Customer Service

Customer Service
The True Measure of Performance is in Results

Ways To Improve Your Customer Service

  1. Stay in contact with customers on a regular basis.
    Offer them a free newsletter subscription or something. Ask customers if they want to be updated by e-mail. After every sale, follow-up with the customer to see if they are satisfied with their purchase.

    a. Create a customer focus group. Invite ten to twenty of your most loyal customers to meet regularly. They will give you ideas and input on how to improve your customer service. You could pay them, take them out to dinner or give them free products.

    b. Make it easy for your customers to navigate on your web site. Have a “FAQ” page on your Web site to explain anything that might confuse your customers. Ask them to fill out an electronic survey to find out how make your web site more customer friendly.

    c. Resolve your customer’s complaints quickly and successfully. Answer all e-mail and phone calls within an hour. If possible, you the owner of the business, personally take care of the problem. This will show your customers you really care about them.

    d. Make it easy for your customers to contact you. Offer as many contact methods as possible. Allow customers to contact you by e-mail. Hyperlink your e-mail address so customers won’t have to type it. Offer toll free numbers for phone and fax contacts.

    e. Make sure employees know and use your customer service policy. Give your employees bonuses or incentives to practice excellent customer service. Tell employees to be flexible with each individual customer, each one has different concerns, needs and wants.

    f. Give your customers more than they expect. Send thank you gifts to lifetime customers. E-mail them online greeting cards on holidays or birthdays. Award bonuses to your customers who make a big purchase.

    g. Always be polite to your customers. Use the words your welcome, please, and thank you. Be polite to your customers even if they are being irate with you. Always apologize to your customers should you make a mistake. Admit your mistakes quickly and make it up to them in a big way.

    h. Reward customers a point for every one dollar they spend. Let’s say customers can get a “something” for 300 points. That means customers will spend $300 dollars on your products and services to get enough points to get that free “something”.

    i. Build strong relationships with your customers. Invite them to company meetings, luncheons, workshops or seminars. Create special events for your customers like parties, barbecue’s, dances etc. This will make them feel important when you include them in regular business operations and special events.

  2. Set up a sales incentive program.

Give your sales staff a reason to get out there and sell, sell, sell. Why do so many businesses that rely on their sales staff to drive sales have incentive programs in place? Because offering their sales staff the trips and/or movie tickets for $x amount of sales works, make your sales incentive program “sweet and simple and attainable”.

  1. Encourage your sales staff to up-sell.

Essentially, up-selling involves adding related products and/or services to your line and making it convenient and necessary for customer to buy them. Just placing more products near your usual products isn’t going to increase your sales much. To up-sell successfully, the customer has to be persuaded of the benefit. For instance, when wife last had the carpets cleaned, the cleaner noticed a small stain. Instead of just cleaning it up, he drew her attention to it, and showed her how easily and effectively the spot cleaning solution removed all trace of the stain. Did she buy the spot cleaning solution? You bet. He persuaded her that buying it was beneficial and made it convenient to purchase it. Result: increased sales for the carpet cleaning company.

  1. Give your customers the inside scoop.

Example: a customer was shopping at a retail house-wares store. The customer had picked out an item and was mulling over whether to buy it or not when a salesperson came up and said, “I see you’re interested in that juicer. We’re having a sale next week and all our juicers will be 20 percent off. You might want to come back then.” Guess what? The customer did – and bought two other items as well. Lesson: if you have a promotion or sale coming up, tell your customers about it. They’ll come back – and probably bring some friends with them too. (And don’t forget – you can give your customers the inside scoop by emailing or calling them, too.)

  1. Tier your customers.

There should be a clear and obvious difference between regular customers and other customers – a difference that your regular customers perceive as showing that you value them. How can you expect customer loyalty if all customers are treated as “someone off the street”? There are all kinds of ways that you can show your regular customers that you value them, from small things such as greeting them by name through larger benefits such as giving regulars extended credit or discounts.

  1. Set up a customer rewards program.

We’re all familiar with the customer rewards programs that so many large businesses have in place. But there’s no reason that a small business can’t have a customer rewards program, too. It can be as simple as a discount or a card on a customer’s birthday or as complex as a points system that earns various rewards such as discounts on merchandise. Done right, rewards programs can really help build customer loyalty and increase sales.

