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How to provide excellent customer service!

The basics of customer service are very simple. Provide the product or service that they are demanding in the most efficient and polite manner as possible, however there is always much more to it. Good customer service is required more now than ever especially with the ever growing competition and the increased expectation from customers.

Customers not only expect fantastic customer service, but they expect it to be very quick, personalised to them and to be accessible on multiple platforms. It’s no longer just in store and telephone. It’s email, SMS and social media. Messaging apps such as Whatsapp and Facebook messenger have started to become mainstream in assisting customers. Voice assistants such as Alexa and Siri are even expected to make an increase in the customer service area. Imagine being able to get help from a business in just a few words to Alexa?

Customers want service that is proactive, they expect their situation to be controlled. For example, If there is a problem there already needs to be a solution in place and put fourth to the customer, not having the customer complain first before they get a response they want.

A company that has excelled in Customer Service over the last few years in our view is Amazon. They don’t have it perfect, it’s rare if you find a company that does, but they certainly come very close.

Word of mouth still very much exists even in the era of technology and can make or break a business. People who receive fantastic customer service will always shout about it to their friends and family. Providing great customer service can be the main reason a customer returns even if your more expensive or further afield then competitors, remember it’s not always just the price of your products or services. It can be your experience, advice, recommendation or even just the friendly atmosphere. It’s always a combination and treat customers how you’d want to be treated!

The saying that states “The Customer is always Right!”is total nonsense. No one is always right, especially not the customer. However it’s important to understand their point of view and why they are complaining. Unfortunately though, before we start, you won’t be able to please every customer. You can provide the very best customer service to someone, go above and beyond but they will still end up dissatisfied. There is always someone who is never happy, you’t cant please them all, just remember that!

Here are some of the core methods at providing excellent customer service:

  • Products and services you offer

You’ll need to provide a good range and have what the customer want’s in stock.

  • Price

You will need to be competitive if you hope you have a satisfied customer.

  • Availability

They need to be able to buy it from you as easily as possible

  • Customer service

As this article focuses on, you need to have Excellent Customer Service!

  • Location

And of course, you need to be in close proximity to the customer or be able to deliver or serve to their property.

Here are 17 tips to remember when dealing with your customer whether it is in store, online, office or their property, these are all crucial when providing great customer service:

Greet.

Greeting the customer is a rather simple and easy task to do however many places don’t bother. Greeting will improve customer service and sales. Providing an opening for a conversation allows the customer to ask a question if they need to, sometimes you’ll find an introvert will not go out of their way to seek help and would rather walk out the store.

When a  customer has been engaged by a member of Staff it’s been proven that they feel more trust towards them, therefore will be more likely to accept any recommendations they offer. It’s rare to find a customer who would prefer not to be greeted, only good things can come from a friendly “Hello”, “Welcome” or “How are you?”.

Be sure to greet every customer that comes through your doors, It shows a nice gesture from you or your staff and lets them know there is someone to go to if they need help. Always be polite, smile and try and remember regular customer’s names to add that personal touch, make them feel valued rather than just another number. Once you greet them continue with the task you were doing, never linger and follow them round the store. If you seem them struggling with something or taking a long time looking at a certain product feel free to ask if they need any assistance, some people don’t like to bother you even if they do need help.

Here are a few things you could say as you greet them:

  • Hello, have you been in before? (Great if you’ve not long been opened)
  • Compliment them! Appropriately of course, That’s a nice Hat! Even if it’s not a nice hat!
  • Chat about the weather, everyone does! Hello! What a brilliant day today, isn’t it hot or wow it’s horrible out there. You can even ask them what it’s like outside.
  • Good morning or Good Afternoon. Simple but effective!
  • Hello (Insert Company Name), (Your Name) Speaking, How are you today? or How can I help you today? It’s pretty much up to you.
  • If you’re going to someones property: Hello, I’m (Your Name), Nice to meet you. Thanks for having me out today.

First Impressions.

First impressions make a massive impact on the way a customer will do business with you. It could be that they turn, walk away and that’s it, or they may end up being a life long customer!

