• Priya Sharma Shaikh

For the love of the 'customer'


Retail therapy gives me an Adrenalin rush and so when we heard of the launch of the first H&M store in Mumbai I jumped into my car with my friends and drove into town to Phoenix Market Street to indulge myself. The queues to enter were huge and so the canopy protecting the crowds from the rain and glare of the sun, peppy music and the free bottles of mineral water were a pleasant experience. Despite the rush and maddening crowds, the staff of 150+ in-store staff worked tirelessly to, provide shopping bags to customers walking around with piles of clothing in their hands, clear piles, re-arrange racks again and again and again and help excited customers with finding their sizes of clothing. After spending four hours of going through stacks of clothing and accessories at the over crowded store, I was totally out of steam to say the least. As I was leaving the cash counter the cashier Aaftab said, "Ma'am please take note that we have a 30 day return policy at the same store. Have a nice evening!" I stepped out with a smile on my face as I was worrying about a few things that I had bought without trying them out thanks to the long winding queues at the trial room. "Thank you for a great start #H&M and keep up the tempo!"

I then saw a 50% OFF board at the #Quicksilver store and dragged myself in there too. I selected a pair of slippers and went to the cashier to check out. The slippers were for Rs.2500 and he said that I would get a 20% discount only, so they would cost me Rs.2000. He then added - "Ma'am, if you buy this skull cap, which is priced at Rs.1000 we will give you the 50% discount and you will end up paying just Rs.1750." I bought the offer and stepped out smiling yet again. "Thank you for your care #Quicksilver"

We finally decided to fuel up and so I walked into the McDonald's store to grab a quick bite with my friends. It was packed to the gills. We got lucky, as just as we entered a family was clearing out and so we grabbed their table. So while my friends manned the table, I went to place the order. The service at the queues was speedy thanks to the service assistant who was taking pre-orders for us. We finally placed our order and received our food and dug into it without waiting for pleasantries. One of the things I had ordered was two portions of Waffles and when we opened the packaging it looked kind of dark brown and we didn't know any better so we were about to gobble when an unassuming service manager came up to our table and said that it was too burnt and that he would replace it for us. We let him clear it away and looked at each other and smiled saying, "That was sweet of him. He need not have done that for us because we didn't know any better about how the Waffles needed to look." After a while he reappeared at our table with the fresh portions that definitely looked more like the traditional waffles that one was familiar with and they were delicious indeed. This was the perfect example of ideal customer service in action - "Thank you Sir for your hospitality and care at #McDonald's!!"

A few days ago, I had a great customer service experience at the #IDBIBank where the team helped resolve a complaint I had within hardly any time and further reminded me of some other services that I had not yet availed of. The service manager didn't oversell and offer me any additional products, which was a relief. I in-turn asked him about the best performing Mutual Fund investments and he was quick to help with suitable suggestions. They have never failed in their service and courtesy and ensure that a complaint is resolved without the need for any follow up.

Another brand that deserves a mention is #IndiGo - the airline that has really taken the extra care to provide reminders of flight departure timings, the international style of boarding with kids, senior citizens, pregnant women and officers on duty boarding the aircraft first, a fantastic array of in-flight food, stating the multi-lingual crew present on board, the always-pleasant and ready-to-help disposition of the crew, the feedback mechanism after landing - all this and more have helped them retain customers despite the stiff competition that reigned, to become one of the leading indigenous service providers in the air.

The cost of retaining an existing customer is minimal in comparison to building a new one. More than 75% of customers will abandon and talk bad about poor customer service from a brand on social media. So, why does any team or individual provide customer experience or service better than others. The product quality, price, availability and packaging do matter undoubtedly but I believe that it is for the sheer love of being of service to your customer' experience with your brand, that is the main reason that buys his/her loyalty for your brand over another. My preferred choice of banking is IDBI Bank and of airline is IndiGo for many years now and that is not changing for any reason.

Here are 10 pointers to create a better customer experience or provide better customer service for your consideration:

  1. Create a positive atmosphere: The customer should feel there is an eagerness to help her from the moment she walks in or calls you, by reducing the waiting period and helping her find a suitable solution at the soonest.

  2. Understand your customer: The appointed relationship manager should know his customer' pattern of engagement well and should be able to point suggestions so that he optimises the use of his engagement with you.

  3. Stretch yourself to provide a happy experience: Every company has systems that we have to follow but sometimes it is required to stretch the rules to provide the best possible solution you can to delight the customer with. Trust me there is nothing more gratifying.

  4. Look, listen and talk carefully: Most customer service people don't even look up while talking to the customer. Take a moment to look at, smile and greet your customer warmly so that he begins his engagement with you having the confidence that you will find a solution for him/her.

  5. Give respect and care: When your customer invests in you in the form of his/her time, effort and money learn to value it by showing suitable respect and care. Apologise for the delay if he has been kept waiting for long. Reiterate your understanding of the query/complaint the customer has and then go ahead with providing a solution.

  6. Share information that will add value to the customer: If you are able to assist your customer with requisite information and also provide any additional information that she may have over looked, it is sure to go a long way in building trust and loyalty.

  7. Always showcase integrity of character: Remember that you are at work and hence it is imperative to maintain an interface consistent to the corporate code of conduct laid out. Yes the old adage of CUSTOMER IS KING still rings true but it is never at the cost of your own self respect. Call in a superior when help is required.

  8. Address problem areas in your system immediately: When a problem occurs it is essential to share it with the team and make it a learning so that the error is not repeated again.

  9. Help your customer get familiar with your product offering: This initial help will make your customer more aware and get comfortable with the product/service that he has bought into. Subsequent follow up calls/personalised emails/loyalty programs to capture feedback or improve usage will help you build a relationship with your customer.

  10. Accept appreciation with humility: "It was a pleasure to be of service to you" or "I'm glad I could help resolve your problem" or "Thank you for your appreciation - have a nice day Sir/Ma'am" I always believe that it is a must to acknowledge appreciation with humility and a smile as it in-turn makes the customer leave you with a happy experience.

I'd like to close by saying that if you are in the space of customer/client servicing be in it for the joy of pleasing and putting someone ahead of yourself!

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