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Making Great First And Last Impressions Over The Telephone

(category: Customer-Service, Word count: 606)
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1. Greet the customer enthusiastically. Put a smile on your face and energy in your voice. Intentionally sound fun, interesting, friendly, and conversational. When you do these simple things, you will find that you are quickly establishing rapport with callers and that customers enjoy speaking with you.

2. Listen without interrupting. It can be tempting to interrupt a rambler or storyteller, but try not to do so within the first few seconds. Listen patiently and let the customer tell you what is on her mind. Of course, you can't let a long-winded caller get out of hand.

3. Respond with appropriate emotions. Be natural with your customers. When they are happy and the situation calls for more energy, express this energy. If the situation calls for empathy, don't sit there like a stone, express empathy. When I was in car rental and a customer would complain about a breakdown in one of our rental cars, I'd quickly make an expression of empathy like: "I realize how frustrating this whole thing must be for you."

4. Make the customer feel smart/good. Yesterday I conducted a mystery shopper call for a client and one of the customer service representatives did an outstanding job of making the caller feel good. The "mystery shopper" was told to ask several redundant and "dumb" questions and she did that very well. At one point the customer service representative said, "You obviously care about your health or you wouldn't have called today." That went over very well-instead of making the caller feel like an idiot, she made her feel like a star!

5. Never come across annoyed, "interrupted", or irritated. Your job is to help and serve. And in your job you are going to hear a lot of the same thing over and over. Some customers will annoy you and some of the comments you hear will be just outrageous. But don't let it show. Give every caller your best and sound patient, interested, friendly and helpful every time.

Master these five points at the beginning of the call and your impression will be friendly, helpful, and memorable. Read on to discover ways to end the call on positive note.

Make the most of the last few seconds of the call-

1. Ask if there is anything else you can do. Don't rush to end the call. Make sure you've answered all of the customer's questions by simply asking, "Is there anything else I can do for you today?"

2. Express sincere appreciation for the call. One of my clients does a phenomenal job of this. Anytime and every time a customer calls Accuvue Vision, they will get a warm and sincere thank you for the call. Every representative will make the caller feel great about calling with sincere phrases like: "I'm really glad you called us today." "Your feedback is definitely appreciated and I'm so glad you chose to share it with us today." "Thanks so much for taking time out of your day to call and tell us this."

Always end the call on a positive, upbeat note.

3. Let your caller hang up first. It's simply polite to let your caller hang up first. In most cases, callers will hang up with 2-4 seconds of the last spoken word.

Never forget that your callers remember the first and the last thing in a series of events disproportionate to anything else. Make the most of these critical touch points by adopting these steps.

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Contracts For Your Customers Ink It On Paper

(category: Customer-Service, Word count: 711)
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When you're dealing with customers, sometimes things can go wrong. It might be your fault, it might be their fault or it might be no-one's fault - but if you didn't make a contract, then you'll all suffer.

Why Do I Need Contracts?

A contract gives you a sound legal base for your business, and some guarantee that you're going to get paid for your work without you having to ask the customer for payment in advance. In the event of a dispute, the contract lays down what the agreement was so that you can point to it and say what was agreed. If you ever end up having to go to court (let's hope you won't), the contract is what the judge's decision will be based on.

Without a contract, you leave yourself vulnerable and open to exploitation. Someone could claim that the terms they agreed with you were different to what you say they were, or that they never signed up for anything at all and so they won't pay. It's especially common to see big businesses mistreat small ones, thinking that they won't have the knowledge or the money to do anything about it. Essentially, contracts take away your customers' ability to hold non-payment over your head, and give you the ability to hold it over theirs instead.

Written and Verbal Contracts.

It is important to point out the distinction in the law between a verbal (spoken) contract and a proper, written one. A verbal contract is binding in theory, but in practice can be very hard to prove. A written contract, on the other hand, is rock-solid proof of what you're saying.

You might think that you're never going to get into a dispute with your customers, but it's all too common to find yourself in a little disagreement. They will often want to get you to do some 'small' amount of extra work to finish the job or make it better, not realising that doing so would completely obliterate your profit margin.

For this reason, you should be very wary of doing anything with nothing but a verbal contract. On the other hand, if you were incautious or too trusting and only got a verbal contract, it could still go some way towards helping you, especially if there were witnesses.

Won't It Be Expensive?

Written contracts don't necessarily need to be formal contracts, which are drawn up by a lawyer with 'contract' written at the top and signed by both parties. These kinds of contracts are the most effective, but can be expensive to have produced, not to mention intimidating to customers.

The most common kind of written contract, oddly enough, is a simple letter. If you send a customer a letter (or, indeed, an email) laying out your agreement before you start work, and they write back to agree to it, that is enough to qualify as a written contract, with most of the protections it affords.

If you are doing high-value work for some clients, though, it could be worth the time and trouble of having your lawyer write a formal contract, or at least of doing it yourself and getting a lawyer to look it over. Formal contracts will give you more protection if the worst happens, and there's nothing to stop you from making it a one-off expense only by re-using the same contract for multiple customers.

Contracts for Small Purchases: the Terms and Conditions.

Obviously it would be silly to expect everyone who buys some $10 thing from you to sign a contract, or write back indicating their agreement to your terms. In this situation, you should have a statement of the 'terms and conditions' that your customer is agreeing to by buying from you, and they should have to tick some kind of box indicating their agreement before you send anything.

Luckily, it isn't usually so necessary to be paranoid about contract law with small purchases anyway, since customers will be paying you first and receiving the goods or services afterwards, not the other way around. If you plan to offer any kind of payment plan or other long-term agreement, of course, this should always be backed up with a signed contract.

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How To Get The Best Out Of Your Phone

(category: Customer-Service, Word count: 552)
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When Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, little did he realise the positive effect it would have on customer service - or the negative effect it could also have!

Yes, the telephone can be a great tool in helping to provide exceptional customer service but it can also quickly destroy a customer's perception of your service. What steps can you take to ensure that, whenever you or your staff use the phone, it adds something positive to the customer experience?

Here are some ideas.

Answer Promptly

It's an old tip but one usually ignored! You are sitting at your desk, deep in thought, writing your monthly report and the phone rings. "I'll just finish this sentence quickly..." you say to yourself and before you know it, the phone has rung 10 times. The caller is unlikely to be in a good mood - assuming he hasn't already hung up!

Just try and remember the last time you sat on a phone with it ringing and ringing. What pictures came into your mind while you were waiting? An image of the person you are trying to call sitting at his desk chatting or casually drinking a cup of coffee? Didn't get you in a good mood did it? So why put your customers through it?

Aim to answer your phone within 3 to 5 rings. A prompt pick-up will get the conversation off to a positive start and also avoids you having to open your conversation with an apology.

So, get to the phone as quick as you can.

Be Enthusiastic

When you answer the phone make sure your voice conveys the message, "Really happy to be speaking to you!" Make your voice light, bring a feeling of enthusiastic emotion to your tone and most importantly sound eager. You don't want the caller thinking that you would rather be doing something else ... even if you do!

Get a real upbeat feeling into your opening greeting. Say your "Good morning" or "Good afternoon" with a strong, enthusiastic tone. This will immediately lift your caller's spirits and get you both off to a good start.

If you really are having a bad day (and we all get them!), and enforced enthusiasm is going to be struggle, stand up and take the call. This helps makes your voice lighter and the change in position and body language can have a positive impact. Try it out.

Listen To What They Have To Say

You may think that you listen intently to all conversations you have. It's difficult enough to do this when you are face-to-face with someone, but over the phone without eye contact, keeping your attention is even more difficult. It's too easy, especially if the caller has a habit of padding out every point he wants to make, to think about the task you were just interrupted on, or about that chat you had with one of your suppliers earlier. Before you know it, you've lost track of what the caller is on about.

Actively listening to what is being said is a skill everyone needs if they are to use the phone as a tool for great customer service. But how can you keep your attention focused on what is being said?

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How To Write A Complaint Letter That Gets The Result You Want

(category: Customer-Service, Word count: 434)
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Have you been double-charged on your credit card? Did the poor service at that restaurant ruin your special evening? Were the flowers you ordered delivered to the wrong address? Then it's time you write a complaint letter that gets the situation resolved to your satisfaction.

Make your opening sentence a positive one and get to the point in the first paragraph. The flower shop doesn't need to know this was your grandmother's 90th birthday, but they do need to know that you've been their customer for five years. Beginning on an upbeat note will let them know you want to continue doing business with them.

Tell your story precisely and in as few words as possible. You don't need to tell the restaurant that you were hosting a business dinner with your new boss, but rather this was a special evening to celebrate an important occasion. State specifically what went wrong, such as the food was cold or they neglected to bring the appetizers until the main course was served. Be humorous if possible- this wasn't brain surgery even though it was important to you.

Don't threaten. Swearing to never shop there again or to call the Better Business Bureau just makes you appear out of control. No one will be in a hurry to handle your problem. If you act respectfully, you can expect the same behavior in return.

State exactly how this mistake cost you (time, money or embarrassment) and what result you want (refund, free meal or gift certificate). Be reasonable in your request- you won't get unlimited free meals for life because the waiter spilled coffee on your new suit. However, you may get a free bottle of wine on your next visit.

Provide a copy of your receipts, correspondence or contracts with your letter. If you had a contract with a caterer and he didn't provide the desserts you ordered, having the agreement to prove it will further your cause.

When the matter has been resolved, be sure to do the company a favor in return. Telling your friends about the flowers that were delivered to the wrong hospital and how the florist personally took a fresh arrangement to the patient himself shows how far the merchant was willing to go to provide excellent customer service.

Remember, the purpose of business is to keep the customer coming back. How you let the company know about their mistake is just as important as how they remedy the situation- it can be a win-win solution for both parties.

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Turn Your Customer Complaint Into A Positive

(category: Customer-Service, Word count: 492)
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The last thing we want to hear during our work day is complaints from customers. However, it does come with the territory. Here are a few tips on how to turn your customer's complaint into a positive.

1. Listen

When a customer comes to you with a complaint about one of your products or services, listen to them. Listen to what they are telling you, and take notes if at all possible.

The number one thing a customer wants when they have a problem is for someone to listen to them.

Allow them to vent, let them get it all out. Once they have explained their problem in full, begin to ask any questions you may have to get a full handle on the situation.

While you are listening, body language is very important. Make sure you maintain eye contact. This sends your customer a message that you are taking them seriously.

2. Be Empathetic

When the customer is done explaining their problem, show sincerity by telling them that you understand how they feel. Apologize on behalf of the company that they feel the way they do, and tell them that you are committed to resolving their issue within the guidelines of your company.

By becoming defensive in this situation, you are taking a bad situation and making it worse.

By having an understanding of where your customer is coming from on the situation, and speaking in a calm tone of voice, you can clearly defuse the situation.

You don't by any means want your customer to become angry and cause a scene.

3. Offer a Solution.

We have all heard the expression "the customer is always right."

I don't necessarily agree with this, but it is important to work toward finding a solution, even if the customer is in the wrong. For instance, you might try meeting them half way.

You will know wether or not your customer is a repeat offender, and you can handle the situation accordingly.

For customers who have a legitimate complaint, it is best to rectify the situation right then and there. Wether it is giving them their money back, or replacing their product.

Always leave your customer with your business card and tell them if they should ever have a problem again, they should not hesitate to contact you immediately. This will help them regain their confidence in you and your company.

The main goal when a customer has a complaint is to not allow the problem to snowball. Your objective should be to defuse the situation and retain your customer.

By handling tough situations such as these in a professional manner, you will find your once complaining customers satisfied that you resolved their issue, and a new found respect for you.

This article may be reproduced by anyone at any time, as long as the authors name and reference links are kept in tact and active.

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Customer Relationship Management For A Higher Level Of Customer Service

(category: Customer-Service, Word count: 432)
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For businesses large and small, their profitability and success depends upon customer retention, customer relationship enhancements and customer acquisition. This is often known as Customer Relationship Management or CRM. CRM is the managing of all business and interactions with customers. The main purpose of Customer Relationship Management is to allow businesses to better manage their customers through the introduction of reliable systems, processes and procedures for interacting with those customers. A good CRM program helps the business acquire customers and service the customers. Good CRM also helps retain good customers, and identify which customers can be given a higher level of service.

CRM is a complex mix of business processes, enterprise strategies and information technologies, which are used to study customers' needs and behaviors to help businesses develop more substantial relationships with them in order to get greater results.

In the late 90's, customer relationship management mainly consisted of just an index file, an answering machine and a telephone. Today, an advanced CRM system has evolved into an Excel spreadsheet and more. CRM systems normally consist of email and/or snail mail, marketing campaigns, contact manager programs, sales tracking program, and multi-media contact center or voice mail system.

A successful CRM strategy doesn't just mean simply installing and integrating a software package; it also involves a wider approach including modifying business processes based on the needs of customer, training of employees, adopting relevant IT systems and software, and IT services that allows firms to track their CRM strategies.

Good CRM software can help run an entire business by allowing companies to maintain all customer records in one centralized location that is accessible to the whole organization. Front line offices have systems that are set up to collect data from the customers for processing at the data warehouse where data is stored, orders are filled and tracked, and sales data analyzed.

One of the most common causes for customer relationship management system failure is poor data quality, which can be easily avoided. CRM systems are as useful as the information it provides. The old saying "garbage in, garbage out" can be applied to CRM data quality. To ensure good CRM data quality, be sure to input the data accurately; check data entries twice to minimize the possibility of duplication; if there is an error in the provided information or if the information is not complete, then re-establish contact with the customer to recheck the data. Customers generally do not get annoyed at this; instead it makes them more appreciative of the extra customer service.

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Internet Answering Service

(category: Customer-Service, Word count: 333)
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Though most people are now turning to wireless, DSL, and broadband connections for their Internet access, those with dial-up modems still know how, occasionally, you can miss a call from someone important while surfing the web. That's where an Internet answering service comes in.

An Internet answering service more or less screens phone calls for subscribers, allowing them to decide whether or not they want to take the phone call immediately as it is received or to have it transferred to an answering machine/voicemail. Just as many e-mail services these days have "spam" filters, an Internet answering service works in much the same way.

It works as a caller ID for an individual while they are online. A caller's name and number are shown to the subscriber, and a message they leave can be accessed and played through the PC's speakers, allowing the subscriber to either answer the phone call, or let the caller leave a message to be picked up at a later time.

Convenience is the name of the game with an Internet answering service. Everything can be controlled with the click of a mouse. An Internet answering service allows a subscriber to take more control over their calls and have greater flexibility in how they take those calls.

Internet answering service providers have now branched out to take advantage of other venues that could find their services useful - businesses and cell phone users. By expanding into these markets, Internet answering service providers offer subscribers a sense of peace as they not only identify anonymous callers, but block such callers from getting through to the subscriber. Cell phone callers no longer have to use their precious minutes on unwanted calls, and businesses no longer have to ward off unwanted telemarketing calls. With an Internet answering service, nearly anyone can be in complete control over the calls they accept, with the peace of mind that those calls that they don't accept are taken care of properly.

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Health And Safety At Work

(category: Customer-Service, Word count: 678)
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Not many would be aware of this, but the government has legislation for health and safety of people at work. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 requires the employers to have proper health and safety management systems at work. The Act makes provision for securing the health of people at work, welfare and safety of the employees including the people who are not directly employed by the company like contractors and visitors.

While the law exists and it is mandatory for the employers to follow the guidelines, it is also necessary for the employees to know about their rights and duties regarding their own health & safety. Employers should conduct a General Risk Assessment to ensure the health and safety of their employees.

To create awareness about health & safety at work, the employers should have proper employee induction & health and safety training programs whenever new employees join the company. The induction program should educate the employees about the safety standards, procedures and policies of the company.

The basics of health and safety at work start with having proper First Aid. Every organization big or small must have proper First Aid Kits and systems. While at work, people can suffer an injury or fall ill. It is very important for the company / firm to have proper arrangements so that the employees can receive immediate medical attention. A person who has received proper training for administering First Aid should be appointed for this.

Fire safety is of prime importance at work. The potential hazards and sources of fuel, oxygen & ignition etc should be identified. Proper Fire detection and warning systems should be in place to prevent any mishaps. Fire extinguishers should be kept ready in different places throughout the building. There should be exit doors and escape routes in the building. Electrical equipments and wiring should be proper and checked at regular intervals. The employees should be given training on dealing with fire emergencies. Fire drill and Fire Risk Assessment should be done at regular intervals.

Stress at work place is common. But if it starts affecting the health of the employee then it is a problem. Employers should identify the factors causing excessive stress to the employees. A stress risk assessment should be done to identify the potential hazards and risks. Proper measures should be adopted to control excessive employee stress. Employees should be given proper training, support and care to help them prevent & relieve the stress.

Employers should follow the norms of the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations. They should assess the health risks faced by the employees from the chemicals or substances used at workplace. Proper control measures should be adopted and the same should be followed by the employees. Training and information about the health risks should be provided to the employees.

The employers are also required to have proper policies for disability health & safety. Employees with cognitive, physical, sensory, ambulant and other disabilities have a right to proper arrangements and facilities at the workplace. There should be proper access, lighting, signage, seating arrangements for the disabled. Other employees of the company should also be sensitized about the same.

New and expectant mothers have a right to proper care at the workplace. The employers should identify the potential hazards to the mother as well as the baby while at work. The employers can offer alternative work, different or less work timings or paid leave to ensure the health and safety of the mother and baby. Similarly, arrangements should be made for young persons at work and lone workers. A general risk assessment should be done for the security, health and safety of such employees.

It is important that the employer as well as the employee is aware of the rights and duties pertaining to health and safety at workplace. For details you can take the services of a health and safety consultant or just search for "health and safety at work" on any major search engine.

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Why You Need An Answering Service

(category: Customer-Service, Word count: 382)
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The integral role played by the telephone as a business communication tool accounts for the growing importance of answering service businesses. All businesses, whether a physician's private practice, a small construction company, or a conglomerate, rely on the telephone as one of the fastest and most reliable communication tool in their businesses.

Anyone with a busy schedule and a telephone needs an answering service! Answering service can be a real lifesaver to a small business. Many small businesses have neither the time nor the means to take incoming calls during business hours when they are out on jobs - yet those calls represent the very lifeblood of their business! They cannot afford an office; much less a secretary, but they certainly need those phone calls. Unless they can find a reliable and affordable answering service, they will probably have to do without (or ask people to call them only after 7 PM) or use an answering machine (which has a whole set of disadvantages).

Yes, you indeed can use an answering machine but the fact is that people really do not like to talk to machines, if they are unable to reach a human voice easily, they will go somewhere else - it's a lost business opportunity.

Fortunately, employers are recognizing this problem and solving it by contracting people to answer the phones when they cannot do it themselves. That personal touch you can offer can mean the difference in obtaining or keeping a client. Hiring a professional answering service business assures that you can take messages, deliver specific messages to callers, provide basic information, clarify the intent of calls and even arrange meetings with customers.

It's always in the best interest of small companies to hire an answering service provider to work for the company during the extended business workday, say from 8.00 AM to 8.00 PM or may be even for the rest of the day if your business needs it. Now it doesn't costs an arm or a leg to hire an answering service. Generally, in a competitive market you can get it for as cheap as $30-$50 per month on the lowest slab! So go and hire an answering service provider so that you never lose that customer again.

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