Great — not good — customer service is an essential part of running a successful lifelong learning program.
In fact, if customers don't come first in everything your program does, you are in danger of failing them, says Fred Bayley, LERN Senior Consultant and customer service expert.
But great customer service doesn't have to be a difficult thing for your program to achieve.
What is always amazing to me is the difference between a poor and extraordinary customer service experience is usually just a small tweak," he says.
Bayley says there are five simple keys to making sure your customers have the best experience possible.
1. Tailor the experience to the customer.
Not every customer is the same and not every customer problem or concern is the same. This means you have to ask the customer what they want and actually listen. This might seem like a no-brainer, but many times lifelong learning program managers fail to ask their customers what they really need. Find out what really makes them happy — and unhappy — with your program and then deliver an experience that exceeds their expectations.
2. Make the customer feel special.
People do business with people they like, not with people who are aloof or unpleasant. Be real, be human, be interested, Bayley says, and your customers will respond positively. Don't use the phrases "I don't know," "We can't," or "You will have to," as those can make the customer feel unappreciated.
3. Understand the customer's point of view.
If a customer tells you the room is too cold, nothing you say will make them believe the room was comfortable, Bayley says, so instead of trying to explain away the issue let the customer know you understand the concern and don't discredit them.
4. In customer service you are solving problems.
If you are focusing on making money, you need to shift your focus to creating long-term relationships by solving customer problems. This means creating quality programs, offering top-rate customer service, and having a responsive staff. If you focus on solving your customers' problems, you will make money. If you simply focus on making money, you may lose your customers.
5. The customer comes first.
Bayley says there is an easy test to see if a program puts customers first. Are there reserved parking spaces for employees? If they are the spaces closest to the door, the program is sending a message — though often unintentionally — to its customers that they don't come first.
There is a lot of talk about customer service these days but it appears that customer service is actually declining. But, when people do find good customer service, they return, enroll more often, and praise your organization.
Bayley is a popular speaker at the LERN Annual Conference and will be back again at the 2014 LERN Annual Conference at the Walt Disney World Dolphin in Orlando, Florida.