SAN ANGELO, Texas — A few weeks ago I wrote an article on customer service, and this is the follow-up article I promised. In it I wanted to discuss a few follow-up customer service thoughts any business can use.
Make your customers feel welcome
It sounds simple and should be routine, but some businesses have periodic challenges with this. Having your customers feel welcome fulfills a basic human need, and it is important at every point of contact, whether it is in person, on the phone, or with email and other electronic communication. It sets the stage for everything to come with the customer relationship. You have to get this right to be perceived as having good customer service.
Hopefully the good employees you have hired will be naturally friendly and helpful at every point. Reinforce on a regular basis how important it is to make every customer feel welcome, always. Model the behavior you want your employees to emulate. When we as customers encounter a business that makes us feel welcome, we cannot help walking away with a good feeling.
Employee knowledge of your products and services
This is important because your good employees want to feel competent in their ability to serve the customer. Not only do they want to make customers feel welcome, they want to be able to fulfill what customers contacted the business for; products or services to solve a need or problem. Formal training and on-the-job training is how this is accomplished. For new employees, consider using the buddy system where new people work closely with an experienced person. We see this done in well-run restaurants; a new server is partnered with an experienced server who is very good at their position. The new employee can use their formal training in real customer situations and know they have someone right there backing them up if they need them.
Being responsive and communicate
Train employees to do what they say they are going to do and do it on time. If things get delayed for some reason, train employees to contact the customer and inform them why. I can remember in a business I ran where we got overwhelmed with product deliveries to customers. We had to delay deliveries, and in some cases we were late in making deliveries. Communication was the key. It turned out customers were OK if the delivery was not going to be delivered when they wanted, as long as they were told upfront and kept informed of any minor delays. Nobody likes to be kept “hanging.”
Teach your employees the concept of a Lifetime Value of a Retained Customer
Show the amount of money a typical long-term customer will spend in their “lifetime.” The number will surprise most employees, and they will change how they view and serve long-term customers, and they will see the importance of turning new customers into more long-term ones. It is a powerful concept to even the most seasoned employee. There are many more customer service thoughts we could cover.
I hope these have spurred or reinforced your thinking on customer service. As always the advisers of the Angelo State University Small Business Development Center can help in this area.
Business Tips is provided by Dave Erickson, Director and Certified Business Adviser IV at Angelo State University’s Small Business Development Center. Contact him atDavid.Erickson@angelo.edu.