Thursday, August 13, 2009

What is Extraordinary Customer Service ?

In the current economic climate we tend to complicate matters by tuning into the negative press that surrounds us: the market is more down than up tourism is hampered by the fires and the overall ‘gloomy’ market some have lost their jobs a number of businesses are struggling. Yet the only matter we have any control over is the quality or level of customer service we provide for our customers. From the moment we pick up the phone or open our doors for business, we send signals to many buying customers every day.

The question to be asked is, what kind of signals are we sending?

For example, I was recently shopping for paint products for my classic car. I needed professional help to match a colour for the interior of my car, since the colour is not one that can be easily matched. Two outlets were referred to me at a recent car event held locally. I decided to visit the two stores and see what I might find.

Customer Experience Number #1
As I entered the first store I noticed that the clerk was busy assisting a lady. I was not acknowledged by the clerk and I also noticed that the store was not well laid out there were unpacked boxes all over the store. I decided to walk around and check out the inventory, and after five minutes I went back to the main counter. The lady had left but the clerk was nowhere to be found! I heard a noise coming from the next aisle and walked over to see the clerk working away.

I asked for some assistance and explained what I was looking for. The clerk explained that they were short staffed and had lots of stock to unpack. He also told me they could match the paint but that it was really tricky to match perfectly. The clerk was helpful but I could not help feeling that he was distracted and really not overly interested in my business. I obviously wasn’t a priority for him. He showed no real interest in my request and just gave me a price sheet with a breakdown of the services they offered. I left without making a purchase!

Customer Experience Number #2
When I entered the second store I noticed the clerk was busy, but this time I was acknowledged. The young lady smiled and mentioned that she would be with me in just a few minutes. I walked around the store and noticed how tidy it was. The shelves were well laid out and the store looked like it was ready for business. Within a few minutes I was greeted with another smile as the clerk said, “How can I assist you?”

I explained my situation and the issue of matching the paint. She asked me a few questions about my specific needs and mentioned that they specialized in paint matching and that she had personally helped many car enthusiasts match their paint colours in the past.

She also mentioned that she had access to paint swatches of vintage cars but she needed a sample so that she could better match the colour. We agreed to a time frame and a price, and we struck a deal. I left with a great feeling of having received extraordinary customer service. Suffice it to say that I will be back to do more business with this second store!

Perhaps it’s time to reflect on the kind of customer service your company is providing for its customers. What processes do you have in place to ensure all customers receive an extraordinary experience? What kind of ‘culture’ have you fostered in your company?

To help you with this, here are a few key areas of Customer Service to think about:

1. Friendliness – This is the foundation for great customer service, and is usually characterized by the customer being acknowledged and greeted graciously, with warmth. A customer shouldn’t feel like they are an intrusion on the service provider’s work day!

2. Understanding and empathy - Customers need to feel the service person understands and appreciates their circumstances and that they understand what it is the customer came in for in the first place. Our ability to meet our customers’ needs comes from asking questions and then delivering products and services that match the client’s needs.

3. Options - Customers need to feel they are dealing with a person who understands the products and services available, so they in turn can be presented with applicable options in order to make proper decisions.

4. Information -“Tell me, and show me”. Customers need to be educated and accurately informed about the products and services they are seeking. And this information needs to be clearly and simply laid out for the customer to understand.

5. Appreciation – Customers don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy. Let them know that you appreciate their business and that you hope to see them again. Make them feel special!

So ask yourself, what processes do you have in place to ensure your customers are provided with extraordinary customer service so that they’ll want to come back again and again?

Improve your customer service and you will continue to “Build Your Business”.

Written in conjunction with Richard Tremblay, Kelowna BC

As posted on Castanet

Donald Robichaud is the President of FloodLight Consulting

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