07 December 2006

It’s all about RESPECT

Customers should always be treated with the utmost of respect. Unfortunately, poor customer service generally stems from a real lack of respect for customers. As a consumer I know that I am not stupid. I know that my partner, my friends and my business associates aren’t stupid either. In fact it is highly unlikely that there are a lot of stupid customers out there, yet, why do companies around the world still treat us as if we are stupid?

Treat your customers with the respect they deserve and your business will benefit enormously. Don’t get caught in the trap of looking at customers simply as numbers on a spreadsheet. Once again this is an area that I feel many larger organisations have started to flounder in. The individuality and needs of the customer are being lost amongst profit and loss statements and interestingly, I feel that the customers know this and they have had enough. A flashy advertisement and a few false promises doesn’t cut the grade anymore.

Respect is a powerful word. Respect your customer’s intelligence, respect their time and respect their decision to make a purchase from your business when they could have purchased the same item up the road.

What are the benefits to your business in offering outstanding customer service?
This is really simple. If you offer really good customer service, your customers will keep coming back to your business. They will tell their friends who will in turn visit your business and they will tell their friends. It is a very real cycle that results in a business attracting more and more customers simply by word of mouth. Having people recommend a business is a very good feeling that coincidentally, is very profitable.

Most small business owners and operators take a lot of pride in what they do. There is no better feeling than having a customer walk up to you and pile on the praise about what a great business you are running. For me this is the ultimate reward. For that reason I always take the time to offer congratulations to any business that I feel is offering outstanding service. For a business that offers poor service I simply don’t go back and what’s more I tell everyone that I know, not to go there.

So, the benefits to you in offering good customer service are that your business will grow by word of mouth (free) advertising, you will make more money and you and your staff will all walk a little taller because you have positive affirmation that you are good at what you do. Sounds pretty good to me.

What are the ten most common forms of lousy customer service?
This is a hard one to limit to only ten but I have listed what I have observed to be the most common customer service mistakes. The aim of including a list like this is to identify where most businesses go wrong and hopefully avoiding the same mistakes your self.

This list is based on my observations of where customer service can go wrong:

1. Keeping customers waiting.
2. Making promises and not delivering.
3. Treating customers like idiots.
4. Poor communication skills (lack of ability to talk to customers).
5. Poor sales skills (can’t make a recommendation).
6. Inconsistent service (good one day bad the next).
7. Making it difficult for customers to buy products.
8. Poor complaint resolution skills.
9. Not saying “thank you” at the end of the sale.
10. Not following up on a sale.

You will note that quite a few of the points listed above refer to sales ability and there is a good reason for this. Customer service is all about meeting and where possible exceeding your customer’s expectations. Poor selling skills make the whole process so much harder and in fact, customer service suffers dramatically in businesses where the staff are not well trained in the art of selling.

So the bottom line really is simple. Treat your customers with respect, deliver what you promise and avoid the most common forms of lousy customer service and your business will be well on the way to prospering.

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