6. Start the Business

CUSTOMER SERVICE – Put in Support and Customers Service Systems

What is Customer Service?
Customer service is something that is perceived in the eye of the customer. This means you need to find out what your customers believe is excellent service and what they believe is bad service.

Customer service is how you treat people who buy your products and services. The perception to the customer will depend on the specific customer involved. Customer service is to do with giving the customer what they want, when they need it, and how they requested it. The objective is to make sure the customer is happy so they will return to your business and buy more goods and services in the future.

It is to do with showing your customer they are important so they feel valued and comfortable in having a relationship with your business.

What is Customer Service to do With?
Customer service can be:

  • Giving the customer what they want, when they need it, how they need it.
  • Making sure the customer is happy.
  • Making sure the customer returns for further purchases.
  • Greeting and looking after the customer in a friendly manner.
  • Ensuring a competitive advantage with your customer over your competitors.
  • Making sure you deliver a great product to your customer.
  • Giving a product or service at a discounted price.
  • Exceeding the expectations of your customer.

The 5 Basic Rules of Service
Here are the 5 basic rules:

  • Rule 1 - Put your customer first: A strong customer ethic should guide your business right from the start. Keep in mind that no matter whether you manufacture, grow, produce, distribute or sell you are “in service”.

  • Rule 2 – Stay close to your customers: Listen to your customers and put strategies in place to satisfy their requests. Know what’s on your customers mind - then your business will be able to satisfy them. Business owners need to realise that keeping their current customers happy is cheaper than attracting new customers.

  • Rule 3 – Pay attention to the details: Many business owners look for the special ingredient that makes their business stand out from their competitors. They offer coupons, home delivery, free coffee, special prizes, etc. to show their customers they want to please them. However, they miss the most important extra that customers are looking for - good service. This could mean greeting the customer by name and attending promptly to their queries.

  • Rule 4– Never take customers for granted: Customer service is enjoying resurgence. It is no longer the domain of wealthy businesses, or businesses with high exposure brand names. No business should take their customers from granted. The market is becoming a buyer’s market and to win you have to give customers what they want and not what you think they want. Provide courteous, friendly service to everyone in your store because you don’t know who will become a regular customer. If you want to keep your customers coming back for more, try and practise the “golden rule” - it makes good business sense.

  • Rule 5– Exceed expectation: Always try and exceed your customers’ expectations. If you make a promise to obtain a particular product for a customer within the next three days, see if you can do it in one day. If you promise a price for a product under $50, see if you can do it under $45. Try and exceed what you promise.

The Most Important Rule of All
The most important rule of all is to under-promise and over-deliver.

Make sure your customers believe they are important by going the extra mile, in certain cases. If your customer asks for a delivery date, give a date that allows some leeway, and deliver earlier if possible. If you are asked for a quote, give a quote that contains a reserve, allowing you to bring it in at a lower price.

It is a good promotional strategy to major customers by continually exceeding their expectations. Most businesses today over-promise and under-deliver. If you under-promise and over-deliver the resulting kudos will surprise you.

Develop a Customer Relations Policy
Creating a customer relations policy, instead of making it up as you go along, is important. Your policy is a guarantee to your customers that you will work to achieve their satisfaction. Your policy can state such things as a money-back guarantee, speedy service, prompt attention to complaints, promise of discounts, free delivery, etc.

Make sure all your staff members understand your business policy and that they stick to it at all times. It’s good to display your policy clearly on all your documentation so that your customers know what you stand for, and they also know what to expect if they don’t do their part.

Give Customers What They Want
If you don’t give customers what they want, there is no reason for them to continue coming to your business. Many business owners reduce prices to keep their customers happy, but they don’t appreciate that loyalty is a stronger incentive to remain a customer. Loyal customers will not be easily put off by a small shift in pricing by competitors. Customers are loyal because of good customer service and the relationship that has been established, which they care about.

If you don’t know what your customers expect, ask them. Once you receive feedback – do something about it. A simple questionnaire or a friendly chat with customers will tell you a lot about their expectations. You then need to inform your staff and put policies in place that will keep those customers happy and coming back for more.

Keep in Touch With Customers
Sometimes generating extra sales from your current customers requires a little homework on your part. Keep in touch with your customers by informing them about discounts or other services at your store. This may be by a telephone call, newsletter or an email. Customers feel valued, and even if they don’t purchase immediately, the customer care will produce future rewards.

It is also a good idea to find out which customers are extremely loyal and provide more incentives for them to stay loyal. Concentrate on keeping your loyal group happy because they will bring you good business.

What Customers Love the most
Here are some things customers find important:

  • Return telephone calls promptly.
  • Attend to their concerns quickly.
  • Always ask clients what you can do to help them.
  • Now and then send out appreciation notes to your better clients.
  • Send hand written notes for different occasions.
  • If appropriate, send birthday cards.
  • If you have a web site, create an area specifically for your customers.
  • Make sure your shop or offices are always well set out for the comfort of customers and clients.
  • Thank your customers for their business and ask them to come back again.
  • Set up a fax on demand or email system to respond quickly to any enquiries from customers.
  • Put a good message on your answer machine or voicemail system for those after-hours calls.
  • If you see something of interest in the newspaper or journal or magazine that may be important to a particular customer, send it to them with a small FYI note.

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