At some point, every manager will have to deal with a customer complaint or negative review. No system is perfect, and pleasing a population with increasingly individualized tastes tends to create speed bumps. As difficult as it may seem, responding to customer complaints is extremely important. It does not matter whether you run a restaurant or a construction firm; if the people who help you pay the bills are not happy, you run the risk of losing a customer.
Decide Whether to Respond
By and large, you will be responding to most negative reviews. There are some exceptions which make it acceptable not to respond or to delay a response.
- Your emotions: As a manager, it is your responsibility to remain calm and mop up messy situations. As a human being, you may find this is not always possible. Angry customers will say rude things and possibly even yell. You must be mentally prepared for this to happen. If you are having a considerably bad day or are upset about the complaint itself, it is best to delay responding or have another, calmer, staff member respond for you. Turning a complaint into an argument is a lose-lose situation.
- Debbie Downer: This is an expression about someone who always finds the negative side of things and focuses on them. Some people complain simply because that is the way they communicate the majority of the time. Responding to these people can lead to disaster, as they are truly just looking to argue and have no real problem with your staff, product, or service. You should still provide customer service to these people, but do not plan on going above and beyond. It is important to note that these customers comprise the minority of the population. Do not be too liberal in defining customers as fitting into this group simply because you do not want to deal with a complaint.
Tips for Responding to Customer Complaints
- Listen: The number-one thing that you must do is listen to your customers or clients. Let them speak their entire mind without interruption. Do not interject until they have finished talking. This lets them know that you want to get to the bottom of the problem, and it gives you an idea of exactly what the issue is.
- Stay level headed: Even when customers are yelling, they are not yelling at you. You represent the company that has displeased them. Do not allow yourself to get into the mindset that they are personally attacking you; it takes away your ability to communicate effectively.
- Repeat the issue: Once you have calmly listened to your customer, you must show that you understand the specific problem. Restate what you see as being the specific issue, and let them know that it is not acceptable (assuming there is a real issue; there normally is).
- Make it up to them: You must resolve the issue to satisfy your customer. How you go about doing this often determines whether you retain the customer or not. It might be as simple as replacing a meal or defective product. It might be as (financially) painful as reducing a bill/invoice for a set period. Regardless, you must make up for what went wrong and do what it takes to keep the customer.
- Be equitable: The customer might not always be with you here, but your resolution must fit the issue. A less than optimal experience at a restaurant does not necessarily mean that you are giving up a $100 gift card. Stress to the customer that you want to equitably fix the mistake, but remember to be polite.
Not very many people wake up in the morning and hope to have to diffuse a situation with an angry customer. Unfortunately every manger will have to do it at some point in time. One way to reduce complaints is to employ well trained staff who can deal with your customers successfully. That is one of the major criteria we use when hiring temps who will work directly with the public. If you need to save some time on the hiring process, drop us a line.
The term human resources was coined because that is exactly what your staff are: valuable resources that make your business work. Without people, most businesses would be filing for bankruptcy in no time. Effectively managing staff is one of the most important parts of any business model. Taking some tips on managing staff and personalities is a great way to improve your business with little or no financial investment.
Tips for Managing Staff
Your staff is comprised of different people, with different personalities who all share a goal when they come to work. The goal is to make your business as profitable as it can possibly be. By giving your employees the right tools, direction, and encouragement, you can make sure that you staff focuses as a team on the things that are important to your business.
- Be clear: Staff members need to know exactly what is expected of them when they come to work. They need to know “big picture” things like the overall goal of your business, any short-term goals or schedules, and more individualized information such as a well defined job description. Be straightforward and specific in your communications, so that individuals know what is expected of them and how they fit into the bigger picture.
- Be open: When a problem arises, it is usually a member of the staff, not the management team, who finds out about it first. An open communication policy will make it easier for your staff to report the issue so it can be solved. It will also make it easier for employees to voice complaints that might improve the atmosphere and company culture or suggestions that can save time and money. The ability to take criticism constructively and to work through trouble with a level head are vital to an open communication policy. If your staff do not feel that they can talk to you, they probably won’t.
