freetobook, customers service by phone

Customer Service: by phone and email

Most people forget or simply don’t realise that offering an excellent service to your customers starts right from the initial point of contact. It is also at this point that the crucial first impressions are formed by your customers and in many cases this is over the phone or by email.  There are some simple small things you can do that will have a big impact on the way your customers view you and your property.

Over the years I have found that customers generally have a low expectation when it comes to being served by phone or by email. This is possibly the result of many large corporations “outsourcing” their service functions or simply trying to “force” their customers into a purely online transactions. The use of international call centres, “apparently” intelligent call routing (where you go through a plethora of options only to find none is suitable!) or simply making you do the transaction yourself and then charging you for the self service you have enacted on their behalf, have left many people wary of phoning or emailing!

What an opportunity this represents! What an advantage it is being small, personal and friendly. You can literally hear the sigh of relief, the softening of the voice and the added interest when customers find what they are looking for. So what are customers looking for when it comes to being served by phone or email?

They are all looking for different things because they are all different. So treat them as individuals, try to understand how they want to be served. Meet these needs and you are on the right track.

I have spent a lot of my time reading feedback from customers and still do browse through the feedback emails – I’m addicted. There are 3 themes that seem to run through the highest scores and they are so simple they make perfect sense.  Customers really appreciate helpful, friendly and efficient service -it’s hardly breaking news! If you can deliver these 3 things day in and day out, you will get some great advocates and probably some good extra business.

Customers call because they want help, either to get some questions answered, to feel reassured or simply to transact a booking.  Let them talk first, ask soft questions and spend time listening. You need to understand them and you can only do this by listening. The more information you have on them, the easier it is to tailor your responses to suit their needs and to help them in a way they prefer. For instance, some business people may be very busy and so just want short sharp answers or possibly additional information emailed to them which they can read on the train home, when they do have spare time.  Part of being helpful is understanding clearly why customers have called and what is critical to them.

Customers enjoy being served by friendly people. Good friends understand us, are interesting to us and enjoy being around us. The best service comes from those people who enjoy giving it, and customers can hear this over the phone and read it in emails. Smile when you answer the phone, ask questions. If customers are taking children on holiday, ask if they have any hobbies; what they are planning to do? All you are doing is showing a genuine interest in why customers are coming and what they intend to get out of their visit or holiday. I’m amazed at some of the hobbies people have and how interesting it is to learn about them. This gives you the opportunity to build a rapport and to understand better how to meet their needs.

If bookings need modifying always try to accommodate the customer and make it easy for them. Many customers are really anxious if they have to call to cancel or amend a booking and you can hear it right away. You can ask why, without being too direct and often when you actually discuss the situation you are able to work out a solution together that works very well for the both of you.  Being able to remove a burden from your customer without them actually knowing it’s happening is the real art of service.

If you say you are going to do something, why not do it early? A prime example where an efficient response creates confidence is when transactions are made over the phone and then followed up in writing. If you modify a booking by phone and have the customer’s email address then why not email the new confirmation right away? It reassures the customer and completes the process, providing your customer with something tangible. It also gives customers a chance to check everything is as per their wishes. Another useful touch point is sending out customer reviews or just replying to them in a timely and efficient manner.

You often hear people bemoaning the fact that some technology has made us less efficient. That may be true in some instances but when it comes to customer contact you can really score points. Email and texts are unobtrusive and a great way of connecting with your customers in a manner that’s convenient for them. Simple, useful things like links to directions at the foot of your booking confirmation email will be appreciated. If, during your conversation, you found out the customer had a particular interest and you know of something they may be interested in then why not send them a link to a relevant website when you email directions? These small actions come from understanding your customer and anyone can do them; indeed it’s exactly when being small, personal and friendly works in your favour.  Large businesses can’t act like this. The same individuals do not “interact” with the customer along the process or even at the same point of a process (think about call centres). You have a great opportunity to offer a service level that will make your customer’s life easier and turn them into promoters of your property.