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.