The Basics of Customer Service – Part I

by Peggy Elliott, Product & Training Manager

Let’s start with an old adage, “The Customer is Always Right”. Is this true 100% of the time? Not necessarily, but it’s still a good outlook to have when running a business. Usually, when you start a business, it’s because you believe you have found a product or service that is needed, but let’s face it, you also are looking for a way to make money and make a good life doing so.

Even if you have a product or service that is needed, you won’t succeed if you don’t have good customer service. If you truly put the customer first, you are well on your way to becoming a successful business owner and reaping the rewards that come from making your customers happy and putting money in your pocket at the same time. In this series, I’m going to start by sharing my thoughts at a very general level. I’ll continue the series, by providing more detail on ways you can give good service to your customers. (As I was proofreading this, I realized it seemed focused on the new business owner, it is indeed meant for established business owners as well.)

Note: This blog series is written from my own experiences, things I’ve learned by being the customer and by servicing customers.

Here’s a review of some of the basic things that can make a difference between you and that competitor down the street who, by the way, offers the same thing you do. Time to set yourself apart, so let’s begin….

1. First, know who the customer is. The person who gives you money for goods and services is not your only customer. Your customers’ customer is your customer too. Think beyond the paying face in front of your cash register. Also think of your employees as  your customers. This brings me to point #2.

2. Treat your employees like you want your customers to be treated. If your staff is unhappy, your customers will be too, guaranteed. A well-trained, happy staff will do wonders for your business. Make sure they know what your expectations are, from properly stocking the shelves, to assisting your customers while they shop, to ringing them up. Give them a perk once a week or once a month; bring them a coffee and pastry in the morning, take them to lunch when you have time, or order in lunch when it’s really busy. Your employees can make or break you. Treat them well and watch how well they treat your customers.

3. Keep hours that work for your customers. Whether you operate full-time or part-time, analyze what hours work for their schedules first, and if it doesn’t work for yours, figure out a way to make it work. This isn’t easy to do when you are a small business with only a few employees, but it’s important. You can lose sales to the competition by closing even an hour early. Some of my favorite places are closed on Sundays and Mondays, they provide a great product and customer service…but it’s still an inconvenience. Currently, they have no competition, but if another establishment popped up in the same vicinity with better hours and the equivalent value in terms of products and services, I’d be willing to give them a try.

4. Maintain a clean, organized storefront. Organized chaos has no place in your store. Even the messiest person doesn’t want to have to search through your store to find what they need. Their time is precious and I’m betting yours is too. I dreaded the repeated folding of shirts when I worked at a popular retail chain years ago, but I was just a kid in high school…now I get it. I also am not a fan of rummaging through racks or shelves of random items…unless I’m getting a really good deal…really good, so if you do have an area in your store like this…make the price worthwhile. Otherwise, create a display that will draw customers in, not turn them away. Make your shelves shine and your product will shine too.

5. Greet your customers immediately with a warm, genuine smile and a friendly hello, but don’t suffocate them. If you are hovering, you could make the customer feel uneasy or uncomfortable. Be ready to provide service, but give them space to peruse your store and look at what you have to offer. When they have made a decision, give them prompt service…make sure the transaction goes quickly and smoothly, and is friendly. Don’t forget to say thank you!
I cannot tell you how hovering store employees have made me feel uncomfortable and trapped. I have left many stores because of this…perhaps they are paid on commission instead of customer service.

Keep an eye out for part 2 of our series, “Training your Staff and Your Customers.”


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