- Allow autonomy: Certainly you will have policies and structures that everyone on your staff must follow in order for business to be done smoothly. It does not matter if you need staff for a construction project or a catering company, this fact holds true. But whenever possible, it is best to let staff take control of their work and choose ways to do it that best suit their preferences. For instance, every dish washer must follow sanitation standards, but if you micromanage to the point that you are telling them which angle to spray the dishes from, you are too involved. Let people have some freedom in their efforts, and it will pay off.
- Point out the positive: Do not hesitate to tell a staff member who has done well that you are pleased with his work. People need to know that they are appreciated; this is just as true for management as it is for labor. Remember that people work for you, not just nameless employees, and that people respond well to encouragement.
- Train, train, train: Training can be expensive and seem like a waste of time, but it is vital. Without proper training, staff will not be aware of the nuances of your business. This will become glaringly obvious when you review negative customer feedback–and it will be no one’s fault but your own.
Managing staff is one of those things that sounds easier than it is. You have clearly defined business needs, taken in combination with different personalities and personal values. All of these things must work together towards the highest possible profit margin you can achieve. We practice what we preach here at Labor Systems and are open, honest and encouraging with our administrative staff as well as our temps. We would be happy to go over the options you have at your disposal when it comes to temporary staffing in Arizona. We have offices throughout the state, making one stop shopping possible for your staffing needs in Phoenix, Bullhead City, and Apache Junction, among our other locations.
10 Ways to Manage Creative Personalities; Bright Hub
As business people, we must constantly be concerned about the economy. We must take reports from activity in the recent past and combine it with projections for the future, stir in a grain of salt, and use the product to help shape our decision making. To make sure that we are all as informed as possible, we want to dedicate this week’s blog post to an update on the state of the economy.
The National Economic Outlook
On a national scale, things seem to be coming together very well from an economic standpoint. The National Association for Business Economics released some figures from a survey that polled economists and business people throughout our nation. The results predict that gross domestic product (the sum of the value of all products and services produced within a nation’s borders within a given year) will increase 3.3% this year versus 2010. While that seems like a small figure, realize that it represents billions of dollars that will be produced by business people and distributed out via payroll and taxes before the cycle starts over again. Let’s review some of the recent events and possible future happenings that will fuel this growth in GDP.
- Last month service industries throughout the U.S. expanded at the fastest rate since 2005!
- Retailers such as J.C. Penney and Macy’s experienced same-store sales growth in February 2011, which beat out most analysts’ predictions for those sectors of retail merchants. This indicates increased consumer confidence and disposable income, which is good regardless of which products/services you sell.
- Growth in labor markets was evidenced by both fewer unemployment claims and projections showing growth in employer payrolls.
- Local Tempe, Arizona-based supply management association ISM reported that manufacturing in February 2011 grew at the most rapid pace that it has since May of 2004.
Economic Outlook Here in the Grand Canyon State
For business owners and managers in Flagstaff and Tucson, we are primarily concerned with the local economic outlook. Obviously the national news gives us reason to be optimistic, but local factors will affect our bottom lines first. Some recent legislation from our state legislature and governor will bring some very business-friendly changes.
- Beginning in 2014, the corporate tax rate (state tax not federal) will begin to be reduced over a three-year period, until it is 5%. This change from the current 7% rate means that a substantial amount of your profits will stay in your possession.
- Industrial and commercial property taxes are set to drop a touch. The current assessment ratio (a figure combined with the face-value appraisal of a property to determine tax rate) of 20% will decrease to 18% between 2013 and 2017, saving property owners on taxes and possibly giving business owners more leeway to negotiate reduced rent.
- Some tax relief is also on the way for some Arizona-based manufacturers. Right now you pay a higher tax rate if you manufacture a product in Arizona but sell it in another state. Over the next few years, this taxation penalty will be reduced (not entirely yet still reduced), making life a bit easier for those who make the products that people need.
With a brighter national and state outlook, it appears that there are promising things in store for the Arizona business community. We are in the beginning stages of a period of growth, according to all sides. With growth comes the need for additional staff to fill your orders and please your customers. The recent economic conditions have taught us to err on the side of caution. The best way to do that from an employment standpoint is to hire slowly and use temporary labor. This gives you a chance to ensure that you really do need new staff and even try out new employees before you hire them.
