OTHER VOICES: Six cardinal rules of customer service
By Nancy Friedman, Special to Tire Business
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — It's a fact that the best weapon for a small business against the big companies is customer service.
It's that simple.
Customers will pay more for better service. So if you're a small business owner and you're looking for ways to improve, here are what I call the “cardinal rules” of customer service.
To get off on the right foot with your customers — whether you're a large or small retailer, whether your customers come to you via the phone or in person — try adapting these easy steps that will make your day, and more importantly, make the customer's day, a better experience for you and your company.
Cardinal Rule No. 1 – People Before Paperwork
When someone walks into your place of business, or calls you while you're working on something, drop everything for that person. Remember, paper can wait — people should not. We've all been abused when we've gone shopping and been ignored. We know how that feels. Let's not abuse our own customers. Remember: People before paperwork.
Cardinal Rule No. 2 – Rushing Threatens Customers
Sure, you may understand something really quickly, but rushing the customer along will only lead to them feeling intimidated — and then they likely won't want to come back again to your business. Take it easy. Remember, speed is not success. Trying to be “done” with a customer as quickly as possible is seen as being rude and uncaring. Take your time with each and every contact.
Cardinal Rule No. 3 – Company Jargon
Ever get a report from a company and not understand it? Some companies have jargon that barely makes sense to the average customer. Oftentimes, it simply intimidates them. Be very careful not to use your own company jargon on your customers. You and your employees may understand it very well, but the customer may not. You'll only cause a lot of unnecessary confusion. Keep it simple. It never hurts to explain in layman terms what a product or service you sell is, how it works, or how it will help a customer. Spell things out for your customers. Don't abbreviate. Remember, don't use “military language” on civilians.
Cardinal Rule No. 4 – Don't Be Too Busy To Be Nice
Hey, everyone's busy — that's what it's all about. But being busy does not give you carte blanche to be rude. Remember, you meet the same people coming down as you do going up. They'll remember you. (What's worse than being busy? NOT being busy.)
Cardinal Rule No. 5 – “Uh huh” is not ‘Thank You' — “There ya go” is not ‘You're Welcome'
How often do you hear these slang phrases? We need to remember that ‘Thank you' and ‘You're welcome' are beautiful words. The customer cannot hear them too often. However, if you're telling your customers to “have a nice day,” please say it with meaning! I had a checkout clerk tell the FLOOR to have a nice day. She wouldn't look up at me. Make eye contact when you're saying something nice. It's a way to bond with customers.
Cardinal Rule No. 6 – Be Friendly BEFORE You Know Who It Is
There's a good lesson to be learned here. My company's motto is: “SMILE BEFORE you know who it is.” It will earn you many classic customer service points. The customer needs to know you want to work with them, no matter who they are. Remember, sometimes it's way too late to smile and be friendly after you know who it is.
Try practicing one or all of these tips to help boost your customer service operation. You'll be glad you did.
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