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Oscar Dominguez: Importance of customer service

Union Bank

Posted: September 4, 2009 9:52 p.m.
Updated: September 5, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
While excellent customer service should be a staple for every small business, today's challenging economic environment requires extra attention toward this important mainstay.

By developing a solid customer service program and making sure all employees adhere to your company's high standards, you can help ensure that your customers remain satisfied.

When customers feel valued, your business may be rewarded with customer loyalty, repeat business and even referrals.

Consider thoroughly training all employees so they fully understand your company's customer service standards.

To help ensure they are prepared to handle valued clients, customer suggestions and more importantly, customer complaints, you may consider role playing or hiring "secret shoppers" to review and practice possible scenarios.

Consider these tips when developing your customer service plan:

n Rewards/incentives

Consider rewarding frequent and loyal customers who purchase your products or services on a consistent basis with frequency programs or incentives such as complimentary or discounted products or services, gifts with purchase, or even special promotions with prize offerings. This may help increase customer excitement and satisfaction. 

n Suggestion box

You may find it effective to allow your customers to provide comments about what they like about your business or make suggestions for improving various aspects of your products or services. 

n Employee input

Since your staff is often on the frontlines of customer relations, consider a quarterly meeting to ascertain their thoughts about how your business can improve its customer relations.

Your staff will likely have much insight about customers' likes and dislikes and offer valuable ideas about enhancing customer service. 

n Complaint policy

Consider having an open channel for customer complaints and a clear process for resolution.

Whether you think the customer is right or wrong, if they are taking the time to make a formal complaint, they will generally want to be heard and taken seriously.

You may even want to consider staff training by a conflict resolution professional to help employees learn how to effectively handle customer complaints. 

n Customer awareness

As with most business relationships, customer awareness can be important to customer satisfaction.

Are you checking in with your clients to make sure they have what they need and remain happy with your business?

Listening to customers is very important as they may provide insight about their specific needs, directly or indirectly.
Make a note of those needs and seek to exceed them.

Retaining what customers convey during a conversation also shows respect.

If a customer mentions an important occasion, for example, strive to make a note of it and ask the customer how the occasion went next time you speak.

Remember, good customer service is in the details.

Oscar Dominguez is vice president and branch manager of the Stevenson Ranch branch of Union Bank, located at 25954 The Old Road and the Valencia Bank & Trust branch, located at 23620 Lyons Avenue. Union Bank, N.A., is a full-service commercial bank providing an array of financial services to individuals, small businesses, middle-market companies, and major corporations. UnionBanCal Corporation is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd., which is a subsidiary of Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group, Inc. (NYSE: MTU). Visit www.unionbank.com for more information.His column reflects his own opinions and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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