Before you bring on a new staff member, you want to know as much as possible about the candidate. Past experiences, not solely work experiences, have a profound effect on who prospects are and how they will perform their role in your business. An interview or two can give you a good idea of who a candidate is, but many employers want to know a little more. Are there any important details that the applicant might have left out of the interview or their resume? A background check can be a great way to find out and verify that the person you are considering is on the up and up. You don’t necessarily have to eliminate candidates based upon what you find, but you do want to know as much as possible before you offer them a position.
What to Look For
You can use an independent supplier to collect background information on your candidates and supply you with a total picture, or you can look for individual pieces of information on your own. Deciding what you want to know in advance will help you decide whether to look yourself or hire a company to conduct your background checks.
- Credit scores: Some employers do in fact look up the credit scores of the applicants. This can tell you a little about their ability to handle finances and let you see what they have been up to. If you collect this data, you must have the applicants’ written permission in advance. Also keep in mind that if you use your findings to make a hiring decision, you must share the report with the applicant and explain how it led you to your decision.
- Criminal background checks: This is the most popular form of background check for employers. You may still hire someone with a criminal record, but for the integrity of your hiring process and the safety of your staff you want to know whether an applicant has been into trouble with the law and to what extent. Criminal history is generally a public record. Here in Arizona, employers and candidates can request both a background check and a fingerprint clearance card (for positions that require considerable security) from the Arizona Department of Public Safety. This includes only crimes committed in Arizona, so be sure to have a national criminal background check performed if you want a full picture.
- Medical records: You might be tempted to look into these, but be advised that federal regulations state that you can ask only whether a candidate can reasonably perform required job functions and cannot ask for medical records. In general it is best to avoid the potential liability—yes you can be sued by someone you do not hire—that is associated with asking for this type of information.
- Military or school records: If an applicant says he went to a particular university or has military experience, this might set the applicant apart from the pack. You will want to find out for sure, but know in advance that you will need to request transcripts from the applicants themselves. Let them know why you want the information and consider having them sign a document that states in legal terms how the information will be used and that they consent to your having it. Most often you cannot get much more information than name, rank/major and other general pieces of information from the military or a particular school. If you want information on GPA, commendations, or anything like that you will need your applicant to provide it.
With any and all information you collect via a background check you must consider privacy issues This is sensitive information and if it is leaked, even internally, you as the employer can end up in hot water. Make sure that background check information is limited to “need to know” personnel and never the subject of conversation outside of these circles. Background checks are common parts of the hiring process. They can be time consuming and usually have little to do with your core business functions. If you want to save time and alleviate the trouble associated with background checks or other compliance issues pertinent to hiring, we would be happy to help. Labor Systems Job Center can supply employees on a part time, temporary or direct hire basis and as always you can try out a staff member before making a firm decision.
People who occupy their time running a business know that sometimes—and by sometimes we mean all the time—your employees will be partially consumed by the subject of compensation. After all, compensation is the quantitative expression of the employer-employee relationship. To make sure that you are in compliance with both the United States Department of Labor and the Industrial Commission of Arizona, we will cover some of the finer points of compensation.
- Pay schedule: Obviously you have to pay your staff, but legally you are required to keep some form of a payment schedule. You must pay at least twice a month and your pay periods cannot be separated by more than sixteen days. You can, of course, pay weekly if you prefer. Many wage employees seem to prefer frequent paydays. We even make pay available daily to our temporary workers.
- Amount of pay: We all know that we must pay at least minimum wage, which has been set at $7.35 per hour since January 1, 2011. We must also pay overtime to any employee who works more than forty hours per week. As soon as their workload hits forty hours, you must pay time and a half. This is a federal guideline, not one from the state of Arizona, which does have exceptions. By and large the exceptions apply to sales people and other professionals. Hospitality employees, construction workers and manufacturing staff are all due overtime pay. You cannot make an arrangement in advance with the employee that allows you to omit overtime pay or use any other form of compensation outside of wages paid on a paycheck. If overtime is a necessity for your business but seems to be affecting your bottom line, we would be happy to help.
