Satisfying the Customer
By Andrienne Gaerlan

The best thing about having a satisfied customer is that it equates to a repeat in sales. This in turn equates to profit and it's what all companies live and die for. It's easier to keep your current loyal base of customers and watch them grow rather than to turn on a blind eye on the disgruntled ones and look for new customers. The number of complaining customers, when they have reached a certain level (way beyond what we call "isolated incidents"), usually indicate that there is something fundamentally wrong in your business processes. If you do bad service, without doing anything to correct it, you will only perpetuate the problem to the further reaches of your target market.

Putting people first is the key thing to remember in making customers happy. If you make profit your main goal, this narrow kind of thinking may lead you to certain pitfalls such as selling your customers cheap and unreliable goods or services just to make a fast buck. Remember, people don't care what you can get from them; they will only care to know how much you care about them. And caring always means delivering good customer service.

Certain surveys show that most unhappy customers do not complain when they have a bad experience; they just bring their business elsewhere. If you are working in the customer service department, itÕs up to you to figure out what the customers need. Customer service comes before, during and after a sale of a product or service. Therefore you need to be aware that customer satisfaction is vital for a business to thrive.

Invest in your job
The first step to making the customer happy is if you can be assured of the fact that you know that you are providing good products/ services. This starts with you making sure that you are doing your job well. Don't think you can slack off while the boss isn't around. A bad job will always come back to you whether people are watching or not (in this case, it may come back in the form of an angry customer) and, it may come back in the form of rewards and compliments if you're doing well. There will always be exceptions to the rule, but you will never lose by making sure - whether you're in production or customer service - that you're doing your job as thoroughly and competently as possible.

This can only be possible if you first like your job. Selling, for example, is not for everyone. If you can see yourself selling to people, then you can be a salesperson.

You should also know everything there is to know about what you are selling, if you're not the one on the producing end. If you know the product well, you will tend to believe in it more. This faith is a more attractive force that will show in your character and will speak more loudly than whatever sales spiel you'll be mouthing. On a more fundamental level, you can at least start by knowing your stuff, or else risk frustrating a customer when he/she can't get any decent information out of you.

Part of doing a good job includes looking professional and neat in front of a client. This is a simple courtesy to show that you regard the customer as worthy of your time and effort to look competent. The transaction will go smoother if the customer appraises you as someone trustworthy, by the way you look.

Learn how to deal with your customers
Diplomacy and people skills are essential to dealing with customers, especially the angry kind. Use your best judgment in dealing with difficult clients. Do not sacrifice dignity just to ring up a sale. However, you need to see whether the customer is truly unreasonable or not. In some places in the world, in Japan for example, where the motto "Customer is King" is a ringing mantra in sales counters across the country, this may mean dealing with customers diplomatically and graciously whether or not they're in the wrong.

Mind your appearance when you face a customer. If you have to talk to someone else while youÕre with a customer, make it as brief as possible. A client does not want to feel neglected. Do not be too far or too close: maintain a polite distance and do not fidget.

It will help if you already expect beforehand that a customer will have complaints. Be ready for them. Be a good listener. Be attentive. If you understand the needs of the customer, you can act accordingly to the problem at hand. Finally, do not hesitate to seek help from a supervisor or a colleague when the situation gets out of hand.

Use the right words
There are a few quick skills you can pick up when talking to customers. Be brief and straight to the point. DonÕt act friendly, be friendly. And don't act like the customer is a long-lost classmate or a relative - it will backfire. Treat the customer as a guest.

Also be careful with the words you use when talking to a customer. There are several ways to phrase something, so better choose words carefullyÑa wrong explanation has a lot to do with articulation than with the meaning itself. Always speak clearly and do not ramble as this wastes time and turns off customers.

Practice asking questions instead of telling people what to do. Criticizing or giving unsolicited opinions should be provided with caution. Finally, do not try to be funny. What one person might find funny, another might find offensive or inappropriate.

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