  1. Distribute free samples to customers.

Why do so many businesses include free samples of other products when you buy something from them? Because it can increase sales in so many ways. As the customer who bought the original product, might try and like the sample of the new product and buy some of it, too. Or they may pass on the sample to someone else, who might try the product, like it, and buy that and other products from the company. At the very least, the original customer will be thinking warm thoughts about your company, and hopefully telling other people about your products.

Attracting new customers is a good thing. But attracting new customers is not the only way to increase your sales, and is, in fact, the hard way of going about it. Shifting your sales focus to enticing your current customers can make increasing your sales easier – and best of all, build the customer loyalty that results in repeat sales.

Improving Customer Service

Whichever business you are in, you are likely to be in close competition for the dollar in your customer’s pocket. You may frequently ask yourself what it is that makes a customer choose you over the competition and you may believe that you know the answer. However confident you are, improving customer service should be a daily topic for you and your people to ensure that you never stop learning how to be successful.

Success in business will have something to do with your advertising, your product, your pricing, your stock, your service and your people but the real measure of success in business is whether your customer would come back and do repeat business with you.

Each customer comes to you with a set of preconceptions developed over a lifetime. Studies tell us that they are looking for some fairly simple things; they don’t always expect to be delighted or excited.

  • they want to be acknowledged
  • they want what they are asking for
  • they want it quickly
  • they expect to pay for it

In face-to-face situation customers would quite like to be “acknowledged” within 60 seconds. You will notice that they don’t expect to be served and have left the premises in 60 seconds. All they want is “G’day”.

During an online purchase or a telephone purchase, customers now have an expectation that they will be recognised by the system if they have registered or have called previously. This is the type of recognition they are looking for.

Quality of Service
A useful definition of “Quality” in any business is where something “meets customer expectation”. So, if they are looking to buy something simple they might expect you to have it in stock. If they are looking for something complex they might expect that it needs to be ordered and they may need to wait. They might expect you to call them when it arrives and in some circumstances they might appreciate delivery

Speed of response
Time continues to be the scarce resource in our society. Your customers are no different from the rest of the population. When they shop for something specific, they quite like to be able to find it easily, try it on for size, test it out, discuss the specification or do whatever is appropriate before they buy. If you don’t respect your customer’s time and help them to feel good about their purchase with a sense of interest and urgency then don’t expect them to fill your bank account with money.

They want to pay you
How many retail stores have you been to where they are filled to the ceiling with stock but there is a real bottleneck when you try to hand over the cash? Either the check-outs are understaffed or the sales people are busy trying to sell extended warranties to increase their meager income. Yes, there may be some great economies being played out here but some customers really just want to pay and go.

Remember that even the best customer service examples in the world will only satisfy 8 out of 10 customers. They still have to work hard to find out how to better serve the 20% of customers who were less than satisfied with their service experience.

Understanding how to improve customer satisfaction can make a huge difference to your bottom line. Try these 10 tips, and you are more likely to see changes in your relationship with the public.

  1. Be honest with your client. If you can’t meet a requested deadline, tell your client before you take the order. While you may lose that one order, you are more likely to keep the customer over the long haul.
  2. Listen. Sometimes people just need to rant, even when they are wrong. Try to avoid taking this personally, and respond professionally.
  3. Don’t be part of the customer “run-around-refer-the-poor soul-to-someone-else” team. Be the one to get answers for your client, and get those answers in as timely a manner as possible.
  4. Develop a personal relationship with your customer. Treat your client as if he is a person, not a way to make money. This does not necessarily mean that you have to become “buddy-buddy.” It does mean that if your customer drops personal information such as the client’s birthday, where the customer is going on vacation or that a child is graduating from high school, you call back with “congratulations” or ask follow-up questions the next time that you speak. People like working with people who treat them as people.
  5. Keep your promises. Don’t agree to do anything that you can’t deliver.
  6. Be knowledgeable. Know the facts about your products or services. Understand company policies. In addition, know as much about your client’s business and needs as you can.
  7. Anticipate your client’s needs. Take the extra step, and be ahead of your customer.
  8. If you are wrong, apologise.
  9. Ask for feedback. Obviously, customers are going to want more quality at a lower price with speedier delivery. However, your clients may provide you with valuable information that you can use to improve the reputation of your business.
  10. Thank your clients for their business. After all, you do have competitors who would love to have your customers.