- No holding wages- In most cases you cannot withhold an employee’s wages from them. This also means that you must pay employees who quit, under any circumstances, the full amount for their time worked. The only exceptions involve:
- The employer being bound to withhold wages by state or federal law
- The employer having the employee’s written permission in advance
- The employer has a “reasonable good faith dispute as to the amount of the wages, including the amount of any counterclaim, reimbursement, recoupment or set-off asserted by the employer.”
If you fail to comply with regulations associated with compensation, you may end up in trouble. You can be reported to the State Labor Department for violations. If you are reported, the department will perform an investigation, which will include looking into your compensation policies and practices. If they feel that you are out of compliance, they will request that you get caught back up in a reasonable amount of time. If you fail to do this, they will exact other punishments including fines.
It is important to keep in mind that sometimes State and Federal laws differ when it comes to compensation law. For instance, in California and Nevada overtime is paid to employees who work more than eight hours per day as opposed to more than forty hours in a given week. The regulations described here are pertinent to the State of Arizona. Taking the time to brush up on employment law in your state is a necessary part of running a business.
Large orders require manufacturers to work their staff more; busy season means restaurateurs need more man hours worked; and deadlines can do the same thing to the construction industry. If you would like to avoid the possibility of being fined or subject to oversight, then temporary employees might just be the answer to your troubles.
As an employer, you probably receive cold calls and walk-in visits from insurance salespeople on a regular basis. When they show up at inopportune times, you likely shoo them away so as to focus on the task at hand. Do you ever find yourself wanting to know a little bit more about insurance later? Most of us do, so today we are going to cover some of the types of insurance that an employer can offer their employees in Arizona and delve into the finer points of some of the health-related coverage options.
Types of Insurance
There are many types of insurance that you can offer.
- Employer-sponsored disability insurance: Covering staff for the potential that they become disabled via an accident, disease or other occurrence is one option for employers here in Arizona. While employees can take out disability policies on their own, this option is offered by you, the employer, and generally costs the employee less than more independent options. You will foot some of the bill yourself, but making this a part of your overall insurance benefits package means that employees who become disabled will be paid a portion of their salary to help them get by. Employees have less wiggle room when it comes to suing the insurance carrier as compared to independent forms of disability insurance, but the difference can arguably be made up in financial savings.
- Workers’ compensation: This type of coverage kicks in when an employee is injured on the job or as a result of something they encountered at the workplace. You are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance as an employer. For a full report on this type of insurance, refer to our blog specifically on the topic.
- Health insurance: This type of insurance can come in many forms. In fact, disability insurance is considered to be one form of health insurance, as many policies will cover medical care related to the disability in question. There are different kinds of policies, from Preferred Provider Organizations (PPO) to Health Care Services Organization (HCSO). Going over the different types requires several blog entries. For now we will reinforce that employer-provided health insurance generally costs both the employer and the employee on a monthly basis and covers medical expenses to varying extents, depending upon insurance provider and policy type. Some of the things that you might not think to be coverage requirements include the following:
- If your policies include diabetes care, then they must include coverage for necessary equipment, from syringes to the insulin itself.
- All policies must cover mammograms for female employees of required age.
- If you policy provides maternity benefits, these benefits must be offered to the natural mother of an employee’s adopted child for one year after the birth of the adopted child.
- All policies must cover screenings in an emergency room, as well as ambulance transports to the emergency room.
- All policies that cover prescription medications must also cover FDA-approved contraceptive drugs and/or devices.
Combing through health-related insurance policies is best done with a qualified and valid insurance salesperson. The state of Arizona does warn that individual consumers as well as employers looking to purchase group policies should be aware of insurance scams and fake insurers. For more information on avoiding dishonest insurers, visit the Arizona Department of Insurance for some sound advice. If you do not have time to devote to insurance but are in need of staff at a moment’s notice, then finding out more about the services offered by Labor Systems Job Center can get you the staff you are looking for without any hassle.
