As I was reviewing our last post “How to Build Customer Trust” and the comments many had posted, it came to mind that “Customer Service” is a real asset when it comes to “Build Customer Trust”.
If you provide your customers with a level of service that you yourself come to expect would this not build trust and garner loyal customers to secure your livelihood?
Far too often today we see a complete lack of what was at one time that basic “Customer Service Philosophy”.
I spent almost 25 years in the retail sector and we always tried to educate our associates the basics.
- Do you require assistance?
- Did you find what you were looking for?
- Do you have any questions on the item you are purchasing?
All too often now days, if you can’t find a product and asked an associate (if you can find one) most often the answer is, “We don’t have that” or “We must be sold out”. What ever happened to the response “Let me check and see if we can get that for you”?
We had a situation the other day in a local grocery store at the checkout which has become an all too familiar situation. Bagging your own groceries while the cashier stands there and waits for you to finish so they can get on to the next customer. Or they start processing the next customer and pushing there items in with your items (this one drives Gisele crazy).
In some cases I don’t find fault with the employee, I find that to be in the lack of training they have been given. Years ago I would partner a new employee with one of my more season employees. This would give them the opportunity to learn what we as a company expect in the form of “Customer Service”.
Another key factor in “Customer Service” which seems long gone is “Product Knowledge”. How can an associate answer questions about your products if they have no knowledge of what you sell.
I can’t count the number of times I would return to a store because I had a problem with a product or it did not do what I need it to do. Only to get a response from the next associate I have spoken to telling me: “They should not have told you that, they made a mistake”. This usually means you now have to return the product if you can and purchase something new.
It’s not only the retail sector this occurs in, you can put just about any business in this group including banks, insurance companies the list goes on and yes all departments in every level of the government. I remember when banks thanked you for your patronage and gave you interest on your hard earned money. Their version of “Customer Service” now is sending a notice every 6 months letting you know that “Service Charges” are going up, or we’ve invented some new ones.
Here are 5 simple things you can do to enhance “Your Customer Service”:
- Knowledgeable trained associates. If you are a Solopreneur, if a customer asks you a question you don’t know the answer to, tell them you don’t have the answer at the moment, but you will find out for him and tell them when they will hear from you.
- Philosophy. Make sure associates know your “Customer Service Philosophy” and expectation. If you are a Solopreneur, draft up a “Customer Service” plan/policy or a simple motivational phrase. I have one on my desk that is right in front of my eyes all the time. “Attitude is Everything”
- Get feedback from you customers on how they view your “Customer Service”. Ask them how you can do things better. You may get a response like “none, your service is great” or you may get a response “you take too long to answer your emails” and from that, you know what you need to improve on.
- Solicit ideas from your associates and/or customers to make them feel like they are contributing. This I found makes them feel important and let’s face it… you don’t have all the answers.
- Listen. This is the most important. Keep your eyes and ears open at all times and offer guidance when the opportunity presents itself.
What is the one thing that is your best customer service quality?
More often then not, when I ask a question in a store, I can tell what type of answer I’m going to get, just by the look of the person’s face. I’m finding this with more of the younger associates. They may have a job they don’t want, would prefer being out with their friends or just had a bad day. But then, every once in a while, someone goes way out of their way to make your shopping experience a lot of fun.
The best place for customer service which is consistent (don’t laugh) is the LCBO (liquor store) on Rymal Road and Hwy 20 in Stoney Creek. I can go in there and ask a question about vintage wine I’m looking for and whoever I’m asking, will always be pleasant, take their time to look information up on the computer and talk to me as a person, not a sale. The one that sticks out in my mind was a time I went in to buy some Tequila and the lady spent 20 minutes educating me on types of Tequila, the distillery that George Clooney bought and different recipes.
I will go out of my way to this store which is farthest from 3 others in the area, just because of the customer service.
I’m a one lady business so maintaining an efficient communication system with reply backs within 24 hours is important to me.
A Good Customer Service System is important to retain patrons who have other choices of vendors. Many of the service providers whom I have to deal with when things go wrong outsource their customer service helpline to Third Party providers at the first contact level and with experience, I can make out who is reading from a script on their computer and who is thinking and being proactive.
The Litmus Test when I have a problem that the rep cannot answer is if they either politely put me on hold to get the answer or transfer me to a senior, who is an employee of the service provider to provide specific information.
Yes outsourcing support calls to a third party appears to be the norm now days. The cost savings adds to the bottom line and if you are in a term contact with the provider they know they are in control. To cancel usually means excessive cancellation fees.
We find that is the case with internet and wireless provides especially. For these companies it’s all bottom line no customer service.
