Six Ways to Improve Your Customer Service TODAY July, 30 2014

A Trader Joe's opened near me recently. Considering I'm someone who routinely cries into her wallet over the prices at Whole Foods, this is something I unashamedly counted down the days for over the two months prior to its grand opening. As you can imagine, it has been PACKED since. But perhaps because I have a death wish, I ambled in on a recent Saturday afternoon, hoping to fill my cart with coconut oil, fresh produce, and almond meal, as well as my soul with happiness.

What I was met with instead was a flood of people with the same goal as me. The only things I remember experiencing upon first arriving are fighting to secure a (far-away) parking space, seriously considering and reconsidering whether using an actual shopping cart instead of a basket and/or my arms would be a good idea, and thinking about how long I could make it without popping open a jar of Speculoos Cookie Butter and stress-eating the entire thing with my hands.

If you haven't experienced this, you haven't lived. Photo credit: clubtraderjoes.com

But then, all of a sudden, a Trader Joe's crew member emerged from the throng, looked me in the eye with what may have been a tiny bit of pity, and asked, "Can I help you find something?"

What I wanted to say was, "Yes, ma'am, you can help me find the nearest exit and also a Xanax," but instead I rambled off a list of grocery items I needed. Not only did she know where to find what I was looking for, but she took me to the locations of said items. And then - THEN - she told me that if I wanted to taste anything to let her know and she'll pop open a box. I still don't get how they can legitimately do that and make money, but I guess not many people are as big of moochers as I am and won't actually ask. I have yet to do so, but I'll report back in a couple months if I work up the nerve.

Anyway, suddenly, the crowd felt a lot thinner. And like the Grinch's heart, my love for TJ's grew three sizes that day. I somehow resisted crying.

It may not seem like a lot, but in a super-crowded store especially, a small gesture like this is a big deal to a customer. Businesses like Trader Joe's, Publix, and more are famous for their stellar customer service - and those are just grocery stores/supermarkets. If a supermarket can make something as mundane as grocery shopping a fun (or, at the very least, non-hair-pulling) experience for someone as stubborn as me, the possibilities across industries are truly endless.

How, you ask? Here are six of our favorite tips to improve your company's customer service today:

1. Use the customer's name.

Unless you go to the grocery store wearing a name tag, the staff most likely won't call you by name. This is one of the perks of working in an industry where you have customer records on file, or help customers over the phone: You can call them by name without looking like a stalker. Calling customers by their first name establishes the first thread of communication - it lets customers know you're giving them your full, undivided attention. And at the same time, it eliminates some of the formalities that may intimidate customers, ensuring they know they're more than just a number.

2. Smile, even over the phone.

Believe it or not, your facial expression is audible. It's physically impossible to be a jerk while smiling, unless you're a clown. And that doesn't count because it's painted on.

I mean, look at this:



Do you really think I could sound pleasant making that first face? Of course not. I'm remembering my Trader Joe's parking incident instead of focusing on the (fictional, don't worry) caller, which is a no-no. Just smile! Even if work isn't going great, at least you have that leftover Pad Thai to look forward to at lunch. Your customer will never know they're receiving Pad Thai-fueled joy.

3. Be honest.

It's always great to be nice and soothing and all that, but honesty is just as important an ingredient in building a customer's trust. If you say you're going to call at a specific time, do it; same goes for follow-up e-mails. If you don't know the answer to a question, let the customer know - don't just make something up! All that leads to is an irate customer who's going to call back and give you or your coworkers twice the earful. Simply tell the customer how you're going to go about finding the answer, move on, and follow up.

4. Don't just hear - listen.

When my cat tries talking to me and I'm busy, all I hear is "Meow meow meow," but if I really listen I hear, "Man, that's some nice tuna you got there. If you wanted to share, I wouldn't be mad. I guess. I mean, you don't have to but if you have any left...yeah...I'm going to nap over here now."

A meow now would mean, "If you don't take this inflatable horn off me ASAP, I'm going to pee on everything you own."

Moral of the story? Hearing and listening are NOT the same thing. Anyone with hearing ability can hear someone - that is a purely physical act. But taking the time to really listen to what the customer is asking makes a world of difference. I mean, how many times have you been cut off mid-sentence by a support rep you KNOW doesn't understand your problem but is about to give you a canned, completely unhelpful "solution" instead of listening to your issue?

Exactly. Don't be that person.

5. Allow your customers to give real, tangible feedback.

Do you have a method in place for customers to give candid feedback about your service? If not, get on it! Even something as simple as an online review system can work wonders. If you want to get even more personal, sites like SurveyMonkey allow you to create more granular surveys with specific metrics, so you know exactly what aspects of your service you need to work on. Even if a customer ignores that survey in their inbox, they'll know you care enough to reach out. And sometimes that can make a huge difference.

6. Do something different and/or unexpected.

When that crew member at TJ's told me she could open anything I wanted to try, I was completely blown away. I had never heard that from a grocery store employee before, and didn't expect it at all. But is it something I'll tell stories about? I mean, you be the judge.

My point is that a little extra-mile-type gesture that might require a slight bit more effort from you could mean the difference between mediocre and amazing service for your customer. Why not offer an incentive for filling out one of the aforementioned surveys, or incorporating something fun into your phone conversations? Maybe end or begin each call with a joke.* Whatever you do, make sure it's 1.) original, 2.) reflective of your organization, and 3.) directly beneficial to your customer.

For example, here at QuoteWerks, we offer the QuoteValet Shopping Cart. But unlike the shopping carts at Trader Joe's, we don't load you up with healthy-yet-affordable groceries - we give you one place to build and use online order forms to automate customer re-orders and receive paid orders from promotional e-mail blasts. Pretty useful - and definitely unique.

*If you work as a 911 operator, don't do this.

What are some of your favorite customer-service tips? Let us know in the comments!

About the Author:
Jen Juneau
Technical Writer


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