Everyone does it, anyone who says they don’t is probably lying. We make snap judgements about people and it’s the same in business. If you walk in to a disorganised garage to get your car repaired to see a poorly dressed, overweight, Slightly rude, hasn’t showed in a week bad breath person you might not want to stick around! Mind you, they could be the best mechanic there is, it’s the image that, if that’s how they take care of themselves and their overall business portrayal, what’s their attitude going to be like with my car? “Ahh that’ll do” comes to mind…

It all starts with a tidy work place and tidy uniform. You need to be looking smart, clean and ready to go! Along with your workplace which can be your store, van or office. You also need to look the part, that’s dressing appropriately, I don’t think you’d be too pleased with a plumber turning up in a dress would you? You expect them to be dressed in suitable work gear! Make everything look presentable, it’s not hard.

Being inviting is quite easy as well. Things like having a well lit reception to greeting the customer as you see them. Don’t have them walking into a barren wasteland to only see you over in the corner huddled with two other staff members talking amongst yourselves. Slouching over a checkout, being on your phone etc are more examples of what not to do.

Don’t waste your first impression, you won’t get another one.

Listen Linda, Listen!

If you start talking to a customer whether it be a specific problem they are having or just a general chat always listen properly, be authentic and not fake but of course throw in a fake laugh here or there if they are telling a joke and you don’t find it funny, be sure it’s believable though! Make sure your body language is open and inviting, don’t shrug your shoulders or cross your arms, you might be helping the customer out fine but your body language might show you don’t care. Customers may have a lot of questions so be patient and take your time to answer them all. When they talk to you make sure you listen to everything they say, empathize with the customer and ask questions about anything you are unsure about what they’ve said. You can even try and anticipate their needs from what they are telling you even if it’s something else from what they’ve come in for they might need more than they think.

An example in a pet store would be

Customer: “My dog is getting very overweight and I think I might need a new dog food”
Staff: “Let me show you our dog food section”

A typical but ok response but a much better response would be:

Staff: “Ok what food are you feeding your dog at the moment? Are you feeding many treats or other food? How often does he get exercise?”

Then after: “This is the food I’d recommend its low in fat and should help your dog lose a bit of weight”. To go the extra mile you could offer a sample if available and if the dog likes it then they can come back in a buy a full sized bag.

Know the Product / Service.

Make sure you are fully informed on every product or service you provide and stay up to date with new and upcoming products/services.

Never say you don’t know or guess an answer to a customer, not only does it show that you are uninformed it’s also makes the customer trust you less when it comes to you offering advice. If you don’t know an answer to a question they’ve asked try and find it out, locate information you may have on the product or service, look online or pass the customer to a more knowledgeable member of staff if available, try and do this immediately.

You must also consider their level of understanding, for example if your fixing something technical for someone or just selling it, explain it to them in terms you think they will understand, there is nothing worse than leaving the customer confused and feeling stupid by having you repeat it in layman’s terms.

Not knowing the information you should is a massive failure when trying to provide great customer service, estate agents are a brilliant example of this. If you go to view a property you expect the agent to know 99% of the details unfortunately the majority don’t even know how many bedrooms it has. Take the time, learn about the products/services you should, it will pay off.

Positive Attitude.

PMA. Positive Mental Attitude.

If you’re not positive while talking to a customer they are going to be less likely to take on board what you’re saying and agree with any recommendations. If your talking to someone about a subject they seem totally unenthusiastic about then you’ll tune out or stop the conversation entirely.

Honestly, if you struggle being positive about the area your working in, time to look elsewhere. You need to have passion, you need to enjoy what your talking about as that will show when you have conversations with customers. If you lack the passion but need to continue doing what you’re doing, you better be the best actor you can be or don’t go near the clients.

Manners.

They don’t cost anything!

Not saying a simple please and thank you is not only rude, it’s just lazy. Manners are extremely important and not only should you be with your clients, it should be with everyone. Make sure you’re doing the following to add to that excellent customer service you’ll be providing:

  • Please and Thank you. Very simple, always say it when relevant.
  • Don’t interrupt. If you’re speaking to a client about anything, wait until they’ve finished before you start.
  • Use their Title and Surname unless they’ve asked you to call them by their first name. Doing this shows respect.
  • Focus on them, do not multitask if you’re dealing with a client. For example, if you’re serving at a checkout, don’t answer the phone!
  • Language! Do not swear even if they do. Remain professional.
  • Offer to help in other ways, Carrying heavy objects, opening doors and more. If it’s a nice and courteous thing to do, do it.

