Customer Service from the Inside Out…

customerservice2By Chris Wendel, Regional Director, MI-SBTDC

Business people behaving badly, sounds bad doesn’t it? As customers, all of us run into situations where people don’t exceed our expectations or even worse, make us feel downright insignificant. Be it the disinterested cashier that can’t muster a simple “Thank you,” or the handyman who doesn’t show up on time (or at all), each of us has our share of customer service horror stories.

Admittedly, I’m always looking out for good and bad customer experiences. Like many of you, I keep a mental list of businesses that I’ve placed on “probation” (I’m not going there for awhile), “double secret probation” (Why did I come back here again?) and “boycott status” (I’m not ever coming back here again!).

On the flip side I will be almost reverent to a company that I can count on for a consistently positive experience. There’s a lot to be said for a business that does their work well, and employ people working who obviously enjoy what they are doing.

With plenty of the focus put on advertising and marketing, a well thought out plan for customer service will insure that you retain the customers you have, and spread positive word of mouth to others. In short, knowing the impression others have of your company’s customer service, is vital to growing your business.

The following factors are paramount to superior customer service:

  • Management that understands that their most important customers are their employees.
  • Building a friendly and loyal staff that knows that their ideas and opinions are valued and if good, will be implemented by management. Many times being a stakeholder in the workplace is a higher priority to employees than the wage they are paid.
  • Writing your own rules of customer service. A good place to start is with the “Golden Rule” or better yet, the way your elders taught you to treat others with dignity and respect. The thought of spreading good Karma also works here.
  • Making clear from the onset what you as a business owner expect in the way of customer service from your employees. Initially hiring people who share similar customer service values can save you time by not having to teach basic life lessons.
  • Over time, building a high level of trust, teaching employees how to solve problems, and instilling sound customer skills will empower employees to deal with challenging customers on their own. This frees you to manage the business, work on larger picture issues, or better yet, take some well-deserved time off.

Have a system for gauging your customer’s happiness. This could be a simple survey (reply card or online), or having employees, customers and friends who are blunt with you about what happens when you’re not around. These methods work better than realizing at year-end that your sales are down, and then wondering if your customer service is up to snuff.

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