Are You Being Served [Well]?

Have you ever a googled “customer service, recession”? If so, you know that there’s an old-fashioned truism which is getting more airtime these days…one which can have a measurable effect on your bottom line, profitability, and longevity.

What is this winning adage? Customer service matters.

Treating your customers well takes many forms: responding quickly to their needs, speaking politely to them no matter how you’re feeling, being friendly and accommodating when they have a special request …these simple steps create raving fans for your business and build for you a reputation for excellence in your industry. With so many businesses clamoring for attention in a crowded field of competitors, those who pay attention to their customers are always going to stand out from the crowd.

And remember that all of your employees have customers, even if they never interact with your paying clients. Everyone has internal customers, ranging from the supervisor who relies on you to complete a task by a specific deadline, or the coworker further down the line who needs you to finish your part of a project before they can begin, or the UPS delivery guy who is waiting for you to pack up a shipment that has to go. Anytime there’s an interaction between two people, customer service is involved.

Whether they serve external clients, internal customers, or some combination of the two, it’s critical that your staff learn how to serve customers. So, what can you do if some members of your staff are still struggling with how to provide outstanding customer service? Here are a few quick tips to help bring home the message:

  • Act like a client If there’s one surefire way to show a staffer what serving customers is all about, put them in a position to serve one: you. By that, I don’t mean to be a belligerent screamer who kvetches about silly things; rather, ask those put-me-on-the-spot questions clients ask of you.

For instance, if one of your staff misses a deadline, ask them why it’s late and why they didn’t let you know in advance that they were going to miss the deadline. Finally, ask what they’re going to do to fix the problem. In the past, I’ve only needed to engage in this practice a few times before the message sank in.

  • Introduce your staff to some of your clients. Granted, this tip isn’t always practical, but I’ve sometimes found it helpful for production staff to be face-to-face with the client so they get to know the person behind the name. Knowing who they’re accountable to can help some folks deliver better customer service in the form of on-time, on-budget work. And in those interactions, your staff get to see how you act with clients and learn about the challenges you encounter as the outside face of your business.
  • Reward for great customer service acts. Rewards don’t need to be as extravagant as an all-expenses paid vacation, but a personal atta-boy (“nice job handling that customer whose shipment was late!”), recognition during a company meeting (“I’d like to thank Sally for continuing to manage all the business we’re getting from ABC Widgets. Way to go, Sally!”), or even a small gift card can go a long way toward demonstrating how much you value that part of your staff’s job.

Regardless of the size of your company, each staffer’s ability to provide outstanding customer service will better enable you to withstand the rigors of a challenging economy, improve your staff’s depth of experience and overall performance, and solidify the relationships with your internal and external clients.

What other ways have you found to educate your staff on delivering outstanding customer service? Email me at adamatgladworks.com.