If you read my previous post, you know that I had an abysmal customer service experience at JC Penney´s. (I did receive an apology from the store manager who showed the post to his women´s department manager.)
If you run a small business and you worry about competing with the national chains, I believe that one place you can exceed their efforts is by offering legendary customer service. Because of their volume, they may be able to buy more cheaply from their vendors than you, but price is not always the deciding factor when a customer makes a purchase. Price IS important and you should be as competitive as possible, but there are many times when you can come out ahead by listening and responding to the customer´s needs.
The name of this blog is "Customer Service Experience." It´s more than just the way you greet a customer or respond to a complaint; it´s the total environment you create for your customers. Of course, not all customers are alike. Today CNN reported that new Starbucks’ stores with drive-in windows usually make about one-third more in sales than stores without them. Some customers prefer inside, others outside, still others probably do both depending upon their circumstances.
The first step is to determine what you as the owner or manager want your customer environment to be. That vision would then shape the competencies you need to look for when you hire and train your staff. As the architects say, "Form follows function."
Other components of your customer service experience would be price, product selection, marketing, location, Internet presence and how it relates to your physical presence, and more. (An example of how your Web site can interact with your bricks and mortar location is that of Borders Books, which allows regular customers to sign up for e-mail promotions. Several times during the month of December, we received coupons offering as much as 30% off in-store purchases.)
Finally, be as innovative as possible when it comes to customer service. Whenever possible make it fun as well. For more information about that, check out the book, Positively Outrageous Service by Scott Gross and the Fish! Philosophy program by Charthouse.
"A company that believes that "customer satisfaction´ is their primary goal is on their way out of business. It´s not enough in today´s quality service culture to meet the customer´s expectations; to be an industry leader, it is imperative that you exceed their expectations and leave them with a wow!"
–Richard J. Loughlin, President and CEO, Century 21 Real Estate Corp.
as quoted in the book, The Customer is Always Right!