Ten Steps to Top-Notch Customer Service

Because of the recession, and the value of a dollar, customer service is more important today than ever.  If you want your retail store to be successful – if you want to beat out your competition – follow these simple 10 Steps to Top-Notch Customer Service:

#1:  Focus on the quality of your customer service and the quality of your product or offering.  Don’t let price be your only differentiator.

  • Despite the recession, consumer emphasis on price has decreased in the last few years.  Today, customers want VALUE: they want the best possible combination of product and service at the “right” price.

#2:  Listen to the voice of the customer and make sure your employees are sensitive to what your customers want and need.

  • 77% of customers say that in the past year the quality of customer service provided by companies has stayed the same or gotten worse, while 50% of employees at those companies providing the experience think service has improved.  There is an obvious disconnect here that needs some attention!

#3:  Let your customers know how easy it is for them to reach “live” service agents through channels of their choosing (on-line, on the phone, etc.) and make sure that your employees always provide “first-contact” resolution. 

  • Customers who say it is hard to deal with a store, said it is because their problems or issues are not resolved the first time they contacted the store for service.  43% also said they found it difficult to reach a service representative.  If they can’t reach someone, then naturally, it’s impossible to get their issues resolved and even if they do reach someone, if that person is not instructed on how to resolve the issue, if they’re not empathetic and empowered, then first-contact resolution is impossible.  Customers don’t want to make numerous calls.  If they don’t get their issues resolved promptly, they’ll just go to your competitors and they won’t come back!
  • Today’s consumer are more vocal than ever – 66% are placing calls, emailing or sending in letters to complain about a bad experience.  This is no small issue, as 20% of the customers who reported their bad experience said they did not even get a response from the company. Ultimately, 57% of them decided to take their business elsewhere.  Not responding, or slowly responding can be especially disruptive.
  • Customer service employees reported that they were 8% less likely to be prepared to deliver the right customer service experience. Employees were 11% less likely to say they had the necessary tools to solve customer’s issues than in the past few years.  You need to make sure that you have a customer service PLAN in place so your employees have policies and procedures they can follow each and every time they are helping a customer.  Your employees need to know what they are supposed to do and what they are allowed to do in resolving customer service issues.

#4:   When customers call on the phone, follow a few simple rules of etiquette.

  • It makes good economic sense to take the extra time and effort to make customer service calls as meaningful and service oriented as possible. Attention to customer service will go a long way in helping you to satisfy your customers and make them feel as if they are truly special. Always tell your customer what you CAN do for them. Don’t begin your conversation by telling them what you CAN’T do.  Allow irate customers to vent. Do not interrupt them or start to speak until they have finished having their say. Diffuse anger by saying “I’m sorry or “I apologize.”  Use your customer’s name at different points in the call.  Always conclude each call with a “Thank you” or a verbal message of appreciation for their business and make sure you’ve explained to them in detail what you are going to do to resolve their issues.

#5:   Train your employees so they really know your products!

  • Make sure that your employees are well-versed on your products and services. Knowledge is an important ingredient in completing a successful sale and the customer appreciates that your employees are thoroughly familiar with your company’s offerings. Give weekly trainings so your employees learn about new products and also, so they are up to date on everything you sell, the features & benefits, warranties and other issues relating to the products.

#6:   Great customer service is an investment in your company and customers so don’t cut costs when it comes to your customer service budget.

  • In response to the recession, most organizations have reduced their investment in their customer care operations, as reported both by executives and employees. Customers have reported a decline in service in the form of:  more bad experiences, fewer resolutions, and registering greater defection rates.  However, due to the recession and the fact that each customer has to make sure that the money they spend is being spent wisely, customers are placing significantly more emphasis on customer care.  The result is obvious.  You can’t cut back on customer service now, and you’ve got to find a way to make it work!

#7:   Make it VERY EASY for customers to contact you and let them know you are waiting for feedback.

  • 41% of customers who did not bother to report their bad experience (34% defected without saying a word) said they did not bother because there was no convenient way to report it to the offending company.  Come up with some kind of a give-away or contest that encourages customers to give feedback – good or bad – so that you are well aware what they are experiencing, both with regard to your products and your customer service.

#8:  Listen to and engage customers on social media.

  • Social media is today’s court of public opinion.  80% of customers who had a bad experience took their story to Facebook, Twitter, and many other social media platforms. On average, an individual using social media reached over 100 people with their individual tweets or postings! And, if they heard about someone who had a bad experience with a retail store, 62% said they stopped doing business with that retailer. Social media will continue to grow in the future, so you’d better get prepared and become part of the new technology and communication.

#9:  Don’t offer up a bunch of worthless excuses.

  • Delivering on a promise results in a customer delivering you the order. Even though we live in a litigious, red-tape, bureaucratic world, good customer service is as old as a handshake. Your word is your bond so make it mean something. Your customer will appreciate it and you will appreciate their business.

#10:  Focus on making customers, not sales

  • Don’t forget – it costs 5 times as much to bring in a new customer, than to keep an existing one.  Repeat customers save you money because you don’t always have to reinvent the wheel to get them into your store or to your website. Every new customer comes with costs, whether it’s advertising, marketing or time spent explaining and describing your products and services. Repeat customers are gifts you give yourself because you did it right from the start and your reward is their loyalty and continued patronage. Only 16% of customers who left a company after a bad experience said they would be willing to do business with that company again if some effort were made to win them back. Don’t burn the bridge by not providing the best agent-based experiences, and don’t focus so much on diverting your customers from agents that you damage the relationship.

If you like this information, you’ll really like this SPECIAL REPORT “Top 5 Strategies for Retail Store Growth in Difficult Economic Times”.

About the author; Elias Amash is the President of GRIP.   Located just south of Grand Rapids, Michigan, GRIP features a 200,000 sq. ft. state of the art warehouse facility including a 2,000 sq. ft. product showroom. GRIP carries a product line of over 1,500 specialty hand tools, household items, automotive, air tools, wood working, and general merchandise. With its proven track record of excellence in supplying retail clients with innovative products, timely fulfillment, and world class customer support, the ideal solution to your retail needs in GRIP.


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