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What Is a Customer?

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Do you know what a customer is? Did you know that the base of the word customer is actually custom? It actually is derived from the habits of people that make it a habit to make frequent visits to a store.

In my mind, there are two different kinds of customers - an internal customer and an external customer. Some alternative names for customers are clients, buyers, and purchasers. All businesses have customers; it's up to you whether or not you have loyal customers by the way you treat them.

Let's take a closer look at the differences between internal and external customers and then at some of the ways that you can increase customer loyalty. To begin with, an internal customer would be someone within your own company that might work in another department or even on another team. An external customer would be someone you sell products to or provide services to that is outside of your organization.

Now let's look at some of the ways that you can make sure that you keep existing customers, as well as gain new customers. One of the first things that I believe a company should realize is that a customer, contrary to a current shift in thinking, does really know what he or she wants. Way back when I was working in the telephone service center for a large credit card company, we received intensive training on how to treat a customer and make them happy. What are some ways that you can do that?

1) Listen to the customer - remember your mother telling you not to interrupt and that it is impolite? Most customers will definitely tell you that they would rather have you listen to what they are saying than having you take the bull by the horns and butting in and stopping what they are saying.

2) Provide virtual cues that you are listening by summarizing back to them what they have just told you. You don't have to repeat word for word, just enough to let them see if you understand will do the trick. This lets them know that you have been listening and paying attention and also lets them know that you care about their needs. If you are on the phone, you can also do virtual nods vocally by adding little tidbits of agreement like uh huh, yes, you bet, etc. This would work the same as if you were face to face and actually nodding your head.

3) Take a moment to be in their shoes. Think about how you would feel if you were in the same situation they are in when they are speaking with you. Would you be angry? That could explain why they seem angry. This is called being empathetic. What does that mean in more detail? It just means showing that you understand their situation and can feel their pain, sadness, or what have you.

4) When they are all done explaining what it is they want to say, do another summary in more detail covering the important points of the conversation and clarify with them any points that you are unclear on. They'll let you know if you don't quite have it right or you are right on target.

5) Let them know the action points that you are going to take to resolve any issues they might have. If possible, let them know a date when you will do this. Then be sure to meet those deadlines.

So what does all this mean? Why take all these steps? A satisfied client is one that you go out of your way to service. Especially with the economy the way it is, one lost customer can hurt your bottom line in a big way. Showing that you care will help seal a long-term relationship, which in turn will have your client talking about you and your excellent customer service. That's what it's all about - providing customized care, giving the client the service they expect, and doing it all with a positive attitude.


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