We all know that the reality is that customers are not always right. However, if you always treat your customers as if they are right, your client satisfaction factor will improve.

There are many ways any business can (and should) improve customer service. Here are couples that stand out and can be done without spending a ton of money.

  1. Make service a priority

This means your reason for being in business is to help your customers. So everything you do needs to be held up against this standard. Your actions decisions, policies and procedures need to show this. This creates a culture of service in your company. (Your customers know if you DON’T operate this way!)

  1. Use a daily reminder

Help employees deliver Amazing Customer Service every day by using a reminder. Maybe it’s a quote. Maybe it’s an example. Maybe it’s a standard or promise your company makes to your customers. Expose your people to a message of service every day. Keep it top of mind.

  1. Catch employees in the act of delivering Amazing Service

Watch your staff. When they do something Amazing with a customer, notice it. Thank them. Tell others. And encourage your other employees to do the same. Get customers involved too!

  1. Make it easy and convenient for customers to give you feedback

Create at least 5 different ways your customers can tell you how your company is doing. Feedback forms on your website, survey cards, and questions from employees. Ask your team to come up with new ways. And make sure your feedback answers these three questions:

-What do customers want from us?

-How are we doing?

-How can we improve?

These questions help your customers tell you what you need to know to improve your business. They are critical to continually improving your organization.

  1. Make it personal

Find ways to give your customers a personal experience when they do business with you. An easy way is to remember and recognize them. Our local coffee shop has thousands of customers. (One of only two locally owned shops in a city of 63,000). Every time I walk in someone greets me. The owners remember my name. They chat me up a little. And when I leave always yells or waves goodbye.

Improving customer service is not complicated. You do need to pay attention. But it’s something every organization can do and they can do it starting today.


  1. Step 1

Add people-loving people to your team. This may sound too simple, but employees who are outgoing and friendly tend to be nice to customers and empathetic concerning their problems. Intelligence and problem solving skills are a plus, too.

  1. Step 2

Offer periodic customer service training programs. These programs often provide role plays of various scenarios which mimic a range of customer interactions. Ongoing training like this will encourage customer-oriented behaviors and practices.

  1. Step 3

Give employees the authority to make some difficult decisions without you. Well defined customer service guidelines will provide a basis for this authority. When employees make good decisions you can congratulate them and, in turn, encourage further customer-oriented decision making.

  1. Step 4

Allow customers to give feedback. You can issue surveys or randomly call customers to get their opinions. Your customers will usually be glad to share this information. Be sure to act on any feedback that can show you how to improve customer service.

  1. Step 5

Catch your customers off guard. Pleasantly surprise your customers with a bonus an unexpected bonus product along with a thank you note. This simple step will give your customers a good experience and encourage future purchases.

Here are 12 easy and very simple ways to improve your customer service.

  1. Find out your customer’s birthday and incorporate a way to surprise them that also benefits your business.
  2. Have a trusted friend or advisor walk through your business and comment on anything they don’t love.
  3. Have a friend call your business with an enquiry while you listen on speakerphone.
  4. Learn to love complaints. Keep a log of any complaints and actually do something to ensure they don’t happen again.
  5. Systematically ask your customers what they like and don’t like about your business.
  6. Work out a way to give your clients a gift that costs you nothing, but gives them value. The easiest way is through a strategic alliance with another business that wants access to your clients, i.e. a photographer, coffee shop, restaurant, video rental store, home wares store, etc.
  7. Acknowledge every customer as soon as they walk in your door (even if you can’t see to them immediately – a smile costs nothing).
  8. And on that note… Smile. When you see customers. When you’re on the phone. When you’re in the street
  9. Make sure customers can identify who your staff are (uniform, name tag, groovy apron, funny hat).
  10. Clearly display your opening hours on your front window and website. There’s nothing more frustrating than standing outside a place of business clueless as to when it opens.
  11. Get back to emails promptly (set a minimum standard in your workplace and make sure everyone knows it).
  12. Send awesome Christmas cards that are personalised and let people know you actually took the time to think about THEM, not just about getting the cards done.
  1. Improve People Skills

To deliver Amazing Service, people skills count. So a fast and high return way to improve customer service is to find ways to improve your team’s people skills.

