Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Customer Service Sells - Make it Work for You

Many of us have lived long enough to see a decline in customer service.  When I was growing up and even as a young adult, serving a customer was more important than the sale itself. It was common knowledge that if you made a customer happy, he would return, again and again.  Remember when you went to the service station to get gas?  You got SERVICE. Someone filled your gas tank, cleaned your windshield, rear window and side windows.  Your oil was checked and your tires were checked as well.  You were offered the free item of the week, usually drinking glasses or coffee mugs.  

No matter what you are selling, you need to distinguish yourself as a personal service company. The strength of your company’s business should be the quality of your products, but your success is determined by the quality of service you provide.
The founder of the famous catalog merchandising operation, L. L. Bean, flopped at his first attempt to sell his one product – hunting shoes. The rubber bottoms of the shoes parted from the leather uppers. But Bean guaranteed his customers’ satisfaction so he borrowed $400 to make good on the 90 faulty pairs out of the 100 he sold. 
Even though Mr. Bean is long gone, the company still offers good old-fashioned service, such as free replacement buttons for shirts – even if the shirt is 15 years old. This reputation of quality service has brought them great prosperity.
LL Bean knew all about customer service!
This is the kind of service we expected and received a few decades ago. If we apply these same principles to our business today, we will stand out among the crowd.
It takes minimal effort to go the second mile for a customer but it is worth every step. I have gained many friends who were customers first and kept coming back. Your reputation as a business owner precedes you and it speaks louder than any advertising you do. 

Some simple rules to follow in offering superior customer service are:
Customer service sells!
Never offer something you cannot perform. If you tell a customer you are going to deliver the product on Thursday, then make sure they get it on Thursday.  If you cannot fulfill that commitment, then contact the customer and reschedule.

Listen to your customer. There is nothing more frustrating than trying to explain to a vendor what you want and know they either don’t know what you are talking about or have no intention of performing what you ask.

Deal with complaints. Never argue with your customer if they are unhappy. Figure out a way to make it right. Often customers have come in extremely upset because of the way their complaint was handled by our competition. When you don’t care about your client’s complaint, they will go elsewhere.

Be helpful – even if there is no sale. I have had clients who need help with finding something I do not sell. I take the time to find it for them. No money in my pocket, but you can count on them returning.

Answer questions honestly. If you don’t know the answer, find out. If you can’t find out, let them know.

Free stuff.  People like free stuff.  If you throw in a little something extra at a small cost to you, they will remember that and tell others.

Customer service is the sum total of doing many small things right – the way they ought to be done – in the interest of others. This is excellence at its best. It pays dividends beyond measure. 

Talk to me about customer service and I will tell you about success. They go hand-in-hand and there is no substitute.
When it comes to customer service, what have you experienced - especially with online companies?  What tips would you offer to help the budding entrepreneur?

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