This is the time of year when we think a lot about being grateful. As someone who works with people every day, I often think about customer service and how much of it makes an impact on our business and ourselves.
It’s easy to take your customers for granted when your shop is booked out several weeks in advance – or if you’re the only game in town. Sooner or later, another business like yours is going to spring up nearby. Are you ready? If all things are equal…
…what do you do to set yourself apart? When your clients have coffee with their friends do they say, “They aren’t that great, but they’re so close to my house…” OR “I have to drive out of my way to get there, BUT IT’S WORTH IT.”
I’ve been to many businesses, large and small, corporate and home-grown, where the service has been so great that I was already making plans to come back before I even left the store. And it wasn’t even that they did something over the top for me – you know the stories:
- The guy who wanted a lemonade with lunch but the restaurant didn’t have it, so a server ran to the store next door and bought one for him.
- The store clerk who gave out the wrong change and walked to the customer’s house to correct the situation. (Yes, that WAS Abraham Lincoln.)
I’m not only a customer service provider, I’m also a customer.
I always think about both sides of each business transaction when I’m eating in a restaurant or picking out new pens at the office supply store. I expect to be noticed when I enter a business establishment, be treated fairly by someone who doesn’t treat me like an interruption, and helped to get what I need in the most efficient manner possible so I can get on with my day.
While the stories above are nice, I would never expect someone to go so out of his way that it makes the next customer in line wait (I’m not the only person in the store, nor am I more important than anyone else.) Or have the rest of the staff have to work extra hard to cover everything because one of their co-workers was being monopolized. I personally believe that when I enter a store as a customer, I am entitled to the services and products they provide. I do not believe I am entitled to receive a custom order every time I walk through the door.
With that being said, I do have standards and expectations for how I treat customers and for how I expect to be treated. When I feel I’ve received great service, it’s because:
- I was greeted with enthusiastic and authentic friendliness as soon as I walked through the door. Did they stand up and come to me instead of shouting across the lobby? Which makes you feel more welcome?
- They knew about their products and could help me find and choose the right one for my needs. I felt confident about my purchase.
- The business was clean, organized, well-lit, and smelled nice. ‘Nuff said.
- The employees were well-groomed, easily identifiable as staffers, and seemed to like their jobs. (I don’t expect business suits. I expect clean and neatly kept hair and beards, clean clothes appropriate for the business, and appropriate language being used.)
- There were enough employees to handle the workload. I don’t mind waiting, especially if they’ve acknowledged me. A quick smile and a look that says, “I see you – I’ll be with you as quickly as I can,” is enough. Ignore me – I’m gone, no matter how fast my money is burning a hole in my pocket.
- The parking lot, sidewalks, and exterior were neat, well-lit, and safe. Nothing fancy – just clean.
- My transactions were completed correctly and I was treated like a valued guest even as I walked through the door. Nothing gives you buyer’s remorse faster than staffers high-fiving and congratulating themselves on the sale before the door even closes behind you.
These are the basics, folks. We can go on and on about more possibilities and in greater detail, but the bottom line is this: great service is what brings people back. It should be the reason people come to your business, not the reason they don’t.
Remember, even if you are booked for an entire year in advance, there’s no excuse for taking your client for granted. Be thankful – this is the time of year when we think about this the most! After all, just because they have a recurring appointment in 6 weeks doesn’t mean they’ll keep it if you don’t treat them well.
Being busy does not excuse rudeness with clients – it’s not their fault that you don’t have enough people to handle the workload, even if it’s just for that afternoon. Your problems are not their problems – sharing your burden is not the service they were hoping you’d provide. Believe me when I say I understand about staffing budgets… sometimes you can’t afford to hire anyone – I’ve been there.
Do your best for each client.
And above all…
SMILE… and be thankful.
You just might find that you enjoy your day a little more.
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