As a customer, I know what it’s like to be on the customer side of the counter. You want to turn over your hard earned money in exchange for something you want, either goods or services. Often this process goes well, but from time to time you may be confronted with attitude, rudeness and utter disregard for just how hard you have worked for your dollar. Either the service is slow and the quality of what you bought is poor. The one thing that’s even worse: the company you bought from rigidly enforces poor policies for handling customer issues, and a solution seems to be a long discussion away.
Stop Competing On Price Alone
As a business owner I realize the cost of poor service. I refuse to undervalue what I’ve created by giving discounts or charging too little. My online courses aren’t the cheapest available, but they are the best. Combine that with top-notch support you don’t find anywhere else in the online learning world, and you’ve just set yourself up for success, literally. Pardon the pitch. But charging the lowest possible price and offering poor service over time isn’t sustainable. Is that really the kind of business you want to build when you first started?
In general, poor service over time decreases purchases, leads to a reduction in repeat business, causes lack of referrals and negatively impacts the relationship you have with your customers. That doesn’t just apply to online learning or providing a service. When you are trying to build any business in any competitive market, building that customer relationship is critical to your success as a business owner.
How are you doing in building your business where customer service is a mindset, not a department? Consider how you would handle the following customer scenarios:
- A customer purchased a $100 item and now wants to return it. Your policy is no refunds. This a customer who has purchased from you many times before. Do you return the item or enforce the policy?
- When customers enter you business are they greeted warmly or ignored? At the very least do you make eye contact and smile?
- Do you (and your employees) say “Thank You” and smile after each customer interaction? Or do they simply hand the customer their bagged item and say “next”?
- During customer interactions are you on the phone or talking with other employees, or other customers even? Or are you focused 100% on the customer in front of you?
- A Customer comes into your establishment and is there for a while, focused on reading product labels. Do you leave the customer there to find whatever they’re looking for by themselves, or do you go over to offer your (expert) opinion?
Building Loyal Fans
What happens next when your customers experience great customer service? They don’t just buy from you, but may become loyal fans of your business. They may even tell their friends about you. This has nothing to do with you. Referrals are no longer to do the business owner a favour: referrals are only given when your customers believe they are doing their friends a favour. That raises the bar, but once they do, they become loyal fans of your business. You have earned their trust. It’s now your job to take care of them and maintain that trust.
Rock-star service is what makes customers want to shop with you despite a higher price or the inconvenience of distance. Even if you are providing a lesser quality product or service, the best customer service experience can help you compensate for it. That doesn’t mean you should be providing low quality products, by the way – but it gives you room and a margin in case something goes wrong. Every business makes mistakes and things go wrong from time to time. What matters more is what happens after. The best level of service gives you an incredible, low cost competitive advantage over anyone else.\
Be Your Authentic Self
Service is not a learned trick or behaviour. To improve your customer’s experience, start by changing yourself. Be you, be authentic. Change your attitude when handling customer issues. Believe that you can afford to provide the best service. If you must, do the math and see for yourself that it will cost you less to take care of that customer now and build a long relationship. Set the example by regularly chatting with customers and enthusiastically pitching in to solve seemingly difficult problems.
Next, challenge your employees to do the same. Lead by example. Take time to notice when your team is providing great service and provide some simple verbal recognition. Give a sincere “thank you” for a job well done. Constantly bring up and talk about how important it is to set yourself apart with great service. Again, keep it authentic. Customers have a radar for authenticity: if you or your team are “faking it”, they’ll now right away and it will make the whole interaction awkward.
Get Into Action
Starting with your next interaction, whether in-person, over the phone or online, begin building that essential foundation of rock-star customer service. Offer a friendly smile, a warm greeting, and a caring attitude. Genuinely go the extra mile and try to truly understand and connect with the other person.
And if you really want to go all the way, download my best practice approach to service management whitepaper. It’s an article I once wrote for a service management conference. It’ll help you find quick wins and implement value for your customers, faster. Over the years, I’ve helped many customers around the world implement these service management principles to help them take better care of their clients. It’s why today I have zero tolerance for poor customer service.