BizTips: Customer service no-nos
Customer Service is the foundation on which loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising is built. Following are things you don’t want happening in your business, if you want to grow and prosper. During difficult economic times losing any customers is not what you want to experience. Many small business owners are not even aware that many of these things are occurring because they fail to check their customer contact people regularly.
Copy this list and mark your calendar to review it at least monthly. If you wait too long and the damage is done it’s very difficult to reverse. Once a customer is lost due to poor service or indifference it’s very hard to get them back. They are simple to correct if you know they’re going on and act early.
DON’T argue with a customer-you can lose 2 ways, the argument and the customer. Winning an argument gets you nowhere if you lose a customer in the process.
DON’T forget to say Thank You after every sale or order. It will be remembered if you don’t. People don’t get tired of hearing it.
DON’T interrupt a customer when they are talking. It’s not only impolite but doesn’t give you the advantage of picking up valuable information.
DON’T promise anything you can’t or won’t deliver. The ill will it creates may last a long time and not generate any referrals.
DON’T answer all your incoming calls with voice mail. People may have immediate needs and can’t wait for a return call. Have someone knowledgeable available.
DON’T ignore anyone who enters your store or business. Acknowledge their presence and let them know you will help them shortly. If they leave before being helped it’s a lost sale and repeat customer.
DON’T leave anyone on hold for more than a minute without checking back with them. The time goes much more slowly when your waiting and can destroy a customer’s attitude. Music on hold will relax them more.
DON’T treat all customers the same, some need more attention than others. Try to decide who needs help and who wants to be left alone until they ask for assistance.
DON’T tell a client or customer you will call them back at a certain time and not do it. Make the call even if you don’t have all the information and let them know you’re still working on it.
DON’T set your business hours to suit yourself and let your customer go elsewhere if you’re not available. Your goal is to serve the customer, not yourself-so be flexible and there when they need you.
DON’T chew gum or eat when talking to a customer on the phone or in person. It’s disrespectful and shows that your needs are put ahead of theirs.
DON’T screen customer service calls, take them all promptly and professionally. No one likes to be interrogated before they can ask a question. Have knowledgeable people ready to answer calls and inquiries during business hours.
DON’T underestimate the value of a repeat order and the lifetime value of a customer. These are what will build your business and help you survive tough times.
DON’T forget to ask for referrals and letters of reference. Most customer won’t offer them unless you ask and they’re a valuable part of growing your business.
DON’T allow front line people to be rude or discourteous. If they’re having a bad day send them home rather than risk losing a customer or sale. A bad experience will remain in a customer’s mind for a long time.
DON’T be a small business owner that’s too busy to talk to customers. Many people buy from a smaller store or company because they can talk to the top people. Be available and visible.
DON’T let the phone ring more than 4 times before you answer it. Some people won’t wait and others will become irritated which is not the way to start off a business conversation.
DON’T make customers wait more than 24 hours for price quotes or estimates. Offer a ballpark figure right away and promptly supply an exact proposal. It will show that their order or purchase will also be handled promptly.
DON’T close your store, office or factory so you can go on a vacation. Have a well trained person take over with a way to contact you for any big decisions. If you just close up and disappear, your customers may do the same and run to your competitors.
DON’T forget to reward regular customers and frequent buyers. Even little perks like a small discount, a little extra or faster service can go a long way toward keep them.
DON’T make customers wait to pay for their purchase any longer than absolutely necessary. The owner or manager should jump in to help when things get backed up. A few may even walk away and that’s a lost sale that should never happen.
DON’T delay in making a refund or exchange, do it quickly. If you have a guarantee back it up and do it promptly. Delays create a bad feeling and bad publicity.
DON’T drag your feet when solving a problem or handling an unsatisfied customer. Get the facts and come to a solution you can live with and the customer is happy with.
DON’T forget to contact customers you haven’t heard from for a while. They may have misplaced your information and need a nudge in the right direction. Don’t let a competitor get to them first.
DON’T ignore customer suggestions, welcome them with open arms. They see things from a different perspective and may offer some great ideas for improving your business. Give some type of reward or acknowledgement for any that you use.
DON’T charge for top quality and substitute poor quality. Your customer will eventually find out and you’ll be history. Fair profits and good will can make you more money in the long run.
DON’T try to fool your customer or the joke will be on you. People are smarter than you think and even if they don’t say anything, you’ll probably never see them again.
Can you add more that pertain to your specific business? Decide which are the most important to your customers and discuss them with your employees and stress the importance of each. Remind them that without satisfied and repeat customers, no one has a guaranteed job. If there are employees that just “don’t get the point” it’s time to consider replacing them. Customers are too hard to get, to take a chance of losing them for unnecessary reasons. By eliminating all or most of these DON’TS you can have the best possible offense against your bigger national competitors. What people remember most about a purchase or inquiry is how they were treated. An unpleasant experience will travel to their friends as a DON”T BUY HERE sign rather than a positive referral. Treat customers fairly, professionally and courteously and grow your business with less expense. Remember there’s no cost for referrals and word-of-mouth advertising.
Barry Thomsen is the publisher/editor of the Small Business Idea-Letter and author of the book When The Shit Hits The Fan: How to Keep Your Business Afloat for More Than a Year. For a free sample of the Idea-Letter, go to www.idealetter.com or call (877) 700-1322.