Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Customer Service - Being friendly helps, but it's not enough

Of course you care about customer service in your small business. That's a given.

Your success depends upon attracting and retaining repeat customers. But what you need to remember is that there are two crucial dimensions to consistent quality service delivery - your people and your procedures. Both of these dimensions require your attention

In previous posts we've explored how to hire the right people for customer service roles. One of several important attributes your service staff need to possess is a happy and friendly disposition - no customer wants to deal with a "sour-puss" who looks like they've been sucking on lemons.

  • Balance - personal touch and procedural efficiency
But it's all well and good to have staff who display a warm and welcoming manner with your customers, who make them feel special and can build great rapport with customers. Yes, the "feel-good" factor is important in the experience of your customer - but at least as important is that your customer gets what they expected.

It is the efficiency of your systems, processes and procedures that will so often determine whether your customer is satisfied that they received what they were promised, when they were promised it.

If you are getting some customer complaints, or if your customers are voting with their feet and you find that you are not getting repeat business from them, then go back to reviewing your business fundamentals. Where is the need for improvement .....
  1. Is the design of your product or service itself in line with the core needs of your customers. Ask for feedback from customers
  2. Are your procedures and processes enabling efficient service / product delivery? Get some input from your staff on this matter - they work with your systems every day and know what's not working. And listen to their ideas with an open mind!
  3. Are you over-promising and under-delivering?
  4. Have you trained your staff properly in the use of your systems?
  5. Are you recruiting the right people? If need be, take a look at How to conduct the job interview
  6. Are you managing your staff in a way that keeps them motivated, and brings some enthusiasm into the workplace? If need be, have a look at How to motivate employees
If your focus is solely on efficiency of processes, you risk a business culture lacking the warmth and personal touch  needed to forge enduring relationships with customers. If you focus just on your staff and making sure they are happy and that the workplace is a warm, inviting one - then you run a risk that customer deadlines and budgets may not be met.

So as the manager of your small business, try and get the balance right between a focus on both your people and your processes - and then with repeat, satisfied customers, your profits should flow!