This might include bringing in a speaker or trainer. It could mean focusing on people skills topics at staff meetings. It could involved providing useful training content to employees in a variety of formats like audio CDs, online material, videos, books, blogs, articles and even newsletters and ezines that cover people skills topics.

  1. Make Service a Priority

The biggest reason employees sometimes fail to deliver great service is they feel they don’t have the time. They feel they are faced with competing priorities and they lean toward those perceived to be most important to management.

If you want your people to make service a priority, you have to show them you consider it a priority. You need to back up your words with actions and do it consistently. Ask your employees if your actions support your words when you tell them customers service is a priority. Then listen to what they tell you.

  1. Talk to Your Customers

The only way you can consistently give your customers what they want is if you know what they want. Many companies do not know what their customers want. So find ways to engage your customers in direct and open conversations. Make this a regular part of your business, not an annual survey. Make it personal and real. You’ll find your customers will tell you all you need to know to make them happy and loyal.

  1. Get Everyone Involved

The most successful companies use every resource they have to find solutions and address opportunities. Your employees and customers are your best resources. And they know best what customers want and what you can do for them. So get them involved in every aspect of planning and operating your company. The more engaged they are the more loyal they will be. Do this on an ongoing basis, not just once in awhile.

  1. Make it Easy & Convenient for Customers and Employees to Offer Feedback

The best management information comes from the point of experience, where your customers and employees do their thing. This is where your company lives yet it’s something too many managers never see or hear or feel. Capture this priceless information by creating easy and quick ways for your staff and customers to give you feedback. Then acknowledge the feedback you receive, appreciate it and do something with it or they’ll stop sending it your way. Feedback is priceless!

Pick one of these tips and implement it. Then another, then another. With each one, make sure you’re happy with the results before starting the next one. But don’t strive for perfection. Remember, improving customer service is a process, not an event. It’s about making ongoing change. Perfection can be the enemy of change. You’ll improve as you go so you don’t need to be perfect to keep moving forward.

In an economic drought, good customer service is digging for water. You have to work at it and be smart about it, but it doesn’t have to be difficult. Here are a few things you can do right now to improve your customer service.

  1. Listen to your customers

Listen to their complaints. Listen to their problems and their solutions. Listen to their successes and failures, their goals and plans, hopes and dreams; their boring and crazy stories. But don’t just be passive. Ask your customers to talk!

These are the people you need, and who need you. They are the lifeblood of your business, and they are your community. Get to know them, build relationships. Build trust. It starts with listening. Share their excitement, but be quick to root out and squash the causes of their frustrations.

  1. Listen to your colleagues
    The employee is every bit as important as the customer. An employee can make or break a sale; can gain the trust and loyalty of a customer, or lose it forever.

Listening does not just mean hearing sounds; it’s not passive. It means comprehending, it means dialogue. It means suppressing the ego, looking for the causes of problems, and solving them.

If you are a business owner, your staff represents YOU to your customers, but they also represent your customers to you. Better pay attention. If you work for someone, listen to your co-workers in the same way. This builds trust and shapes a cohesive unit, leading to better customer service.

  1. Be open to change
    Listening is good, because it allows excitement to be shared and also the burden of frustrations. But understanding the things you hear is one thing – acting on them is another. What created the excitement? Can we try to create more of this? What caused the frustration? How can we avoid more of this?

Change is hard. But it happens with or without you. Your customers and employees, both, will expect poor situations to be fixed. If it doesn’t happen they will no longer be yours.

  1. Follow through
    Do what you say you’re going to do. I absolutely hate it when people don’t follow through, all the more so because I’ve failed in this area so many times. But it’s as critical as it is fundamental; if you say you will provide a service, then do so. If you say “we provide quality customer service,” or “service you can depend on,” well dammit you’d better deliver.

