Since 1994, I have been actively in the workforce, Customer Service has been a big part of business. Somewhere down the line over the years, the concept has fallen off track. Many businesses get so focused on making money they forgot where that money comes from, who gives it to them, and how to get them to give it willingly. Everyone is familiar with this term and the company may even have a dedicated department but the definition seems to have changed.
There are a few things a company must offer to be the best. A couple of these are, a great product or product line that separates them from the competition, a reasonable price and Great Customer Service. In this post I want to focus on this one valuable part of business because I believe it is what businesses need the most. I started out in my working life learning about the old school way of serving customers. My very first job was at a well known convenience store franchise. I learned how to make customers happy with friendly service, I learned how to be helpful even when my employer did not have what they were looking for and I learned how to encourage them to buy more and keep coming back.
I have been both a receptionist at the front desk of an office answering phones and greeting guests and worked in the CSR department as well as various call centers. I had to learn how to take control of the conversations on the phone and turn an angry customer into a happy customer by providing quality service to the customer. With so many businesses that I have been working with, the biggest problem they are having is with providing even decent yet basic service to all customers.
Here are some basic actions that need to be present for any business to be successful. If you are having a problem with making sales, the first two things you need to focus on are your phones and greeting prospects in your office. The phones and greeting guests are the lifeline of any business. It is important that the business phone is answered EVERY TIME it rings and it must be answered promptly by a friendly and competent voice. It is a great idea to have a “gatekeeper” answering your phone if you are trying to avoid certain calls such as bill collectors or telemarketers to insure that no prospect is missed. There is nothing more irritating to a prospect than to call a business during business hours only to reach a voicemail and not getting a response for hours or even days. This small little irritation could send your prospect to your competitor. “you snooze, you lose”.
The second part of customer service that is an absolute must for any business is being open and available during posted business hours. It is important to have a competent and friendly face to greet prospects at the store or office every second during business hours. If a prospect shows up at the office or the store during posted business hours and the doors are closed/locked, guess what is going to happen. Yes, that prospect is going to be irritated and they are going to move on over to your competitor. That means you lost an opportunity to make a sale. If you do not have a physical location, there are answering services you can hire to answer the phones who can offer information such as business hours and location, schedule appointments, and take messages. (Answering Services also make great gatekeepers). We all know about being friendly to customers, being knowledgeable about the product or service is essential and a little authority to give a little space to make adjustments for the customer is always great. If what the customer wants is not in the policies or procedures then what they can be given should be offered. “I/we can’t” should never be in the vocabulary of the service agent. “Let me see what I can do” should always be offered instead then followed up with alternatives that might serve the customer.
I just want to point out the two most valuable parts of customer service that I see lacking in most small businesses that have a problem meeting the bottom line requirements. Answering the Phones and a friendly competent face to greet prospects on location (office/store). Every Prospect, customer, new or old should have an efficient and available way to contact your business and get basic information, make a purchase, schedule an appointment or at least an option to leave a message with a live person and not a machine.
It does not matter how great the marketing strategies and techniques are if the prospects can not be greeted by a representative or agent of the business. All marketing can do is guide prospects to the business. It is up to the business to greet the prospects to make the sale. As a marketing firm it is very frustrating to have a client complain that they are not getting enough business. Upon investigation we find that the client has lost business that our marketing strategies sent them because they were not available to receive the prospects when they tried to contact them during business hours.
It is really bad service if a prospect fills out a lead capture form for more information or to set an appointment and the business doesn’t respond for days or not at all. If a business owner is paying for marketing it is important to answer every call and greet every guest that shows up at the office/store location during business hours. It pays to spend the salary on at least one employee to offer customer service at a minimal level at the very least. It is obvious that the better the service a customer receives the more likely they are to make a purchase, tell their friends about you (word of mouth advertising), and for you to gain their loyalty. Make your customer’s experience with your business a pleasant experience.