I can tell you in just one seven-letter word what it takes to build a successful business: the word is “service.”
Customer service is what ultimately determines success or failure, whether in the service industry or in any other industry or profession.
If you want your business to be successful, you must resolve to deliver the best possible service to your customers. You must do everything you can to please them, protect them, enrich them, and advantage them. If you consistently do this, you will not fail. Your customers will perceive you as a caring leader, and they will reward you for that. Your sales and profits will grow.
If your business is not seen as one that offers good service, you’re in trouble. Today’s consumers have an almost limitless number of options. Disappoint them and they will simply stop dealing with you and start dealing with one of your competitors.
There is a widespread misconception about what constitutes good service. Many businesses owners think they’re providing good service, when in fact, they aren’t.
Just because you have fair prices, a courteous staff, a generous exchange policy, and reasonable terms, don’t let that delude you into thinking that you are providing great service.
Extraordinary Customer Service
All of those things are good, but there is nothing exceptional about them. They are what an informed customer in today’s market expects you to offer.
They are the bare minimum. Great service means much, much more than meeting a minimal standard. It means doing extraordinary and sometimes outrageous things on behalf of your customers or clients.
Don’t be afraid to offer new clients a free consultation. Don’t be afraid to use very liberal introductory discounts. Above all, don’t be timid about offering your customers or clients, an extraordinary guarantee.
Make it easy to buy from you. Review every aspect of your operations and, as you do that, try to see the business as your prospects would see it. Ask yourself, “Is our offer clear?’ “Do we have convenient business hours?” “ Do we explain in a clear and concise way how to buy from us?” “Do we offer people several purchase options and several ways to pay?”
If you use an 800 number, make sure customers aren’t being put on hold too long. Test the system yourself to find out. If you ship or make a lot of mail delivers, run tracers to see that things are reaching your customers on time and in good condition.
Test your Web site. Test the download time, the links, and place an order from your site. Be proactive; don’t wait for customers to report a problem.
Call your customers within seven days after they have purchased and say, “Is everything working okay? Is there anything we can adjust for you or anything else you would like to buy from us to extend your enjoyment of your new product?”
Accepting different kinds of payments makes it easy for your customers to buy from you. Accept all the major credit cards and accepting check debits makes it even easier for your customers to buy.
Providing extraordinary service means recognizing your best customers or clients. Remember to wish your customers well on their birthdays and other
special occasions. Offer them first choice on any new products you’re ordering.
Give them gifts during the year-end holidays, and enclose a warm, personal note letting them know how much you appreciate the part they’ve played in helping you build your business.
We’re all human and we all appreciate really fabulous service. For example, the restaurant owner who cheerfully tears up the bill and gives you a certificate for two complimentary meals after one meal is served cold. Or the dry cleaner that voluntarily replaces a garment his workers have damaged with a garment that is new and more desirable.
Some retail organizations hire people to go around and make purchases in their own outlets and in stores owned by their competitors. It helps them find out how outgoing and efficient retail clerks are. It’s a way to find out what’s working well and what needs improvement.
Get into Your Customer’s shoes
In your own business, you must have the same critical mindset. Always try to see things as your customers or prospects see them. Empathize with your customers.
Try to get into their shoes, mentally, and find out what motivates them; what inspires them, what challenges them, and what frustrates them. Also find out, what else they need that you could provide, but aren’t providing. It might be something as simple as a sturdier carry out bag and tighter coffee cup lids.
The more you can see things as your typical customer sees them, the better your chances are of connecting with each customer. You should call your customers on a regular basis and ask them for their ideas.
Do it at random, or survey them by mail or email, or in a structured “Focus Group” where they can really tell you want they like or don’t like about what you sell.
When you get in the habit of routinely investigating, it will not only help you improve your service, it will help you find the missing links in your product or service line.
You could profitably fill these missing links either by introducing new products or services of your own or by recommending someone else’s products to your customers in a joint venture.
Try to look at your customers from their perspective. Keep digging deeper and deeper into your customer’s experiences. Go the extra mile in all your dealings with your customers. It’s not just the right way to do business, it’s also the smart and profitable way as well.
About the Author
Joe Love draws on his 25 years of experience helping both individuals and companies build their businesses, increase profits, and achieve total success. Copyright© by Joe Love and JLM & Associates, Inc.