All association executives expect their staff to provide good customer service, consistently, yet few have a customer service policy. A written policy unites the association behind the common goal of fulfilling customer service and explains exactly how to achieve that goal.
Studies show that the presence or absence of a written customer service policy creates substantive differences in the way employees view the importance of customer service.
Below are 13 best practices in customer service you can include in your association's customer service policy.
1. Answer the phone.
Get call forwarding or an answering service, or hire more staff if you need to, but just make sure that someone--not a machine, if possible--is picking up the phone.
2. Don't make false promises.
Reliability is the key to any good relationship. If you say, "The class will start at 9 a.m. on Tuesday," make sure it does. Otherwise, don't say it. Think before you make any promise, because nothing annoys customers more than promises broken.
3. Listen to your customers.
Get rid of the sales pitches and the product babble. Let your customers talk and show that you're listening by making the appropriate responses, such as suggesting how to solve the problem.
4. Follow up.
A few days or weeks after the initial contact, call or write a member who had a complaint or problem to make sure the issue was resolved.
5. Deal with complaints.
Sure, you can't please all the people all the time, but if you give one complaint your full attention, you may be able to please that one person that one time. You'll make your customer happy and position your business to reap the benefits of good customer service.
6. Train your staff.
Talk to your staff regularly about what is and isn't good customer service. Give your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions.
7. Throw in something extra.
Whether it's a discount coupon for an oil change, additional information on how to use the product, or a genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they would.
8. Be honest and open.
The more you reveal about your association procedures, policies, and finances, the more the members will feel a part of the organization and be less likely to complain.
9. Strive to improve.
Don't be satisfied if no one complains. There are always ways to reduce paperwork or waiting time or to provide more information for members.
10. Solicit service feedback.
Conduct regular customer service surveys. This not only provides great ideas for improving service but also shows members you care about service.
11. Be professional.
Treat all customers with respect and use appropriate titles (Sir, Ma'am). Be personable but not overly familiar.
Even if you aren't directly responsible for a member's problem, accept responsibility for it on behalf of the association and do whatever is necessary to resolve it. You can't let your ego get in the way or try to blame someone else.
13. Show a positive attitude.
Your attitude not only affects how you approach your job, your members, and your coworkers, but also determines how they respond to you.
Adapted from articles by John Tschohl, founder of Service Quality Institute and author of six books on customer service, and Susan Ward's e-zine; 8 Rules for Good Customer Service.