Blog: march 4, 2015

Customer service

With the age of online marketing and purchasing, the art of customer service is slowly but surely disappearing.

Customer service is the one thing that small businesses can have over any business, even the large national chains.  Small businesses can’t out buy the large chains and more than likely it is easier to get to the chain store.  The only thing that the small business can do is to out service the chain.

When I was working for the regional drug chain USA Drug, we pride ourselves with our customer service.  We constantly advertised that our pharmacist were always available to talk to about the customers health needs.

But to make the ads work, we had to do more than just have lip service.  In our stores we had available mail ready sheets asking our customer certain questions about our customer service.  We also had an area that they could write anything that they wanted to write.

Our CEO would go through each one of the customer service brochures first thing every day.  Any complaints would be forward to the appropriate district manager to make right.  He would in turn contact the store to help follow up on the problem.  The customer would be contacted, by phone if the number was given and solve the problem.

Although every one of us dreaded getting the phone call about having a complaint, this effort allowed USA Drug to compete and even gain market share on the big boys like Walgreens.

There are 8 certain things that a business could do to increase customer service,

  1. Answer your phone.   If you have to leave, forward your phone to your mobile phone,    get an answering service or hire someone to answer it.  The key thing is that someone answers the phone not an answer machine.  People want to talk to people.
  2. Don’t make promises that you can’t keep. If you say that you are going to deliver something on Tuesday, DELIVER IT ON TUESDAY!  Reliability is key to good customer service.
  3. Listen to your customer.  Nothing is more frustrating than having to repeat yourself on what you expect someone to do.  Sometimes the best sales pitch is to let your customer talk and show them that you are listening by making the appropriate response, such as suggesting how to solve the problem.
  4. Deal with complaints.  Don’t shrug off the complaint by saying that you can’t please everyone all of the time.  I have always said that you can tell how good a company is by the way they handle their problems.  It is easy to handle things when things are going right.
  5. Be helpful, even if there is no immediate profit in it.  In our optical department at Ike's, Deep Discount Drug Stores the optometrist would offer free eyeglass adjustment.  This would be for anyone, even if they didn’t purchase their glasses from us.  This one effort was spread by word of mouth and brought customers into the optical department. We were able to show them the great styles of frames and the great discount that we had on fashion prescription eyewear. This was one of the ways that the department got off the ground without having to spend money.
  6. Train your staff.  You need to make customer service the culture of your business.  Teach everyone customer service, what is good customer service and what is bad customer service.  Make sure that your staff has enough information to make those small customer-pleasing decision.  What is worse than telling the customer, "I don’t know, but so and so will be back in a minute."
  7. Take the extra step. When someone asks where the deodorant is, don’t just say aisle 4.  Take them there.  It is even a good idea to wait and see if the customer has a question or needs something else.
  8. Throw in something extra.  It is always nice to get a surprise. Whether it is a coupon for a future discount, additional info about what was purchased, or just a nice smile and a grateful thanks.  Thank them using their name if possible (It is on their credit card or check). It is something by which the customer will remember you.
These are simple acts that don’t have to cost you a thing, but could reap great rewards.