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Customer Service

Definition: The degree of assistance and courtesy granted those who patronize a business

Excellent customer service is more than what you say or do for your customers. It also means giving customers a chance to make their feelings known. Here are some suggestions for finding out what your customers want--and what they think about your customer service:

Whatever you do, don't rest on your laurels. Regularly evaluate your product or service to be sure it's still priced, packaged and delivered correctly.

When you're a start-up with few employees and few customers, it's easy to stay on top of what customers want and what they're getting. But as you add more customers and employees, you add links to the customer service chain. That creates the potential for growth--and the potential for poor service along the way. That's why creating a customer service policy and adhering to it is so important. Here are some steps you can take to ensure that your clients receive excellent service every step of the way.

Put your customer service policy in writing. These principles should come from you, but every employee should know what the rules are and be ready to live up to them. It doesn't have to be elaborate. Something as simple as "The customer is always right" can lay the necessary groundwork, although you may want to get more detailed by saying, for instance, "Any employee is empowered to grant a 10-percent discount to any dissatisfied customer at any time."

Establish support systems that give employees clear instructions for gaining and maintaining service superiority. These systems will help you outservice any competitor by giving more to customers and anticipating problems before they arise.

Develop a measurement of superb customer service. Don't forget to reward employees who practice it consistently.

Be certain that your passion for customer service runs rampant throughout your company. Employees should see how good service relates to your profits and to their futures with the company.

Be genuinely committed to providing more customer service excellence than anyone else in your industry. This commitment must be so powerful that every one of your customers can sense it.

Share information with people on the front lines. Meet with your employees regularly to talk about improving service. Solicit ideas from employees--they're the ones who are dealing with customers most often.

Act on the knowledge that what customers value most are attention, dependability, promptness and competence. They love being treated as individuals and being referred to by name.

Good customer service is made, not born. Most companies find that employees require training to provide good customer service. Some of the areas in which employees often get help from customer service training include: