Knowing how to give good customer advice can make or break a business in the long run. It is unlawful and morally irresponsible to deceive a customer for the sake of making a sale. A customer who has less than stellar things to say about a business means more in the long run than the quality of a product or competitive pricing strategy. It is important to not just hear but truly understand the problem that a customer may have before initiating any discounts or complimentary services. Here are a few pointers to everyday problem-solving in business matters:
- Before approaching a customer, it is important that the body be relaxed and focused. Distractions such as noise or other issues can interfere with being able to give the customer good advice. If communicating by phone or online, it is important to be pleasant since the customer cannot see who is helping them.
- Greet the customer with a smile, an introduction and ask how can they be helped. Just greeting them is not letting them know that you are the person qualified to give any kind of advice, good or bad. 'Can I help you?' by itself may be direct and to the point but can come across as rushed and unprofessional. If a person tends to have a stern facial expression, it can be interpreted by others as anger or not being approachable. A big "cheese" or over-the-top enthusiasm is not necessary but just a slight grin will give a customer the feeling that you are happy to service them.
- Listen and if needed, take notes. Do not interrupt customer while they are talking and try not to take any business calls. Once the facts are before you, then you will know immediately whether the issue is within your scope or should be forwarded to someone else.
- If qualified to give advice to a customer, let them know what you can do, the time it may take and the costs. Cost may be money that is either credited back to them or additional fees for other services. If you are in a position to give discounts or complimentary services, you may want to do this when the customer is not at fault. Even if they were negligent or at fault, try to resolve the matter in the most efficient way possible.
- If the matter needs to be forwarded to a higher level manager or the manufacture, make the customer aware of this immediately. In the meantime, let them know that you will act as a liaison until the customer has contacted the next party that can troubleshoot the matter. Before ending conversation, ask if there are any other issues to be resolved.
- Always have business cards on hand. If they are generic, write as much pertinent information on the back of card before handing to customer. This may include your name and working hours, an alternate contact who can assist in your absence or the number to a customer service department .
There comes a time when a sale must be lost but good advice may tempt a customer to return for other business. For example, if you have a storefront that only sells designer shoes but a customer walks in wanting to spend only $25, then refer them to other stores in the area that sell inexpensive footwear. Good customer advice would be to let that customer know when your store has clearance sales and show them the benefits of indulging once in a while. If you have flyers or other sales materials nearby, pass them along. To just tell that person that your store doesn't sell cheap shoes or to go elsewhere will not only get them out of your store, but they are also unlikely to return or tell someone else about the wonderful wares you may have.
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