In business, the customer isn't always right ... but the customer is always the customer. The better your interactions with those who provide your streams of income, the more successful your company will be. The first step in making those interactions excellent is avoiding these five all-too-common rookie mistakes.
Mistake #1: You talk more than you listen. Customers all want to feel heard, understood and included. If they're simply shopping, listen closely to what they say (and what they don't say!) to steer the conversation toward the perfect product. If they're complaining, use active listening to discover the root of the problem and the best way to show your concern and commitment. Try asking two questions for every statement they make, and see how that improves your customers' experience.
Mistake #2: You make your move too early. In every customer interaction, there will come the moment to make your sale—otherwise, you're just making conversation. If you try to force that moment too early, you'll lose all the trust you've built in the conversation up to that point. Be patient and wait for your moment. This advice also applies to trying to tack on unnecessary suggestive sales offers at the end of a customer interaction. It's in vogue among the biggest players this decade, but trust us, nobody actually likes it.
Mistake #3: You blame everyone under the sun. There's too much of this in the media these days, and consumers are tired of it. Politicians blame each other, the media blames their competition, our kids blame that broken dish on the cat. Even if a problem isn't your fault, you'll establish trust simply by taking responsibility and finding the solution. If you instead try to put that responsibility on somebody else, you're as likely to alienate a customer as anything else.
Mistake #4: Your conversation is peppered with jargon. Every trade and hobby has its jargon, whether you're using computer industry acronyms on a tech support line or talking about obscure glue techniques at a scrapbooking store. When dealing with customers, it's a good idea to use common jargon. It helps them feel included, and demonstrates that you're not underestimating their intelligence. If you use too much jargon or jargon that's too obscure, you risk sounding condescending, or you confuse or alienate them to the point where they leave.
Mistake #5: You try to "win" every customer interaction, at any cost. It's natural to look for a way to "win" any conversation you have with a customer, whether that win is making the sale or proving that a problem was caused by a customer breaking his computer, not by your software. This may be personally satisfying, but it does nothing to build your profits or your brand. Instead, enter each conversation looking for ways to help the customer win. Since their happiness is your success, that turns every call into a win-win proposition.
Mistake #6: You don't keep any records. This isn't part of the interaction itself, but is a vital part of making every customer contact successful. Imagine you've calmed an irate customer and gone about your day, then got another call a week later. You won't remember the details of the situation, but you can bet that customer will ... and that she'll expect you to, as well. This goes double for communicating important aspects of any customer contact to other members of your team.
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Jason has contributed over 2,000 blog and magazine articles to publications local, regional and national. He speaks regularly at writing and business conferences.
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