The corollary to this, of course, is don’t tell me you’re going to do something if you don’t know for sure if you can. A little open communication goes a long way.

  1. Strive for consistency
    Say you go to a restaurant where you absolutely love the food, but are disappointed by poor quality. How likely are you to return? How likely are you to say to others, “yeah, this place is going downhill”?

Maintaining consistent quality of product or service is difficult. There are many variables, but remember you’re not in this alone. Your customers will tell you if you’re slipping, and so will your employees. Take care of points 1 and 2 and you’ll stand a much better chance of staying on top of this one. But also remember consistency has to apply to all the above points.

Good customer service takes unceasing effort. Maybe that’s why so many businesses don’t have it, or don’t have it consistently. But does any of this stuff work? Is it worth the effort? You bet it is.


Tips to improve coffee shop profits (but the principles are the same for most companies)

A popular coffee shop business was looking for some tips on improving retail profitability so I decided to add my comments here:

Menu / price strategy

  1. Eliminate low-margin items that do not support your company’s core businessof coffee sales, most often, food items that add traffic, but do not increase business profitability or promote coffee sales. On the contrary, these items usually project the image that your business does not specialize in coffee, which may weaken your brand image.
  2. Retool your menu to focus on the most profitable products sold.Always draw customer attention to the most profitable products sold by your company. Marginalize low-profit items and emphasize higher profit items on your menu boards, promotional signage and in other customer communications materials. Train your customers to order the beverages that most benefit your company.
  3. Raise prices to bolster your company’s brand image.Most independent businesses take the approach of undercutting the prices of local and national competition, which is a huge mistake. Prices communicate a perceived value of a product; if set too low, your customers assume that your beverages are not as good as your competition, even when your beverage quality may be superior.

Reduce flavoring inventory – Excess flavoring inventory ties up capital in your stock, requires valuable floor back room space for storage and slows the customer ordering process. Prune your flavor offering to the best performing 4-6 varieties, including sugar free offerings.

Prepaid gift card program – Prepaid gift cards not only provide your business with immediate cash-in-hand, but also reduce credit card transaction charges and draw new customers to the business. EVERY retailer should offer a prepaid gift card program, networked to all company locations and ideally, also valid for on-line purchases.

Discontinue coupons and discounts – the most valuable customer demographic of daily coffee consumers are not influenced by discount programs or coupons, only infrequent drinkers or “opportunists” are swayed by the chance to save $.50 on “Discount Tuesdays.” Focus instead on promotions that draw customers to your retail location rather than discounting products.

Control waste and theft – audit sales and inventory reports to evaluate ingredient waste due to inefficient preparation, returned drinks and employee consumption. Retail locations can easily waste 20% or more of their daily sales these three key categories, which is a substantial and unnecessary loss.

Evaluate hours of operation – There is no need to be open during business hours when there is regularly no customer traffic. If, for example, Sundays are traditionally slow days for your business, trim your hours of operation for that day or remain closed. Be certain that your lease allows you this flexibility prior to signing, as many shopping center leases require that a business remain open during scheduled hours.

Eliminate bottlenecks in the ordering process – There is nothing more frustrating for a brewed coffee drinker than to wait in a long line of “double-non-fat-vanilla-chai latte – wait, make that half-caf” customers. Create a separate ordering line or other mechanism for quick orders, such as drip coffee, grab & go food items or whole bean retail bags. Evaluate the ordering process to find opportunities to avoid duplication, speed payment and beverage delivery to get more business through your tills during peak times.

Position add-ons and promotions at the point of purchase – As with the menu tips above, be sure that your current sales promotions are visibly advertised at the point of sale. Be sure to promote add-on impulse items that support your company’s brand image (even those gift cards!) when your customer is standing with wallet in hand, just ask “would you like fries with that” (or a muffin, cake or whatever).

Run employee sales contests – Your baristas are your salespeople and have a great deal of influence over the customer ordering process. All baristas should have some form of sales and customer service training to make each transaction active, rather than passive. Sales contests that emphasize high margin items or cross selling can be designed to be fun and engaging for all of your staff and will yield substantial financial results.

John Kirkham

For more information contact us for a free consultation.

If you like what you have read so far, BUY ME A COFFEE.

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