Bad Economy or Poor Customer Service?

Updated: May 24, 2010

Most people think they offer great customer service and are ready to argue the fact. But I will tell you that you don't earn any extra points with your customers by covering the basics. Great customer service is more than a clean bathroom and accurate transaction. Customers deserve more. They have too many choices these days to tolerate anything less than friendly service. Your customers deserve your very best. If they don't get it from you, they will find it somewhere else. Here's the test you can perform yourself to determine if you have extreme customer service: Does every customer brag about you or the experience? Ask your next 10 customers where they heard about you or why they choose to shop with you. Without customers, you have a really expensive hobby. With extreme customer service, you have the ability to turn each individual customer into several. Don't focus on how to drive new customers into your store, figure out how to overwhelm your current customers, and they will bring in more business for you.

I was on the phone with someone last week who runs a fitness facility. She was saying that this referral marketing doesn't really work because she has several clients who tell her, I've been trying to get my friend, sister, neighbor to join and they won't. So for all the extreme customer service she's providing to her current customers, it's not bringing in new customers. Don't throw out good service - figure out why your customers shop with you. What are their hot buttons? What can you offer that they can't get anywhere else? Is there a risk your customers have to take to do business with you? Is there a commitment or high price tag? Is there a discomfort that they have to overcome? You have a valuable service, or you wouldn't be in business. Take some time to figure out WHY your customers shop with you, and the HOW to market to them will come.

My husband was spending a lot of time building his Facebook farm last spring. This was before he opened the doors to his own company full time. He was commenting to me one night about how great of an example the farm was a for real business owner. It teaches you to be organized, plan ahead and cover multiple tasks at once. You plant, you harvest, you sell. I had to take issue with the one detrimental flaw that seems to happen to most business owners and sales people I consult with. In the fictitious farm, you take your produce to the market and the customers come and buy it, giving you enough income to buy more seed to plant. However, where do these customers come from? Who markets to them? How are they informed about what is available in the market place? What type of service do they receive from you? What makes them buy from your produce stand versus all the other stands out there? Are they repeat customers, or do you sell to a new set of customers every time?

This is the common struggle with most shop owners. The common belief is if they open the doors or put up an optimized website, the customers will come. But customers don't come from out of nowhere. Sometimes you'll get someone who googled you and chose your site over someone else's. Or they happened to be walking by and liked your window display. Maybe it was the Welcome sign that lured them in, though welcome signs are extremely rare. Most storefronts are covered in "NO" or "Don't" signs, that most people have learned to ignore.

Even when I go into a new store, it's rare that my presence is welcomed in any special way. I may or may not be greeted. Most retailers don't even know how to interact with customers. They have been trained on how to use the register and how to keep the inventory looking nice, but spend hardly any time at all training their staff to talk to the customers. One of my favorite experiences when I was in Paris was that whenever you entered a store, no matter the size, everyone greets each other. It is rude not to. And you always say goodbye and thank you before you exit. It's common sense, but it's not common practice.

In an Office Max store, my friend Nancy was treated to a great, but rare, customer experience. She had walked up to the counter and noticed the salesperson was pacing behind the registers. She asked him which register he was at, and he responded with, "whichever register you choose." Now, we've all been the victim of this scenario at one time or another. More than once, I have found myself at the "wrong" register, because that's not where the salesperson was logged into. I've had to pick up my items and carry my stuff somewhere else so I could give the store my money. In this Office Max scenario, the store was here to provide for the customers, and at that moment, they were focusing on Nancy. She was not being treated as a transaction, but a valuable part of why Office Max is in business. This is a great example of looking through the customer's eyes.

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