It is important to recognize that there is probably more useless rhetoric in most customer relations literature than in politics. Since customer service involves interactions between human beings, materials on the topic should be written in a reader-friendly manner, with less analytical data and jargon and a greater emphasis on modes of communication.
Study Customer Experiences
Your first step in writing a formal customer relations manual should be to outline the process in which customers interact with your business and your employees. Walk through the customer experience and try to duplicate it step-by-step in your guide. How are your customers first introduced to your business? What is their first point of interaction with your staff? Do they browse through the store looking at products on their own, or are they shown specific items by an employee, such as in a jewelry store? Are they visiting your business online? Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and walk through the experience from beginning to end, jotting down reasonable expectations of service and customer care.
Each step in the customer experience needs to be addressed so that it can be anticipated, and to some degree choreographed, in advance. This requires studying typical customer experiences, whether it is at your business location or over the phone or on your Web site. Once you have determined how your traditional customers typically act, you will be able to factor some flexibility into your process in case a customer changes his or her mind or takes a circuitous route to purchasing a product or service.
Your customer service manual or handbook should include the following:
- Your overall customer relations goals and standards
- How to greet customers
- How to present materials (from handouts to fliers to menus)
- How to answer product or service questions
- How to answer questions pertaining to the business
- How to proceed if you cannot answer a question (getting help)
- Where to locate useful information for customers
- How to talk to customers (no jargon, no slang, etc.)
- How to inform customers about changes to the facility, products, or services
- How to sell and up sell
- How to deal with customer complaints or comments
- How to help customers with special needs or with disabilities
- How to gather customer feedback
- How to evaluate customer feedback
A customer service manual should be a guide. It cannot replace some basic personal skills, such as common sense, courtesy, or the ability to make smart decisions on the spot, but it can encourage your staffers to focus on these areas more diligently. Once the manual is distributed, outline how each aspect of the customer experience should be reviewed. Hold training sessions or even informal discussions on how customer relations should be conducted. This might necessitate acting out or talking through some customer-employee encounters (which can also be scripted in the manual or handbook).
Once you have a manual in place that addresses each of the pertinent points in easy-to-read language (without the rhetoric) and focuses on the employee-customer interaction, you should update it regularly to include issues that are brought to your attention by your employees.