By Randy Seals, McLeod Software Customer Advocate
How important is customer service? Much more important than many transportation companies acknowledge. Customer service and the people in those positions play what may be the most critical role in profitability, growth, and success. You can have a fancy website, snazzy literature, a stellar sales force, the best drivers, and great dispatchers, but it can all come down to the customer service person assigned to an account. That’s who you are to your customers.
If you want to ensure your customer service is at peak performance, consider these tips:
• Don’t let communication technology become more important than communication itself.
All too often, we let technology take the front seat, get behind the wheel, and drive the most critical element of our business plan. When it comes to your customers, don’t assume that your ability to use e-mails, faxes, websites, and the like is ensuring that communication is taking place. Make sure your customer service reps are really communicating with your customers and understanding their needs.
• Find the right people.
Look for people who display talent for the position. Stop thinking of customer service reps as only clerical help or order takers. They’re truly your inside sales people. They know their assigned customers better than anyone. Talk to them, get their ideas and opinions. Your sales staff may sell business, but your customer service folks, and your drivers, develop and grow the business.
• Treat each customer as your most important customer.
Make each customer feel that he or she is your primary concern. Have your customer service reps avoid comments about other companies. Customers understand their position within your organization is based on their volume, but all customers should feel like they’re getting the royal treatment. Remember that the smaller guy today could be a larger guy tomorrow.
• Be direct, be timely, and be honest.
Many times it’s uncomfortable, but the best approach is to be direct, be timely, and be honest. If the load is late, admit it, give a valid reason, and correct the issue. Then keep the customer posted. Business can be gained by the professional way you handle a mistake. Late loads are going to happen, mistakes will be made, and errors will occur. It is how your customer service rep responds to these problems that determines future tenders.
• Fix problems, find solutions, and emphasize the positive.
Attack complaints with a vengeance. Get to the bottom of it, find a way to solve it, and use the information to improve. Always emphasize the positive. Everything is an opportunity. Remember, it doesn’t matter who’s right. What matters is a solution that pleases the customer and benefits your company.
• Ask for more.
Customer service reps are a great resource because they know so much. They know the history of their customers and their seasonal flows. Tell your reps to be Oliver Twist—ask for more! Ask for business. Ask what is new. Ask where opportunity exists. But ask! Too often we just take what we are given.
Customers depend on customer service personnel, and they develop relationships with them. The strength of these relationships will help to determine how successful you are in meeting the needs of your customers. Develop your customer service abilities, and you’ll see your volume grow. In the end, you’ll never regret devoting time and energy to customer service, because the simple fact is that without customers, we’d all go out of business.