Running a business requires organization maintenance. One important but easily overlooked factor within any work environment is cleaning. No, not tidying up the books, but actually cleaning the areas where you and your staff get your job done. For businesses in the restaurant industry, health standards dictate that cleaning must be done daily, but who should be doing it?
Basically, you have two choices: your staff or an outside contractor. To many, having staff members clean the workplace seems like a no brainer. Workers can devote what seems like a little bit of their time to tidying up, or outright scrubbing (depending upon your workplace), and money can be saved on a cleaning service. You know who to go to in the event that something is not cleaned to your standards, and you can avoid the fees charged by a cleaning service or staffing company. But have you really fully evaluated the costs versus the benefits of hiring a cleaning service? Tracking their charges is easy: you look at the bottom of the invoice. But can you track what you lose when you assign your staff to clean your space?
Outsourcing Is a Good Idea
Even if you break up the responsibility of cleaning an office or restaurant kitchen among multiple staff members, you might be losing out. If your staff is scrubbing a floor or cleaning a bathroom, they aren’t calling on customers, making sure paperwork gets filed correctly, or even getting extra prep work done for the busy weekend you have coming up. This means you are either not getting your core tasks completed or risking paying overtime so your staff can finish both their jobs and the cleaning.
Additionally, you might be hurting morale. People who apply to work in one position do not want to be told that they are also the cleaning crew. Even in the restaurant industry where getting your hands dirty is expected, cleaning bathrooms is not. Making staff break from their core job functions and clean will cause some employees to feel degraded, even bitter. Once this happens, you can expect a shoddy cleaning job followed by some poorly performed core job functions. All of these negative factors can be avoided by contacting a cleaning service or better yet, a competent staffing company that can provide staff to clean on a scheduled basis.
If you outsource the cleaning, you help your business stay focused. When employees have to work in several different aspects of the business, they tend to produce less quality work. It is not because they are lazy or do not care, but if a person has to shift focuses multiple times per day, it becomes hard to get into a groove and concentrate on being successful. You might be losing out on some creative ideas and extra attention to detail if you decide to have your staff come off task at certain times of the week in order to clean.
This argument works for literally every industry. It is better to have employees focused on a particular set of tasks. Cooks should worry about cooking and maintaining a clean workstation, and mail room clerks should be on top of properly distributing mail and delivering messages. It might seem like a good idea to reassign a lower-level employee to cleaning, but in the end it is almost always a bad one. Once you realize how cost effective outsourcing can be, especially in combination with better morale and productivity of your core staff, you will see that it is actually an investment that pays out.
Thinking about hiring a couple of high school kids to fill some part-time positions for you? For some businesses that makes sense; some positions that need to be filled carry a relatively low level of responsibility and autonomy. These positions also only need to be filled part time and might even warrant slightly lower wages than some of your more technical positions. This position might be a hostess or a busser at a restaurant or even someone who hands out fliers for an income tax operation that is about to see an influx of business. A minor might make sense for your open position. If so, you must be aware of some of the child labor laws that we are subject to here in Arizona.
Child labor represents one of the few areas of employment regulation that is subject to oversight from both the federal government and the Industrial Commission of Arizona (they do a lot of the work here in Arizona that OSHA does from a federal standpoint in other states). The Industrial Commission states that businesses are subject to two separate sets of laws. If these laws ever conflict, you must follow the stricter law. If one entity has a law or restriction pertinent to a particular topic but the other does not, then you must follow the guidelines of the agency that has the law. Basically it goes like this: if the Fed says that minors cannot work before 7:00 am (which they do for minors under 16) and the state says they cannot work before 6:00 am (which Arizona does), then you must follow the federal law because it is stricter than the state law. If the Fed didn’t restrict the hours that minors can work, but the state did, then you would be bound to follow the state law and would not be able to legally defend yourself by citing a lack of federal guidelines.
Facts You Need to Know
- Youth under 16 years of age cannot work more than 3 hours on a school day—if they are enrolled in school—while school is in session, or more than 8 hours per day on a non-school day. If they are enrolled in school, they cannot work more than 18 hours per week when school is in session.
