How to Maintain Customer Service Etiquette and Gain Customer Referrals

Customer service etiquette is tricky to perfect. Company owners always want employees to help customers, but if workers act too helpful customers could feel smothered. For example: Years and years will pass before the public forgets the long and embarrassing Comcast customer service call logged in the summer of 2014. Helping a customer get what they want and bullying your customer into what you want them to want are two very different things. So, how can you ensure your company’s clients feel helped and appreciated, but not overwhelm them either? One thing that helps quite often is reviewing basic customer service etiquette tips.

Let’s start with the basic stuff. The following are customer service etiquette musts.

Stay cheerful and professional

It’s frustrating to talk to someone who is in a bad mood. While sometimes it’s a challenge to stay positive, the more pleasant you are, the more helpful you will be. And customers (as well as bosses and coworkers, surprisingly) like helpful employees. While maintaining a cheerful demeanor, it’s important to remain professional. Make sure you always ask if a customer is comfortable with a request rather than just doing it. Also: Don’t use questionable language. You never know what will offend a client.

Be honest and empathetic

Honesty is always best. If you can’t help a customer, let him know and tell the client that you’ll find someone who can help. Also, always show empathy for your customer. I’m sure you’ve been frustrated as a customer before! We all feel better when the person who is helping us genuinely listens to our concerns.

Be responsible and give complete, thoughtful answers

Own everything you do and make sure you do everything right. And then when you don’t do something right, because everyone makes mistakes, apologize and fix the problem. Taking responsibility for every call you take, meeting you attend, and email you send is essential when maintaining proper customer service etiquette.

Finish what you start, even if you can’t actually solve the problem. Make sure you stay on the line with a customer until a new person can help, or stand with a person until a manager arrives to answer a client’s question. Sticking it out with a customer and keeping her company while she waits for an answer is polite and can possibly help you glean more information about that client’s problem.

Another essential way to ensure your employees are optimally communicating with customers is by ensuring workers speak your clients language. Teaching your employees the language that suits your business best will help your employees communicate with customers better. This “universal business language” also will give your employees a safety net, language-wise, if they encounter a customer who is fuming.

A Forbes article titled, “Are You Killing Your Customer Service with These Language Mistakes?” by Micah Solomon, reports that it’s essential to use language that doesn’t alienate customers.

It’s best to avoid saying, “you need to,” and instead, something like, “we find it usually works best when.” Always make it your goal to put customers at ease. And make certain your employees understand how to listen to customers rather than just sticking to a script. Being personable, nice and understanding will get you everywhere.

Now, we all know that our employees often times are not just dealing with customers by phone or in person, but via email and Internet chat, too. An article, titled “Customer Service 2.0: Satisfying Customers in the Digital Age,” by Nicole Fallon, points out that all companies, especially startups, should use social media, email, chat, and more, to interact with customers to keep that “24/7 line of communication” open. But as with any form of customer action, you need to ensure that your employees know how to communicate with your customers in all online forms.

Social media

While it’s no doubt that social media is a great way to get in contact with customers, it also can be a place where customers can publicly call out your business if they are unhappy. In order to handle all the good and bad comments, you should have a company-wide social media strategy. This strategy should ensure that all customers are heard but also help employees be able to see when a customer goes too far and attempts to discredit a company at any cost. To help avoid this from occurring, you also can consider hiring a social media manager who is dedicated to making sure all customers who interact with you online get heard.

Email and chat

This mode of communication relies heavily on your company language. All employees should know the correct words and phrases to use via email and chat in order to appear helpful, warm and enthusiastic. We all know how it feels to receive an email that reads seemingly rude or curt. Preparing an email script that employees can deviate from will help employees communicate better with customers.

Now that you’ve acquired quite a few steadfast customers through your customer service, it may be time to ask your strong customer base to help you out by providing a few referrals. If they adore your service, why wouldn’t they want to spread the love about all the awesome things your company does?

While you may feel uncomfortable asking for referrals, take this important piece of advice by Ray Silverstein, in his Entrepreneur article, “Get More Referrals by Asking”: “People would rather do business with people they know--or know of--than with strangers. When you’re introduced to a prospect through a personal recommendation, that prospect has a vastly higher comfort level than, say, a buyer you find through cold calling. After all, few things are more reassuring than a positive endorsement from someone you know and trust.”

See? There’s nothing wrong with asking for referrals. People don’t have to accept your referral request, either – it’s not like you’re threatening them. And if one of your customers does give your company a referral and your company gains a new customer, you know it’s truly deserved. And if it makes you feel better, you can always give a lot of referrals, too. “Whenever you have the opportunity to refer an associate or bring two contacts together, do so. And when you’re attending the networking event, make a point of introducing people to one another. Most people will appreciate the referral, and it may inspire them to respond in kind,” Silverstein says.

Before asking your customers for referrals, make sure you know your current customers. According to an article titled, “How to Find New Customers and Increase Sales,” by Elizabeth Wasserman, do your market research and find out who your customers are: what are their demographics, etc. To run a detailed analysis, you’ll need to do qualitative and quantitative analysis with tools, such as Zoomerang or SurveyMonkey, and possibly do a series of in-depth interviews with current customers.

According to an Entrepreneur article titled, “Four Simple Ways to Find Customers,” by Brad Sugars, referral use is a cheap way to land new customers, and those new customers have the highest retention rates. Sugars also reports that referral customers often purchase more over time and can become an additional source of referrals. Referrals often become ideal customers because the companies referring the new business know the services you’re offering, and can easily pinpoint the people in their network who need those services. After you’ve received your references, make sure to thank the companies that gave you positive reviews.

According to an article titled, “Six Ways to get More Word-of-Mouth Referrals,” by John Rood, another way to build up referrals is by guaranteeing great service to new customers. You can do that by sending a new customer a postcard of thanks explaining that you will always deliver great service to them on time.

If you’re still looking for ways to build customer referrals, here are a few to add to your customer-building arsenal:

• Referral generation program: Sometimes you need to trigger customers who love you to make a referral. You can do this simply by asking. If people are happy with your services, they are often times willing to tell other people they like about your awesome service, too.

• Give your supporters some materials: If you ask your customers to refer you, make certain to give them some of your business cards or brochures that will lead people back to your company, making it easy for the referrer and for the person who will, inevitably, search for your service.

• Give an incentive: Give your new customer a gift. Whether the gift is a discounted delivery rate or something free, make sure it’s something that makes that first-time customer want to return again.

• Use a form: Using a referral form will help you get all the information you need to make this person or company a new customer.

• Build up the great relationships you already have: If you have a good relationship with a customer, strive to make it better. Every customer who you give great service to will want to return to you and make sure your business does well and succeeds.

Source: “How to Boost Your Customer Referrals in 7 Simple Steps,” Duct Tape Marketing, by Referral Week