THE SERVICE ADVOCATE…
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HOW TO GUARANTEE UNHAPPY CUSTOMERS
Nadine King and Tameca Sukhdeo-Singh
What an odd title for an article ?  At first glance, you may think it is a typo of some sort; but no, “how to guarantee unhappy customers” is this week’s article title.  Every day we all go into one business place or another and sometimes we are pleased with the service received and sometimes we are forced to ask ourselves if the attendants go out of their way to provide the poor service which displeases us.

But let us not cast blame entirely on the customer service representatives.  Indeed, they are there to represent the company and carry out a service the company provides, but do they know HOW to carry out this service?  Don’t they have to be guided and taught?  Everything that you have learnt was taught to you; advice was shared with you and when you practised those new skills, someone was most likely there to supervise you.  So why is it that customer service representatives are expected to just do a great job without any training?
The general perception is that training is not needed and two of the most popular reasons not to invest in training are cost and employee turnover.  The two factors go hand in hand.  First of all, when you analyse the cost of training versus the amount of money lost due to poor customer service and customers not returning to your establishment, it certainly does not seem so exorbitant after all.  Secondly, employees will seek better opportunities if the current job does not provide job satisfaction since job satisfaction comes from management providing ample information and guidance to allow the representatives to do their jobs well.  Confidence is a key attribute for both the consumer and employee – consumers feel more at ease and comfortable dealing with a confident representative, an employee who knows intimately the product or service they are responsible for delivering.  Confidence is an easily identifiable trait in employees because it is evident in their body language and tone of voice.
We encourage you to pay attention to your business – not just the bottom line– but the finer details like the sales process, your customer base and the attitudes of your sales representatives.  Are they good representatives of your company?  Do you have a high rate of return clients?  Do you constantly add new features and/or benefits to your product?  It is important to empathise, put yourself in your clients’ shoes.  Would you be happy with the kind of service your company is delivering?  And how can you improve it?
Unhappy customers lead to an influx of complaints and nobody likes to handle complaints!  But in business, we try to minimise the number of complaints received; and when customers do complain, we need to address the matter immediately, seriously and effectively, in order to positively change that experience and prevent a recurrence.  Customers do not need excuses; this is probably the simplest and easiest way to avoid dealing with a situation.  Just offering weak justifications as “it’s not my fault”, “I only work here, I don’t make the rules”, “the kitchen staff is always messing up food orders” do not automatically make you blame-free or cause customers to sympathise with you.  Customers need the problem fixed!
Have you ever heard that good news spread fast but bad news faster?  We are all consumers and we love to tell others about where we can find good deals, which store or restaurant offers good service.  But it does not end there – what about relating bad customer service experiences?  These are shared even faster and with even more people.
Give your staff members the correct tools, the knowledge, and they will deliver great service.  The most important attribute a customer service representative can have is the desire to learn and the drive to do an exceptional job.  It does not matter if that job is to sweep and mop floors or to serve food in a restaurant or to attend to the sick – customer service is not a term used in specific industries, all employees provide some level of customer service and they are all important to the successful operation of the establishment.  Employees are the most important asset and there are some model businesses out there whose management team embraces this statement and provides training and other morale boosting activities.  But then there are other companies that do not recognise the importance of providing knowledge to their most valuable asset and then the managers and supervisors wonder why there are so many unhappy customers, why there is such high staff turnover, and why employees seem glum every time they walk through those doors.  The business owners wonder why their bottom line is in red, or very nearly approaching red.  Of course, after any kind of training, the principles must be enforced by senior staff and this can be achieved through regular inspections and evaluations, and mystery shopping. 
We hope we have provided some insight into this increasing statistic of disgruntled customers and we encourage you, the managers and business owners, to think about investing the time and money into training to ensure that the level of service you require is provided to the consumers.  This all leads to a better bottom line, in solid black.
(Nadine King and Tameca Sukhdeo-Singh can be contacted at: cru@networksgy.com)

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