Recommendations for Delivering Great Customer Service

182304054Customer Service is one of Welocalize’s four pillars, which drive our business and form the foundation of everything we do in the localization industry. Welocalize Business Development Manager and regular blogger, Steve Maule draws on his own experiences and offers his advice for providing great customer service.

When I started out in the localization and language services industry in 2009, I encountered a steep learning curve after spending a decade in another industry. Impressed by my bilingual and trilingual colleagues and not being very technical when it comes to systems and tools, I realized that my best chances of success in this new industry was to focus on something that I could control – my approach to customer service.

In his book, “Raving Fans: A Revolutionary Approach to Customer Service,” Ken Blanchard makes the point that products and services are no longer sold to naïve customers.  Customers are often well-educated and fully informed. Success comes to those, and only those, who are obsessed with looking after their customers.

Here are my top five recommendations for delivering great customer service:

  1. Never say,Let me transfer you to our customer service department.” Everyone in the organization must own customer service.  It can’t be “someone else’s job,” especially if your role impacts the customer in any way. Many companies do have a customer service department and the people who staff these departments are often there to handle complaints. Yes, they have the power to rescue customers and prevent them from leaving; however, they cannot do much to prevent that complaint in the first instance.  Prevention is the best cure.
  2. There is no such thing as a dumb question. I probably asked what some may perceive as dumb questions in my first few months in the localization industry. Sometimes when you know that you know nothing, all you can do is ask questions.  If it is important to fully understand a customer’s requirements, then it is equally as important to ask questions. Take a real interest in the customer. Why are they translating this content?  What impact will this translated content have on their customers and brand?  What is important for them?  As I get more experience in the industry, I have to remind myself to make fewer assumptions and always ask those inquisitive and insightful questions that build confidence and relationships.
  3. Take a walk in the customer’s shoes.  One of my own over-used phrases in conversations with colleagues is, “If I was her I’d be thinking…”, as it is really important to try and remember that most customers in our industry are actually collections of stakeholders. Each has their own objectives and interests, as we were reminded in a recent blog by colleague Antoine Rey on “What Do Localization Clients Want.”  We need to understand what each stakeholder needs in order to reach his/her goals, and then do our best to deliver that to them.
  4. Know when to take control. As vital as it is to understanding a customer’s requirements, we also have to realize that informed customers are still willing to pay for expertise, knowledge and skills. So it can’t just be a case of listening and understanding. We have to diagnose and prescribe a solution.  As experts in our industry, we have many of the answers. It is our commitment to be our client’s market intelligence and supplier of best practices.
  5. Little things mean a lot. Little things mean everything when it comes to providing excellent customer service.  We have all experienced projects and relationships that are great, as well as experienced some projects and relationships that have been challenges.  I will bet that most of the reasons for both those outcomes were down to a few little things that you did or didn’t do.  Did you take the time to call and tell your customer that the project was running a little late so they can make preparations within their own teams?  Did you email the customer to say thanks for that referral they gave you three months ago? It is the little things that mean a lot. And, be nice and be honest.  Everyone likes manners and honesty – that means a lot.

steve maule welocalizeThese suggestions aren’t exclusive to the localization industry. What tips do you have about customer service?