5 Essential Tips on How to Improve Customer Relations

When a business evaluates its priorities for improvements or revisions in any given system within it, one of its highest priorities should always be how to improve customer relations. As has been said time and again, customer relations is a very important aspect of a business, probably the most important in fact. When a company has a great service or a great product, their reputation can still be tarnished by poor customer relations, be it in customer service or in user experience in one aspect or another.

As a result of this, it’s high time we stop for a minute and look over some tips on how to improve customer relations. In doing so, perhaps we can shed some light on why companies that have otherwise outstanding services or products still suffer in their industries, or have such poor reputations with customers. We’ll cite some examples along with the tips of instances where this advice is not heeded, as well, so that we may all learn a positive and a negative lesson from this.

The rules of this top five are simple – they must be generally applicable across most industries and demographics, and they must relate to different facets of customer relations, rather than expounding on different aspects of just one or two.

Without further introduction here are the top five tips on improving customer relations.

#1 – Bigger, Faster, Stronger

One of the recurring problems with customer relations with many companies is the available staff and in turn speed of customer service. Companies try to cut costs by overloading a small staff of people with answering phones, help desks and forums, or they outsource to less than capable overseas companies that make the same mistakes anyhow.

This results in delay times and often incompetence due to overworking employees, which is not looked upon fondly by customers, who often need their issues or questions dealt with immediately. A sure fire way to improve customer relations is to increase a local staff of CRM people, and to train them to deal with a multitude of problems, rather than specialize departments. This allows for customer service to be faster and more capable at any given time.

PayPal is a culprit of less than exemplary CRM as a result of overworked and under-capable outsourced staff which take far too long to resolve issues, and given they are a financial institution, this is a recipe for disaster that may yet lead to their downfall in competing with Google Checkout.

#2 – Getting With the Times

On that note, there’s a similar issue of not keeping up with technological innovations. We’ve seen years of refinement to crowdsourcing techniques, social platforms and other, similar technologies emerge since the turn of the century. Yet, companies still stick with old phone systems and help desks which are slow, inefficient and unpleasant to work with.

A great way to improve customer relations is to embrace technologies users are already constantly connected to such as Twitter or Facebook or heck, even email. This would mean they do not have to go out of their way to contact you, and it also improves speed and organics for handling interactions.

Many companies are guilty of this, so just citing one wouldn’t do this justice.

#3 – Better Communications

Better communications over all will help to improve customer service relations. This comes in a few forms. First, it helps if individuals working in CRM speak very good English, or whatever the language in question is. If outsourcing, it’s important that the people doing the job have at least a 4 year college level education in fluency for said language.

It goes beyond this though, with communication including being able to diagnose a customer’s problems or questions accurately. This can be handled by having contingencies in effect that allow for the CRM professionals to diagnose these in an orderly fashion.

Poor communications have been the downfall of companies like Microsoft in recent years, and led to misread metrics on what customers want, which directly resulted in both Vista and Windows 8. Nobody wants this to happen again!

#4 – Incentives

Providing incentives for customers to provide feedback when they aren’t experiencing problems is a good way to maintain non-biased metrics on how well something is working. Customers aren’t often wont to do this without some form of incentive, and will often lie about their willingness to take a survey after a call, hanging up immediately upon being able to.

Incentives don’t have to be grand, being anything from entries into contests (though this one works less and less as the years go by) to discounts and even free perks. It’s entirely up to you what to provide, just provide something of some sort of value.

Along with an incentive to participate, customers will also realize after doing so that their opinions are valued even when they are not mad at the company in question. This is called being proactive.

#5 – Rewards

Reward customers for long-term patronage. This is not a new idea, but it is one of the keys to how to improve customer relations. Much of this list has been about handling customer service when problems arise, or in taking measurements from customers in normal situations. This one is unique, but equally important.

Credit card companies and retail outlets have done this for years, with card use rewards, “buy one get one” deals and similar things. Like incentivizing feedback, providing small but valuable rewards just for being loyal customers will make customers feel valued, and keep them coming back. As with any relationship, showing that you care is important, and must not be forgotten.

These are just some keys to this, there are countless other things to take into consideration. But, when you factor these tips in with your own experience and collective company wisdom, you can formulate a sure fire strategy for how to improve customer relations in the future.

 

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Stefanie Amini
is Specialist in Customer Success and chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for Customer Service Experts. Follow her @StefWalkMe