Even on the occasion the client is not extending these manners to you, don’t stoop to their level, continue providing top notch customer service and kill them with kindness!

Personalised service.

Personalised service builds loyalty, you want your customers to feel valued. A recent study showed that customers would prefer to shop elsewhere to receive a more personalised service, they don’t wan to feel like just another customer.

Small things like remembering their name and other information about them that you can ask about helps. They’ll be surprised when you bring up something that they don’t expect you to remember.

Allowing your service or product to be customised is another big plus. If they are able to pick and choose what they want and what they don’t want they’ll feel that they are getting a more suitable solution. If your service or product has this ability then give that to them. For example, If you’re building them a new computer or replacing their roof, talk through with them different options that may be available, get their input! You can talk them round to better suited options if needs be but it’s good to have those conversations. Keeping the customer in the loop like this will also make them feel more at ease and they will trust you more.

Brands have started to make personalised service their number one aim. The ability to allow someone to customise a certain product or service over another company who do not offer that gives them a significant edge. You’ll find all sorts of businesses doing it, an example would be Tails.com who use personalised service at the core of their business model.

Act Professional.

Online or Offline, Always act professional. In store with other staff members or talking to a client on a call out. Customers don’t want to walk in to see you laughing and joking like your on a night out with friends. You are representing a business whether that be yours or the business you work for.

Use correct English, Do not use slang and speak clearly. Some examples would be always reply from business accounts on Social media, Email etc, never reply from personal. Not only does this keep a record on business accounts, it looks professional on the other side.

Treat them as a valued customer, not as a ‘mate’. Remember, you are there to do a job which they will be paying for. Throughout the whole process treat them with respect. By remaining professional it establishes appropriate boundaries between you and the client, boosts respect and minimises conflict.

Help customers help themselves.

If you can allow customers to find their own answers to problems before having to ask you or a member of staff or give the option to purchase themselves at a self-checkout it’s all for the better especially for people who are shy and don’t enjoy interacting with others. Recent studies found online show that the majority would seek the information for themselves rather than having to contact the business and that they actually prefer self service. Some main benefits from this:

  • Excellent Customer Service. More options like these mentioned mean better customer service.
  • Less stressful for customers, especially those who are shy or are in a rush.
  • Quicker service. Generally a customer helping themselves would be quicker than trying to get a member of staff involved or queuing at a checkout.
  • Less Costs. For example less time being wasted on frequently asked questions and time at the checkout when they can serve themselves.

Allowing customers to easily find out the simple things like your locations, phone number, opening times and other general things is a must. Along with any information you think they might require regarding your business. In a retail store you need to have it well marked for the different areas and each item in easy reach. If you receive a lot of questions about a certain product, why not include a descriptive box next to it already explaining your commonly asked questions.

Online is a big area for this as most will be searching for you here. You will need a well designed responsive website with FAQ / help sections and other necessary pages such as terms and conditions, returns policy etc. Add extra features to make your customer service even better by adding newer technologies like live chat and more.

Some customers prefer to ignore all these and just ask straight away but some will take the time to find the answer for themselves so give them what they need.

Staff.

If you have Staff then you need to apply many of these tactics we’ve been talking about with them as well. Possibly the next most important thing in a company or than customers is staff. They are usually the ones who deal with the customers, they are on the front line and decide ultimately whether your business is going to deliver excellent customer service or just mediocre.

Staff, just like customers need to be happy. If they are not you can be sure this will transfer over to the customer. A perfect example of this, the other day I was at a local fast food chain and saw one of the managers clearly having go at a staff member, instantly the wrong thing to do in front of customers. Unfortunately the way the manager handled the problem led to the staff member getting annoyed and angry. Then on wards you can see the staff member become more hostile to customers and quite aggressive in his actions, It wasn’t long before complaints came flooding in, I’d never seen such chaos! Both the manager and the staff member are in the wrong but you can see how problems occur when staff are not happy.

The two main priority’s for staff are:

  • Training

You need to make sure the staff are fully trained to handle the role they are in. That’s having complete product or service knowledge along with having the customer service skills to provide the excellent customer service your thriving for.

