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The heart of any company can be found beating inside the walls of its customer service department. Providing superior customer service after the sale is a smart business decision that pays long-term dividends. All the money that companies spend on sales training, marketing research, advertising, and PR initiatives to attract new customers is wasted if they can’t keep their customers satisfied after the sale. Your satisfied customers’ positive “word-of-mouth” endorsements have always been and always will be your company’s greatest asset and most effective marketing program.

The only surefire way to keep a customer happy is to consistently go the “extra mile” and exceed his or her service expectations. Several years ago, I read a fascinating article about a survey that asked people to list the top character traits they expected from a customer service representative. The survey data clearly identified four key character traits that dominated the feedback list. As you review the list below, think about how your customers would rate your character traits and the quality of service you provide.

The Four Cornerstones of Superior Customer Service

1. Positive mental attitude. A smile can be felt over the phone, but so can a frown. First impressions are extremely important and there’s absolutely no substitute for a cheerful disposition and a positive mental attitude. Customers don’t want to deal with grumpy, negative-minded agents who project a less than professional attitude. The survey showed that a positive attitude topped the list of the most valued character traits.

2. Respectful. All customers deserve to be treated with respect, even if they’re difficult to work with or upset. Being rude or displaying unprofessional behavior is the fastest way to lose a customer for life. Cursing, name calling, sarcasm, belittling, shouting, or arguing with a customer is never justifiable under any circumstances. When you show respect to your customer, you’ll eventually gain his or her respect in return.

3. Proactive. Don’t just be reactive, be proactive. Proactive support is all about identifying and resolving customer service issues before they become a problem. You can be so successful with proactive customer service that you can often solve problems before your customers even realize they exist. Customers expect an agent to be results-oriented. The best service representatives are inventive and show initiative when solving customer complaints.

4. Dependable. If you can’t be counted on to keep your word and deliver on your promises, your customers will drop you like a bad habit. When you make a commitment to a customer, always remember to under promise and over deliver. Your word is your bond and your customers expect you to live up to your promises. A dependable agent keeps his or her customers continuously updated and return e-mails and phone calls quickly.

John Boe presents a wide variety of motivational and sales-oriented keynotes and seminar programs for sales meetings and conventions.

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