If customers are the wheels that drive your business forward, customer service is the grease that keeps them spinning. The importance of customer service is in a retail-driven industry like paint and decorating is particularly important, as home improvements are often an ongoing process as opposed to a single occurrence. Add the fact that independent retailers can’t afford to engage in price wars with the Big Guys, and it becomes pretty clear that customer service is one of your biggest assets. Here are a few key ways to use it to your advantage.
It’s all about the experience
While people may not remember which specific product they bought from a particular store – or even how much money they spent, they will often remember their experience. And while you and your staff may encounter dozens, or even hundreds, of customers each day, it is important to treat each of them with the personalized attention they deserve. When it comes to building relationships with customers (both new and returning), charisma and friendliness can certainly go a long way. But in today’s fickle and competitive marketplace, it’s often not enough. Remembering your customers’ names, matching their communication style and shifting your focus from selling to helping will ensure that your customers remember the service you provided – and keep on coming back.
Deal with complaints instead of dodging them
At some point, every retailer will be forced to deal with an upset customer. And although it can be an unpleasant experience, smart business owners actually use the opportunity to their advantage. Here are a few tips for converting complaining customers into loyal ones.
Listen carefully to what your customer has to say and check your ego at the door. Your goal is to solve the problem, not argue about who is right.Ask the customer what they would like as an acceptable solution. It encourages a partnership, gives the customer control of the situation and shows you are serious about making things right.
You’re only as strong as your weakest link
Good customer service is a team sport, and all of your employees are quarterbacks. They’re the ones who spend the most time with your customers; if they drop the ball, it will have a negative impact on your reputation and your bottom line. Investing in superior training, encyclopedic product knowledge and professional development will yield positive returns for years to come. Furthermore, employees tend take more responsibility when they feel they are valued and appreciated for their efforts; if they don’t feel they’re important members of the team, they’re less likely to go that extra mile.
Tell me how you really feel
Nobody knows more about your business than your customers, so what better place to turn for feedback? In addition to regular surveys, personalized emails and a Contact page on your website, feel free to approach your customers in-store and ask if there’s anything you or your staff could be doing better. Engaging your customers in open-ended communication will not only provide them with a platform to voice their opinions, it will also offer insight on how to improve your business operations. Again, instead of trying to defend against any negative feedback, embrace it as an opportunity to win someone over.
The Golden Rule
Treat customers how you want to be treated. It sounds simple, but it’s also extremely effective. Maybe you worked 60 hours this week. Maybe you had two employees call in sick on the same day. Maybe your latest inventory shipment was delayed. None of that is your customer’s fault, so it’s important to not take it out on them. Think about the way you like to be treated when you’re shopping at the mall or eating in a restaurant. Chances are you appreciate an attentive, knowledgeable, friendly and helpful server. So do your customers.
When it comes to providing excellent customer service, there is no magic formula. Every customer is different – and has to be treated as such. The very fact that someone decided to walk in your door instead of someone else’s puts you at an advantage over the competition. It’s up to you to do everything you can to give them the confidence they made the right decision.