hot

The after-sales opportunity opens many doors to a wider market and increases your customer spend.


Customer service will become increasingly more important as our market changes from the traditional walk-in model.
Online shopping will continue to grow and this brings its own challenges for the retailer, a challenge to grow a customer spend and not settle for a one-time hit.

Management of online problems and returns can really impact on profitability so the customer service will become an expanded role.

However, the need to get this correct is an increasing challenge that is not often met.

How to improve customer service by Peter Hanley

image of the author Peter Hanley
Peter Hanley

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