- Youth under 16 years of age cannot work before 6:00 am or after 9:30 pm if they have school the next day. If they do not have school the next day, they are not permitted to work after 11:00 pm. Youth who are not enrolled in school cannot work before 6:00 am or after 11:00 pm.
- No youth under 16 can ever work more than 8 hours per day or 40 hours per week.
- Generally positions that require driving are not suitable for minors by law. The exception is that 16- and 17-year-olds can drive up to 2 hours per day or 25% of their shift (whichever is shorter), but cannot drive large vehicles.
- Youth cannot operate heavy machinery. There are a couple of exemptions, but it is advisable to think about your liability before ever considering actually doing this. This means that in most cases, manufacturing and construction position are not suitable for minors. Other restrictions speak specifically to youth not being allowed to work in positions such as roofing and demolition.
- Parental permission is not needed in order to employ youth. Meanwhile parental permission, even in writing, does not allow you operate outside of regulations.
- You must verify the age of youth who are applying for a position with you. It is not considered age discrimination to ask youth their age. Age discrimination applies to 40- to 70-year-old applicants.
- You can, and will, be fined for violations of these labor laws that are brought to the attention of either regulating body. The state dictates that the maximum financial penalty that can be assessed is $1,000.00 per infraction. You can of course contest a fine as long as you do it within 20 days of issuance.
There are Some Loopholes
- If the minor is involved in or has completed a career education or vocational/technical training program recognized by the Department of Education pursuant to Title 15, Chapter 7, Article 5, the minor is exempt to some of the restrictions. Construction and manufacturing-based employers may be able to use this parameter when employing minors.
- You may also be able to work around regulation if the minor is in an apprenticeship program approved by the Bureau of Apprenticeship and Training. This might allow youth to work on a construction site in a limited capacity, and at the very least it helps to limit your liability.
Did that sound like a lot of rules? Compared to the actual set of regulations that is just the tip of the iceberg.
For more Federal guidelines click here to review more laws to make sure you are in compliance.
To brush up on Arizona’s additions, you can visit the Industrial Commission’s website.
If you would rather skip the headaches associated with all of these rules, contact Labor Systems Job Center and we will work with you to send over the right workers who will solve your staffing problems on a part-time or full-time basis. We can meet your needs throughout Arizona from Tucson to Kingman.
Workplace safety can be enhanced or undermined by a variety of factors. One such factor is employee substance use and abuse. In an ideal world, this topic would not be an issue, but let’s be honest: substance abuse is a factor in society that sometimes finds its way into the working world. As an employer, you must be on the lookout for anything that could cause your operations to be less efficient or that might lead to an accident. Substance abuse is closely tied with both of these negative outcomes, so it is important to consider the subject when organizing your business.
In Arizona, drug testing is not required by law–with the exception of a limited number of particular job descriptions. By and large drug testing in our state is at the discretion of the employer. According to state legislation drug testing can legally be used:
- To help screen an applicant before hiring
- To terminate a current employee who test positive for controlled substances
- To suspend an employee (with or without pay) who tests positive for controlled substances
If you plan to drug test your staff, there are some considerations that you need to make as an employer. You are responsible for certain things associated with the testing and could be held liable for privacy issues
Requirement to Consider
- Screening facility- You must select a drug screening facility that is approved by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the American College of Pathologists, or the Department of Health Services to ensure accurate testing by a facility that meets certain sanitation and scientific standards.
- Types of tests- You can require staff to undergo screenings that require samples of “urine, blood, breath, saliva, hair or other substances from the person being tested.” (Arizona State Legislature) The type of test used is at the employer’s discretion.
- Confirmation- If a candidate or employee does test positive for drugs or alcohol, you are required to have a second confirmation test performed to rule out the possibility of a false positive test. The confirmation test must be a different form of drug screening than the original test.
- Privacy- Regardless of the results of the screening, you cannot share them with anyone except for the employee/candidate; internal employees who are directly associated with the human resource or management functions directly concerning the screening results; or an outside arbitrator or judge who may be brought in to settle a dispute. Otherwise nobody–not internal employees or anyone else who might have an interest in the employee–is allowed to know the results of the test. If you go afoul of this point of law, expect to lose a lawsuit.
