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Don’t Fail Because of Weak Customer Service

Good customer service is more than just smiling when you're paid, and it can be the most powerful form of marketing you can have.

Small business is a lot like other human endeavors: the more things change, the more they stay the same.

Put another way, there are very few things under the sun that are truly new.

Think this well-worn advice is not for you? Consider the old adage that everyone in a business is involved in marketing. Every few years this sound recommendation returns in almost endless variations. Unfortunately, that may help explain why so many small business owners make a mistake by overlooking the truth behind it.

Back to Basics

Start with a fundamental business area: customer service. According to one recent survey, nearly 80 percent of consumers canceled or did not make a purchase because of poor customer service. Other reports indicate it takes several positive experiences to make up for one bad one, if the opportunity is even offered. One bad experience can poison a potential business experience forever.

There are two key areas where small businesses owners can start or increase customer service: with themselves and with employees.

Believe it or not, entrepreneurs and owners can and do fail at customer service. The reasons are many, including everything from being too busy to not understanding the difference between just fulfilling an order and building a relationship (which is what customer service is ultimately about).

Some of this is personal. Many people are born a “people person,” able to enjoy interaction at the drop of a hat. They communicate the feeling that the customer is the company’s most important and great to deal with.

It’s not that other owners and entrepreneurs hate people, it’s that they may simply be more focused on the technicalities of the work or other important issues. They may even be better at the actual service than some individuals who are better at interpersonal relations. Even business owners who are normally good at these skills can have bad days when their instincts fail them.

Seeing is Believing

As with many things, the biggest step to solving these issues is to first see them clearly. Think about your most recent customer experiences and how you interacted with the customer.

Most people with tend to focus on what they said and did, which are of course important. But if you’re good at customer service, you should also be conscious of what you are heard and saw, not just what you’re telling the customer.

A big step is to simply become more conscious of these factors with your next customer. Really look at the customer and listen to what he or she says. Developing real interest in what they’re communicating and how will take you an important new level in customer service.

Clearly, these are a few limited examples, but they’ll hopefully push you to do a little homework and apply some of these ideas to your business. Done right, these concepts can improve nearly any company’s bottom line.

The Staff Counts, Too

Even if you only have one or two employees, getting them to buy into this concept can be difficult. Simply ordering them to “be nice” probably won’t cut it. You’ll need to sell them on why this is important and how to go about it.

Again, there are many legitimate strategies and styles, but realizing the need is an important first step. Modeling the behavior you want is usually a good idea, and helping employees see how this benefits them is also critical. Although money indeed talks, you may not need to institute profit sharing your business isn’t ready for. Helping employees see the connection between good customer service and their take home is usually important. Equally critical, think customer service when you are hiring and promoting.

All of this is only a beginning. Good customer service is both an art and a science that has been the focus of many books and articles. It’s more than just a smile when you’re handed a check, but can instead build strong relationships that improve almost every facet of your business.

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Midwest Small Busness Finance | 7001 N Locust St. | Gladstone, MO 64118 | Phone: 816-468-4989