Joe, you have touched on one of my pet peeves, poor or lack of customer service. The one that disturbs me the most and costs the company is to have a phone person who does not speak clearly. If I can’t understand them I am not interested which leads me to our strength, which is we listen and respond. I am a trained career counselor- retired after 30 years and often had less than 1 hour with a client. My listening skills were key to my ability to work with them to move them forward. I believe I have carried this skill with me into my jewelry design business.
Roslyn, your Philosophy is dead on and that is why you have a loyal customer following. Clients like to be heard, it gives them the feeling they are more than a simple cash machine.
Ahhh, the “associate” who knows absolutely nothing about the product drives me up the wall Joe. Sometimes I will just play with them to see how little they actually know, and if they lie rather than saying they don’t know I will just leave the store. Customer service seems to be very hit and miss these days. It appears that the days of going into a store and finding helpful, courteous and knowledgeable staff are becoming more of a rarity where once it was the norm. As a business owner and entrepreneur, I believe that customer service should be a given and I go above and beyond to provide a great “experience”. Great post! Cheers, Ian
It’s funny, a retailer I worked for decided that knowledgeable staff really was not a priority customers came in because they already knew what they wanted.
So they cleaned house hired new staff paid minimum wage and then could not figure out why customers were switching to the competition.
This summer on a vacation, we went out of our way to go to a shoe store that I knew had great customer service. I have feet that are difficult to get the right fit and their sales associates know every shoe in stock. Sure enough she asked some questions, had me walk around in 1 sneaker, said, try this one & it was perfect. I go to this store every year we travel to Cape Cod and I told them so. She was beaming. Good customer service is really hard to find.
It’s great when you find that one store you shop at on a regular basis and the customer service is above and beyond what you typically get now days.
I’m the same way with my feet and recently I purchased pricey hiking shoes at Sail. We’ve been buying from there for 3 years I think, about a 15 minute drive by highway. Never had a problem with anything I bought there.. When I tried them on in the store, the left shoe felt a bit funny. The girl said it’s because your feet are swollen and walked away. So, next morning, put them on, went for a walk, OMG, were my feet sore. Figured, have to break them in. After a couple of weeks, I couldn’t walk in them anymore. Couldn’t return them to Sail, but will consider shipping them to the manufacturer (Merreck). So now, I’m going to question the next purchase I make there.
On the flip side, a store I like to browse (Shoe Warehouse), where is a 2 minute drive from here. I was looking for some sandals. The girl that was helping me looked at my feet and my stance. Picked out a really nice pair for me, a bit pricey, but gave her the benefit of the doubt. When I put them on, buckle was in a strange place, so she gave me a little trick to put them on without unbuckling them. Asked her about the break in time, if I can’t wear them. Absolutely no problem returning them if I had to if they hurt my feet. Well, the didn’t hurt my feet, they are the most amazing sandals.
Both were the same price. Both were a good name brand. But the customer service was very, very different. Not to say I’ll never buy at Sail again, but when I go next week to look for another pair of hiking shoes, I’ll go to the Show Factory and deal with that same girl. If she’s not there, I’ll get her name and ask when she’ll be in next time.
It can be helpful to send a survey asking for feedback in order to solicit honest responses. Many customers will be more truthful when them can share their experience anonymously. Research indicates that less than 10% of unhappy customers ever complain, so if you want to know the cold hard truth — and you should — send everyone a survey.
Hi Lesa, Joe posted a blog post already about the survey. Have you read it, it had some really good information.
Yes a survey is the perfect way to measure the quality of customer service as long as the process is available to everyone. In a previous post with looked at the situation whereby many business now only offer online surveys. But like you say most people don’t complain to the business itself, they do however pass on that bad experience to family and friends.
Customer service is huge in the success of any business. I don’t run into too many of the situations you mention where service is poor (or non-existent). Let’s hope businesses realize the value of training associates.
have you noticed a decline in customer service in brick and mortar businesses?
You are more likely to still find a better level of customer services in the mom & pop business where it is their life line. In the big corporate business not so much.
As businesses owners and entrepreneurs we need it to survive like many of the comments show.
These are all excellent tips to enhance awesome customer service! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Thank you for your input I am happy you found value in the tips.
Yes Yes Yes, customer service is very important! This is WHY we do what we do comes to appear. Great blog post and I like your last tip “Listen”. We need to listen more. Thank you for sharing!
Glad you enjoyed it.
Customer service is so very important; I love your idea of pairing a new employee with a veteran employee who can “show them the ropes” and also engaging your employees in the customer service experience by asking for ideas and seriously considering them. If employees are engaged in the business doing well, generally, you’ll ind success all around. You are correct, customer service is retail is virtually non-existent. Thanks for sharing your ideas!
Thank you for your comments Tamara.