  • Conditions

They need to have the right working conditions. Adequate facilities, sufficient uniform, clean and tidy environment and more. An employer has a legal responsibility to good working conditions but if they are only treated good, why should they provide customer service that’s excellent and not just good as well.

Staff members need to follow everything in this article but they also need to be looked after so they can provide great customer service to the best of their ability. You need to have a good team and not have any issues amongst staff members, everyone needs to get along.

Reliability.

Hopefully complaints will happen rarely but when they do be prepared. It’s common that the complaint will be with a product or service which could have been nothing to do with you. Don’t argue with the customer even if they are in the wrong. Explain your points in a calm manner and try and come to a solution. Don’t take what they say personally, people can say very silly things in the heat of the moment. Understand that you can’t please everyone and some will just try it on however always try your best to resolve the matter.

Timely Response.

Hopefully complaints will happen rarely but when they do be prepared. It’s common that the complaint will be with a product or service which could have been nothing to do with you. Don’t argue with the customer even if they are in the wrong. Explain your points in a calm manner and try and come to a solution. Don’t take what they say personally, people can say very silly things in the heat of the moment. Understand that you can’t please everyone and some will just try it on however always try your best to resolve the matter.

Punctuality & Working Hours.

If your business opens at 9am and closes at 6pm, make sure you keep to these times. Opening slightly earlier and later than your stated times would work well, therefore being able to please the odd customers who will arrive slightly early or late.

If you agreed to be at a customers house at a certain time, be there at this time. Other than an emergency there should be no excuse for this. Blaming traffic is not good enough, Allow for traffic.

Closing for lunch is not expected in this day and age. Customers expect to be able to come to your in reasonable hours of the day, if you still close for lunch not only will you not serve as many customers, you are most likely annoying them as well.

Priority.

It’s important to know which task you should be dealing with first. You need to get your priority’s straight. For example, If a customer has called asking if you have a certain product in stock and you agree to call them back when you find out, you priority must change from continuing to stack the shelves.

You need to access which is more important and what task can wait. Providing good customer service will be fundamental to this, If you’re currently sweeping the floor and a customer is in the way, Stop and do something else until they’ve moved on. Do not wait there with your brush.

The question you need to ask yourself, which task is relying on customer satisfaction.

Complaints.

Whether this is in store, through an email or on the phone always make sure that the customer is never waiting too long. While using social media and email for customer relations always make sure Reponses are done as soon as possible and in a professional manner. Always act like the customer would be in front of you in person when you respond if they are not. Nothing shows you don’t care better than not responding to emails or waiting a long time for someone to answer the phone. Empathise with your customer and focus on a resolution.

Feedback.

Allow customers to provide feedback, learn from mistakes and provide follow up. This can be done by allowing them to fill out a questionnaire when they leave the store or an online feedback form. Make yourself available; let the customer know that they can reach you either by coming back into store, online, email or phone if they have any questions or problems. Enjoy yourself; if you’re not then you’re in the wrong job. If you are enjoying yourself it will show in your customer service. Let them know of any upcoming deals or any launch of new products or events you are running and try and get the customer to come back again.

Extra Mile.

Going the extra mile and exceeding the customers expectation is what turns great customer service into excellent customer service!

All these combined will make one happy customer! But be sure to take the time and make sure your staffs are implementing these steps. Training your staff in these areas will be very beneficial. Having some sort of reward system if they receive phrase or good feedback and not only reward on sales could help improve a good rate of customer service. Mystery shoppers are always a great way to see if customer service is at the level you would like and gives a great way to improve on their feedback. Before you go check out our quick customer service mistakes list below and we look forward to receiving some great customer service off you.

Mistakes

  • Following a customer round the store and lingering.
  • Limited knowledge of the product/service or equipment such as tills.
  • Shouting, Arguing and being rude
  • Carry on a conversation with a colleague while serving a customer
  • Not apologising for a problem even if it wasn’t your fault
  • Using mobile phones in front of customers and especially answering a phone when dealing with a customer (even the business phone). There is nothing more annoying and disrespectful when a member of staff picks up the phone while serving a customer.
  • Not being accessible
  • Standing by your policy no matter what and having no leniency. Every customer and situation is different.
  • Not keeping promises
  • Sending generic responses on emails or other forms of communication
  • Bad return policy
  • Long wait times

How to chase an unpaid invoice

how to ask client for payment

What happens when a customer refuses to pay your invoice? What steps can you take to get the money your business is owed? Customers are a crucial part of every business but when they don’t pay, it can be extremely frustrating.

