One of the key components of every successful business is the client that patronises that business. I mean, how can a business succeed if there is no one to buy what it sells? That is why it is important to give clients premium service.
This week, we spoke with Ms. Iyinoluwa Adunade on customer service and how fashion entrepreneurs can integrate it into their businesses.
Ms. Iyinoluwa Adunade is a client service and business development professional. She is also a brand ideation who consults for growing brands on topics ranging from brand name to brand identity, brand logo and tagline.
What is Customer Service?
Firstly, before we delve into that, we have to define who a client/customer is. A customer is a person or an organisation that puchases your products, one that gives a form of compensation for your products or service.
Contrary to what a lot of business owners think, until an individual shows interest in your product and actually buys it, that person is not yet a client. This person is still a lead or a potential client.
“Customer service in business, is the experience that a client takes away from your brand after they have encountered you.”, she said, “It is all about their experience right from the moment they decide to buy your product up until the point where the product is delivered and even after the product has been delivered. It is a continuous process.”
What Does the Statement “The Customer is Always Right” Mean in Business?
This statement is one that is popular in business and the corporate world but is it always true? As a professional, in situations when you realise that the customer is wrong, what do you do?
At times like this, when you are in a position to advice on the best way to do things, never approach the client in a rude or condescending manner. Politely listen to what they have to say.
After you have listened and you understand what they are saying, you can suggest an alternative that will produce better results, this is called advising the customer. If the customer insists on his/her opinion, let the person know the consequences of both your advice and their opinion. Then, go ahead with whichever he/she chooses.
What is the Difference Between Good Customer Service and Bad Customer Service?
In customer service, your manners matter. What this means is that your attitude is the difference. Customer service entails a lot of communication which is giving information out and recieving feedback on it.
Your attitude towards clients is everything in customer service.
Your approach in handling situations with clients that are upset, confused or unreasonable, shows good or bad cutomer service. The ability to listen, be patient,calm and in control of your emotions and your reaction is key.
As a fashion entrepreneur, in communicating with clients, you have be careful of your choice of words, your carriage and body language. Let them all be courteous. Also, the systems you have put in place to respond to clients and how well you deliver on your promises reflects good or bad customer service.
Characteristics of Good Customer Service
1. Good Attitude:
As stated earlier, attitude is everything. Your attitude in dealing with clients goes a long way in speaking about how your customers feel about your brand.
2. Automated Systems:
Good customer service starts from the first interaction clients have with your brand, what are the systems you have put in place to respond to clients query? Have you automated some of your response process?
Things that send automated replies to clients when you are away, like WhatsApp for business and live chat bots for websites, help clients feel like they are not left hanging after contacting you. Getting extra hands to help in responding to clients query can also help
As a fashion entrepreneur, you have to be true to your words. If you project yourself in a certain way or in a certain light, let clients experience you in that way.
Do not promise what you can’t deliver.
When a client comes to you with an order, if you do not have the manpower or capability to handle it then do not accept it. You should not accept orders just in a bid to acquire clients, but because your brand can deliver on them.
4. Easy Accessibility:
Every brand that intends to deliver good customer service needs to be easily accessible to their target market. Both your online and offline accessibilty is important.
When a client searches on Google for busineses in your niche, does your brand pop up? Are you registered under Google My Business? Is your phone number and email address online?
5. Great Brand Packaging:
From the point people encounter your brand till the point they leave you, everything about your brand should speak well to them. When clients call you or visit your store, how accommodating are you with them?
When clients purchase a product from you, the way you present that product to them is very important. Do you hand it over in a normal nylon or do you have a specific brand packaging for your clothing outfits?
Do you make deliveries or do customers always have to come over to the store to pick up their outfits from you? All these are part of good packaging.
Ways to Incorporate Good Customer Service into your Fashion Brand for Both You and Your Employees
Your fashion business does not consist of you alone but you and your entire team. In delivering customer service as a brand, you need to carry your employees along.
1. Treat you Employees Right:
Incorporating customer service into your brand boils down to your business culture. Business culture, in this context, refers to the values you hold in regards to how you treat your staff. As a fashion entrepreneur, it is important to treat your staff with respect.
Your business should operate an open system, where people are free to give their opinion and share their ideas for business growth. When you respect the opinions of your employees and actually apply it to your business, it shows that you value them.
Your treatment of your employees reflects in their treatment of your clients.
How your employees treat your clients is a reflection of the way you treat them. A disgruntled employee will most likely not relate with clients in the right way.
2. Empower and Equip Both You and Your Employees:
Take courses on leadership and encourage your employees to do so as well. Empowering yourself also deals with how you speak to and relate with clients. You should educate yourself on human language, temperaments and behaviour.
In incorporating good customer service into your brand, your mental health is important. Do not over work or stress yourself, always make out time to rest and compensate your employees.
Attending industry events to keep you updated on the latest trends and happenings in the fashion industry is part of empowering yourself. At these events, you can discuss and exchange ideas with other professionals in the industry.
Keeping up to date on trends and happenings helps open up your mind more to serve your clients better.
How Can Fashion Entrepreneurs Handle Difficult Clients while still giving Premium Customer Service?
Every fashion entrepreneur will definitely encounter some difficult clients in the course of doing business. In handling such clients, as earlier stated, attitude is everything.
The best approach to apply is to show a positive attitude, as is said, “A gentle reply turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger”. Here are some steps you can follow;
1. Listen to the client calmly: This is where emotional intelligence comes to play. Listening to people is therapeutic as people love it when they are listened to. Listen to their feedback, complaints and all. Listening to them shows a sense of friendship and openness
2. Admit and acknowldege: Thank them for sharing their thoughts with you, apologise for or acknowledge whatever it is that upset them and take reponsibility for it. Next, assure them that the situation will be handled. Accepting and acknowledging shows a sense of responsibility.
3. Advice the client: Here, you can suggest an alternative that might work for the client depending on what their complaint was on.
4. Execute: Ensure that whatever feedback you got from the client is looked into. Find ways to improve on your service for whatever area was lacking before.
Advantages of Good Customer Service
1. It brings customers back: Many times people keep patronising a specific brand, not becaue its the best or cheapest option, but because their customer service is great. This helps improve your revenue as a business over time.
Good customer service is like candy, you taste it and you want more. It always brings people back.
2. It helps you grow advocates: With good customer service, you get people that will tell others about your brand anywhere they go. People will naturally recommend your brand to other people, which is a form of marketing, and stand for you anywhere your brand is mentioned.
If a brand can go from the top to rock bottom just over what someone says, the reverse is also possible.
3. It can change the view people have of the fashion indsutry as a whole: Many people have the notion that a lot of fashion designers do not keep to time or to their word, good customer service can change this.
4. It helps build credibility for your fashion business: When many people know about your brand and advocate for you, it shows the legitimacy of your fashion brand.
In closing, she said, “Don’t forget that your brand is there to help the clients solve their problems. You stand as a leader, teacher and professional, don’t forget that. Customer service is about the human element, do not take that out. Empathy, listening and understanding are very important. Don’t be too uptight and be open to getting new ideas or options.”