I have observed that there are two distinct kinds of businesses. The first type seems to go out of their way to make shopping a problem. Whatever you want they don’t have, but they can order it in. The staff are disinterested, the layout is worn and uninviting, the business may smell old and musty, even if it isn’t that old, and every time you leave that business you are dissatisfied.
The second type of business is fresh and energetic, whatever you ask for they have, finding the product that you want is easy and the staff are friendly and enthusiastic, all the time.
These two types of businesses are both very common. Clearly the second is far more inviting and there is a much greater chance that you will return.
I recently went into an electronics shop to buy a power adaptor for a computer attachment. All I wanted was to walk in, buy the product and walk out. Instead what unfolded was my nightmare. The business I chose to visit markets itself as having absolutely everything electronic. Upon asking the bored looking young man behind the counter if they had the relevant power pack he simply said no and went back to his newspaper. I found this incredibly irritating so I stood there waiting for him to get the message. After a few minutes, he looked up again and asked if there was anything else that I wanted. I repeated my request and he called out for the techno wizard hiding out back to come and sort me out (his exact words were “there’s some guy here who wants something and I don’t know what he’s talking about”, smooth, very smooth).
The wizard came out and whilst he was polite enough, the situation that unfolded was hilarious. He started giving me electronic kits that I could “easily” assemble at home. All I wanted was a plug in power pack but now I was standing in this store with my arms full of electronic gizmo’s, soldering irons, instruction books and stuff that I am sure was developed by NASA. I burst out laughing and said to the guy that he had to be joking. Then he proceeded to lecture me about how simple it was to put this together and surely I would have the ability to do a “simple” project like this.
For those who know me, if I need a light globe changed I call in an electrician – believe me it is safer for everyone this way. The ongoing irony in this situation refuelled my laughter and of course, the wizard assumed that I had gone insane. Instead I put everything on the counter and walked out and up the road to another business that sold me a power pack for $29.95, with the whole transaction lasting less than a minute. The really dumb part on my behalf is that I had been into the first electronics shop a number of times before with a similar outcome, but I persevered because I simply could not accept that they could keep getting it so wrong time and time again.
You may be able to relate to this story and have your own examples. Understanding your customers and knowing what they need is the essence of customer service. Clearly you are not going to be able to provide the exact product for every customer that comes in your door but you should be able to provide the right products for the majority of them.
Further to this you need to be big enough to help the customer to find the right product, even if you can’t sell it to them. Try to point them in the right direction, make a quick call or give them the telephone number of the business that might be able to help them, even it is the opposition. By doing this you have still offered good customer service even though you didn’t make a sale. The customer will remember your help.