Within some industries, avoiding payment is very difficult. In cases where payment is due at the point of the transaction, failing to pay is seen as a criminal offence almost immediately. Imagine a customer intentionally not paying for a bag full of shopping in the supermarket – he/she would be instantly charged with theft. Likewise, ignoring the bill in a restaurant and leaving the premises would result in the offence known as ‘making off without payment’.

However, many businesses which offer services or some products will send their clients invoices at the end of each month or when the job has been completed. If they then decide to refuse to pay your invoice it becomes more complicated than the examples given above.

how to ask client for payment

So what happens if a customer doesn’t pay?

Dealing with a customer who won’t pay their invoices can be difficult. Everyone who is self employed or owns a small business will come across a client who refuses to pay their bill at some point or another.  There are several steps that you can take to resolve this issue, depending on how much money is owed, how much paperwork you have and the reasons the customer is avoiding making payment. Firstly you have to understand that there are usually three types of people when it comes to refusing to pay:

  • They are not happy with the service or product you have delivered. 

If the customer is refusing to pay the outstanding invoice due to themselves not being happy with work carried out or the product provided you will have to find out why. Once you understand in greater depths their issue you can then hopefully move towards an amicable solution. This may be replacing the product or simply going out to see the customer to look over the work that has been done. It may be that they have misunderstood something and you just need to explain it to them.

  • They have no money to pay.

 It can be difficult to believe however sometimes the honest answer is that they just don’t have the money to pay you. Whether they never intended to pay you in the first place or whether they’ve been caught short in the middle of the process. This client can be the most tricky as you can’t receive money that isn’t there. The best solution in this case may be to set up a payment plan, this way you don’t lose the money you’re owed and the client can pay at a comfortable pace.

  • They just don’t want to pay.

These type of customers are usually the most common. Some just like to try it on to see whether they can get away without paying anything or they want to work you down on the amount they owe. If you’ve done the work as agreed or the product was as described there is no reason why you should not demand payment in full. Sending a letter of further action may spur them on.

Communicate with your client

Communicating with your client can be the quickest and easiest method to solve payment issues. Explain the invoice to them and ask why they haven’t paid it yet. Sometimes clients have genuine reasons for not paying on time and listening to what they have to say can solve the problem without causing any distress. You may have to work out a payment plan with the client if money is an issue for them, this is a good solution for you both as it won’t damage your working relationship, the client will be able to comfortably pay the debt, you wouldn’t have to take them to court and you still get the money you’re owed. Even though it would be ideal to have full payment right away, getting paid eventually is better than receiving nothing at all.

If a payment is overdue, you should first send them a reminder of the invoice to let them know. In some cases, the client has genuinely forgotten about the outstanding invoice so accusing them of intentionally avoiding the payment could damage customer rapport. Before taking the case further some businesses like to send 2-3 reminders but if the client continues to ignore these you should then attempt to contact them using a different method via call or post. Its important to be persistent. If you can’t get hold of the client, continue to call them everyday. It would also be advisable to send letters signed for. That way you know that the customer has received your letter and you can keep proof of that if they continue to ignore you. Also keep records of any reminders you send or any calls you make, this will all help if you have to take the case to court.

If you have had no luck contacting your client you should mention in one of your reminders/letters that further action will be taken if they do not settle the amount owed within a certain time period (normally 7-14 days).

Take legal action

If the invoice has still not been paid after written warnings and an appropriate length of time, you can attempt to recover the money by firstly inviting your client to mediation if you don’t feel you want to take the case to court. This works best if the customer has a specific problem or reason for not wanting to pay the invoice. Your customer may be arguing that the work provided wasn’t sufficient, or perhaps he/she believes that the invoice is incorrect.

Mediation is a process whereby an objective person (solicitor or lawyer) helps the two parties to resolve the issue. In order for this to work as efficiently as possible, you should gather all the paperwork which relates to the customer’s case and take it to the mediation sessions. However, if the problem does not seem to have resolved itself somewhat after 1-2 mediation sessions, you should proceed with taking the case to court.

