The Grapevine

Customer Services Matters – How Do You Rate?

March 12th, 2013

In another life, I had a client, who was something of a rock star in his industry. In addition to his main product line, he offered a repair service for his own products and even competitors’ products.

He was the industry leader. Absolutely owned it. Best reputation in the business. Very few competitors even tried to challenge him in the beginning. But as others realized the potential for profits, challengers did crop up. So my client started paying more attention to his business to maintain his lead. [level-members]

He talked to his clients and quickly realized he was still the leader in terms of quality, but that people were less pleased with his team’s customer service. It wasn’t responsive enough and didn’t do enough to address the anxiety most customers felt when dealing with the repair work being done.

I tell this story to illustrate that customer service isn’t something you can think of as an add-on, something you do in addition to the product you provide. It IS the product you provide.

Sure, convenience may play a role – you’ll have customers who stop by because you’re on the way to or from work, or because they buy wine while junior is at her piano lesson around the corner.

But in this age of 24/7 connectivity and Yelp and Google Local and the thousands of community blogs, everyone is a critic and you’re being reviewed with every transaction. (You always were being reviewed in every transaction, actually. Now, you just don’t know which customer has 10,000 Twitter followers …)

Here are some things to keep in mind about customer service, even if your staff is you and only you.

1. Think About Customer Service – More than anything, this means thinking about the experience of being in your shop from your customers’ perspective. How does it look? How does it feel? Is it welcoming? Is it clean?

2. Encourage Staff to Think About Customer Service – No need for training sessions or employee handbooks. For most of us, that’s silly given the size of our teams. But you need to be sure that your staff knows that customer service is the #1 thing on your mind with every transaction – and needs to be #1 in their minds, as well.

3. Pay Attention to Details – Your sticky front door really isn’t that big a deal, but it sets the wrong tone. As does a cluttered check-out counter, litter on the floor, and sour expressions on staffers’ faces. Fix ’em all.

The best part of all this is the cost: zilch. (Well, fixing that door might cost a few bucks …) But it can have an enormous impact on your bottom line.

Check out this training video. It’s not “outrageously funny” as advertised in the comments, but it’s just cheesy enough that it should raise a smile – and, I hope, get you to think about customer service as the vital part of your business it is.