How to Provide Excellent Customer Service

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How to Provide Excellent Customer Service

“Have a great day.”

But as a business owner, when you say those words, do you really mean it? How many times has it been a requirement to utter those words between clinched teeth?

There is a substantial amount of pressure to keep everyone happy when you own your own business. Word of mouth can create significant negative impact on your business, especially if you are located in a small town. Facebook frenzy, as sharks circling the boat, also helps to spread a negative customer service experience.

Small businesses should not base their customer service on the threat of what might be said if there is a bad experience. But, however, on what might be said for service that is exemplary.

I would even be bold enough to say that customer service could hold its own category when creating a business plan, before the doors even open. My experience has witnessed that customer service could rank in importance as high as marketing and sales. If you treat customer service as something that just happens when a customer walks in, you may find that same sense of apathy with their opinion of your business.

A grocery store in my region is the model for excellent customer service. This store is the textbook example of how a business should conduct customer service. One day while looking for salad dressing, I paused long enough to hear an employee from the meat department actually explain to a customer how to use a marinade in great detail. They reach beyond what is customary for their customers.

After talking to the owner, briefly about the pros and cons of social media, he shared with me an example of how, even when you are knocking it out of the ballpark in regards to keeping customers happy, you can’t possibly keep everyone singing your praises. He stated that a customer posted on the store’s Facebook page negative comments about their coupon policy. The owner was informed of her discontent, and read some of her negative posts. He didn’t call her, he did one better. He drove to her home and knocked on her door. When she answered, he asked her to please explain why she was so unhappy. She said because she couldn’t use her expired coupons in the store. He stated that he was extremely sorry for her inconvenience that he’d make sure next time her coupons would be honored. He then handed her a gift certificate to make sure she’d come back. That is customer service!

There are several points to this story. Was this customer right? No, she wasn’t. Who uses expired coupons and then gets mad if they are rejected? Was it that the store was doing anything wrong? No, actually by doing everything right they set themselves up for scrutiny from someone who was simply aggravated by life. This leads to my third point. Sometimes, sometimes…you cannot make a person happy.

There are a few things you may implement with your customer service guidelines that are relatively inexpensive and do not require a lot of time.

  1. Be certain your employees display the kind of service you want your business to portray.
  2. Also, be certain those same employees treat people the same when you are not there.
  3. Make sure training is implemented so the employees know what is expected.
  4. If a company/business utilizes a high level of customer service that makes you a satisfied customer, do not be afraid to model it. Many business owners are happy to share how they make customer service a priority.
  5. Repeat customers and referrals add to your bottom line. Word of mouth marketing from happy customers is very powerful and costs nothing.
  6. Make sure you are getting feedback. Don’t bury your head in the sand if there is negative feedback, face it and discover ways to improve.
  7. Be your own worst critic. Stop often to evaluate what goes on during a transaction in your business and make sure every person that walks through your doors is treated with dignity and respect. Even complaints can be handled with professionalism and finesse.
  8. If someone absolutely cannot be satisfied, do not be afraid to offer a competitor’s product or service. Sometimes a business owner can waste valuable time on bad customers that could be better utilized on their good customers.

So, business owners, take heed, it isn’t always your fault. But….that does not let you off the hook to be as nice as you can be, yes, even when you don’t feel like it. Customer service can make a huge difference in whether customers bring their business back to you. Catchy Facebook pages, decent incentives, good product and a good price can all be pointless if a customer is treated rudely or with disrespect. Placing a priority on customer care and bringing your A-team to the customer support department is a priority.

Tracie Yelich

Tracie Yelich is a part time Business Advisor for the West Central ISBDC. She currently owns a small business. Tracie has been owner of Bella Florista, for five years. Her responsibility and daily tasks include that of human resources, management, scheduling, marketing, financial procurement, cash flow management. She is also very active in the hands-on tasks of her business and is accomplished in her trade of floral design. Her professional accomplishments include that of acquiring corporate accounts, developing and implementing successful business plans and perfecting her servant leadership style. Her passion is to assist other women fulfill their dreams of small business ownership through personalized coaching and encouragement. Tracie holds a Bachelors degree in Marketing from Indiana State University.
Tracie Yelich can be reached at tyelich@isbdc.org.
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