In the UK, this was previously known as going to the ‘small claims court’, and is done through your local county court. The court can then order the money to be paid. This is the best option if the amount owed is less than £750.

If you are owed more than £750, you can issue a statutory demand to the individual or company which owes you the money. This means the client has 21 days to either pay the debt they owe you or reach an agreement to pay. A court hearing will be arranged (normally within 10 days) to deal with your case.

While most customers will take heed to statutory demands, there are steps you can take if the client ignores this demand for more than 21 days. You can either;

1.

Start the process to ’wind up’ a company if they owe you £750 or more. (meaning the company could be forced into liquidation)

2.

Start bankruptcy proceedings (if they owe you more than £5000)

Compulsory liquidation also known as ‘winding up’ a company, allows the court to close the company if it cannot pay the debts it owes. This process is usually a last resort to get paid by either forcing the company to act or gaining access to the companies assets.

To proceed with compulsory liquidation you must be owed a minimum of £750 and have waited at least 21 days to have been paid (serve a statutory demand).

The procedure starts by presenting a petition (application) at court, this is when the judge will decide if it is appropriate to make a winding up order. I this is successful, the companies assets are sold and you and any other creditors are paid.

When the company goes into liquidation all its assets are sold in order to pay all its creditors. Unsecured creditors rarely redeem all the money owed to them as they lie at the bottom of the payment hierarchy. So unfortunately it is not guaranteed you will be paid all or any of the money you are owed.

Bankruptcy. If you want to bankrupt an individual or company you need to present a bankruptcy petition to a court to prove they owe you more than £5000. The debtor must also serve a 21 day statutory demand. The application to the court will result in the companies assets to be taken and sold to pay their debts.

Once the bankruptcy is made, an official receiver takes control of the individual/company assets and decides whether the debtor has sufficient funds to repay creditors through monthly payments. The repayment process takes place in a strict order of priority. Creditors will make their claim for repayment using a ‘proof of debt’ form. Unsecured creditors rarely receive payment as they are at the bottom of the payment hierarchy.

Debt recovery agency. If you’d prefer to stay out of court, you can contact a debt recovery agency and ask them to work on your behalf. There will either be a fixed fee for the work they carry out, or they will take a cut of any money which they recover from the client on your behalf. This option means that you can continue running your business without using your valuable time trying to recover the debt personally.

What if you don’t have a contract?

You should never start work for anybody without having a contract in place, particularly if there is a large amount of money at stake. The lack of a contract, however, doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t make a claim. If you can prove that you have carried out work which hasn’t yet been paid for, you could still have a strong case to present.

You should keep a record of all emails and other interaction between your business and the client. Don’t forget to also keep copies of any reminders you have sent and/or statutory demands.

Taking the necessary precautions

When running a business, it’s important to stay organised and make it as difficult as possible for clients to avoid paying you for work. No matter how nice somebody may seem, you should never assume that they will pay you what is owed.

You should hire a solicitor to draw up a generic contract for your clients. This should outline your terms and conditions, and you should retain a signed copy before starting any work.

As well as keeping the signed contract, take the time to get a copy of the invoice as well as any communication between you and the client. If most of this is done via email, it will be easy to find the documentation when you need it; however, if you are sending and receiving paper letters, you should keep them safe in a separate folder.

Finally, ask your clients to pay upfront for the work or as soon as the work is complete. While not all clients will be happy to do this, it certainly prevents customers from trying to avoid payment. If there is a contract in place, customers should feel that there is enough security for them to pay beforehand without the risk of losing their money. Whether it’s only half up front or just for materials at least you get something before you start. Once you’ve finished the job you can ask for payment, having a card reader available will make it harder for them to refuse.

The most important thing is to not to let it get to you. When a customer won’t pay it’s not just the money we look at but it’s the lack of respect and can become more about principle than the money itself. Sometimes if it’s for a small amount it just might not be worth your time and it’s better to just forget it. Hopefully Karma is real.

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Money Making Expert aims to provide the best content relating to money making, business, marketing and all our other guides and articles. All information is researched fully and correct to the best of our knowledge however we cannot accept any liability if things go wrong. We are open to any feedback about the website so feel free to get in touch.