Provide Positive Customer Service
By Phil Minix, senior vice president of catalog and tours marketing at Reiman Publications
Let's face it: We've gotten spoiled by the fact that we can count on our staffs to answer calls promptly, take phone orders efficiently, easily process Web orders, ship products to customers in a timely fashion and have the merchandise arrive in good condition.
Since the processes often run so smoothly, we sometimes take them for granted. But should we?
Here are six suggestions on things we could be doing — as an industry — to make customers' experiences more enjoyable and rewarding, and to ensure they become sought-after multibuyers.
1. Keep products in-stock and thus your backorders to a minimum. Put a huge effort into your inventory planning, and make sure you have a high level of initial fill — as high as you can afford. This can make or break customers' perceptions of your commitment to good customer service. It doesn't matter how beautiful your catalog is, how great your merchandise is or how quickly you deliver it. If you don't have product in stock, customers will be disappointed and may shop elsewhere.
2. Make customer data readily accessible to your customer service reps (CSRs). If you use an answering device (e.g., interactive voice response technology) that allows a customer to choose the call's route and provide information (e.g., customer or account number), be sure the information automatically is passed to reps when they take the call. That way reps can greet the caller appropriately and not ask for data that were just provided. Reps should certainly verify the information, but don't expect the caller to give everything to them a second time.
3. Set up the initial customer screen to provide reps with data they can use to make a personal connection with the caller. Reps should acknowledge good customers: "Oh, I see you've placed several orders with us, Mr. Smith. Thank you for your past business." Or they can inquire about a recent order: "How did that blue blouse you ordered work for you, Ms. Jones?" They also can comment on returns: "I'm sorry to see you had to return the sconces. Did we handle the return to your satisfaction?"