- Transparency- If you choose to screen employees you must be up front about your policies. Put it in writing in your employee manual and take other efforts to ensure that your staff is aware of your substance use/abuse policies. You must inform your staff of:
- Who can be tested
- How they will be tested with a description of the procedure
- Substances you test for
- Implications of a positive drug test (what actions you will take as an employer against staff who fail a drug test)
- A confidentiality statement
- The employee’s right to be provided with the results of the screening
- The consequences of refusing a test
This is a basic overview of the drug screening process in Arizona. These are statewide regulations, so an employer in Tempe is subject to the exact same laws as one in Flagstaff or Phoenix. If you would like a full listing of regulations feel free to consult with the Arizona State Legislature. If you would like reliable staff who can show up at a moment’s notice, consult Labor Systems Job Center online or call 877-522-7797. We will work with you to provide candidates who have been drug screened if that is your preference.
Your core offerings provide a foundation upon which you build your business. To really strengthen your business and bottom line, you must add in other elements that do not relate to your core functions. One of the most important of these elements is customer service. Often customer service is the difference between turning a one-time customer into a regular, or even retaining a long-standing client who is weighing his options or faced with budgeting decisions. The name of the customer service game is pleasing clients, leaving them smiling and thinking fondly of the relationship that you have built with them.
Even in today’s digital environment we still have an intrinsic need for human contact and relationships. This need is the basis of customer service and provides you with multiple means of building your business. Taking the time to get to know your customers and setting some standards within your business, from the management team all the way down to part-time staff, will allow you to build customer relationships that you can capitalize on. This is a necessary focus for any industry, regardless of whether you serve individual patrons at a restaurant or focus your efforts on business-to-business operations.
Factors to Consider
Customer service involves talking to your customers, making sure you solve their problems, planning for future opportunities to serve them, and finding ways to constantly improve your business. You need to consider the value of customer service when:
- Hiring staff- Your employees interact with your customers. You might be the best communicator in the world who leaves everyone you meet with a sense of fulfillment–but if the people who talk to your customers aren’t, then you have a problem. Without friendly and attentive waiters, most restaurants will fail before they can get off the ground, and customers expect to speak with a pleasant and accommodating administrative assistant when they call your office. Come see us if you need well-trained and friendly staff on a temporary basis or even if you need a permanent hire.
- Tip: A well-focused hiring process will bring you good employees. Improve customer service by reinforcing the company’s dedication to satisfying customers; allowing staff to attend seminars or internal training that focuses on customer relations; and giving employees enough autonomy to do whatever it takes to make an upset customer a smiling brand ambassador.
- Using a Head-on Approach- Face customer complaints and problems head on. Talk to the customers immediately to let them know you are addressing their concerns immediately. Then you must actually do it. The most humble apology along with great interaction that leaves the customer happy in the short term is worthless if you do not fix the problem.
- Tip: Collect feedback as often as possible. Doing it face to face allows you to address the issue right away and show customers that you want everything to be perfect for them. Feedback collected after the fact–via surveys, emails or the occasional angry phone call—is also useful. Follow up with customers as soon as possible and let them know that you intend to fix the problem. If you use written surveys, be sure to get contact information.
- Accepting calculated change- Some people are afraid of change, as it may alter the focus or mentality of your staff while taking time and money to retrain your employees. A calculated change, however, is beneficial because the end result is improvement. Anything that makes you better is worth taking the time and maintaining an open mind.
- Tip: Be on the lookout for problem areas within your customer service. If customers aren’t getting food fast enough at a restaurant, evaluate your operations from how quickly servers take and enter orders all the way down to how long it takes to expedite a plate. You know your business better than anyone, so identifying problems should be fairly simple. Once you have grouped several complaints into a problem area, think of the ways to fix it that will make customers the happiest. In these cases, the most cost effective way is not always the best way.
A customer-service oriented business can thrive even in harsh economic times. Yes, sound financial policies and putting out a great product must be addressed also, but customer service helps you to directly maintain your revenue stream. It doesn’t matter how innovative your products and services are if this stream dries up.