Create loyal service with your customers
CREATE LOYAL CUSTOMERS WITH YOUR SERVICE
Whether you were at the discount store or a fast-food restaurant, the airport or a government office, you know what it means to receive bad customer service.
The question for business owners, CEOs and other managers is this: Does your business provide good customer service?
If not, Houston, you have a problem.
Stacey Young, customer service director at Baptist Health Paducah, said every kind of business benefits from good customer service.
“If you’re the small business owner handling everything from payroll to production,” she said, “or the CEO of a large business, customer service has to be at the top of your to-do list.”
FROM THE TOP DOWN
Young, in her fifth year managing the hospital’s customer service efforts, said the key to good service is management endorsement and staff training.
“First, your management team must commit to being customer-oriented,” she said, “and then you must provide on-going training and encouragement to the entire staff.”
The biggest stumbling block? Work.
If customer service isn’t a priority, work will get in the way – pressing deadlines, tight budgets, the boss’s demands, the staff’s poor productivity. You think you’re too busy to worry about smiling and making eye contact, developing relationships and going the extra mile to win your customers’ devotion.
All the excuses in the world won’t boost your bottom line if poorly-treated customers never return.
Leaders who model expected behaviors show employees exceptional service is not just another chore. “It must become ingrained in every other task,” Young said. “If an organization fails to understand the marriage of quality service and quality products, it will miss the mark and may never reach its success potential.”
SERVICE SETS YOU APART
Barkley Regional Airport officials know service sets them apart from bigger airports. “Airport travel can be so difficult these days,” said marketing director Jackie Jones, “that we want to do whatever we can to make it more pleasant and convenient.
For example, the airport provides plastic bags and slippers to ease people through security; keeps pocket knives and other security-forbidden items for a month if passengers forget to leave them at home; and hosts Paducah Hospitality Association volunteers on Mondays to provide treats to all passengers and staff – not the typical service travelers expect to find at other airports.
“Passengers say they come here because the people are so friendly,” she said.
Every business – large and small – can determine the best way to care for its customers. Young said Baptist Health Paducah created its own version by adopting “prompt service” as one of its 12 standards of conduct for employees. “It’s really pretty simple,” she said. “You treat your customers the way you want to be treated.”
SOME ‘GOLDEN RULES’
- Pay attention to the customer. The renowned Fish! Philosophy, made famous at the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle, puts it simply: “Be there.”
- In EVERY encounter with EVERY customer, give your full attention. This means making eye contact, not talking to someone else (on the phone or otherwise) in their presence and being courteous (using “please” and “thank you” like your mother taught you
Young said you don’t have much time to waste. “You have something like a three-second window to make a good impression and acknowledge their importance,” she said.
- Accept responsibility. Saying “I’m sorry” or “it’s my fault” goes a long way in defusing your customer’s complaint or anger, and happy customers aren’t likely to sue you. It’s not about who’s right; it’s about the customer feeling as if his needs were met.
- Make amends. The industry calls this “service recovery,” but most of us just call it doing what’s right.
When your mistake has caused any inconvenience, stress or expense for your customer, you have the opportunity to turn it around by offering a gift or a refund. When you perform the proper service recovery, you will create your most loyal customers because they won’t forget what you did to make it right.
“You will make mistakes,” Young said. “That’s not detrimental to your business. Failing to respond to your mistake is what’s detrimental to your business.”
THE CHEAPEST ADVERTISING
Studies show that a satisfied customer will tell two or three people about his experience with your company. A dissatisfied consumer will tell 10 to 20. Talk about word-of-mouth advertising!
What’s unfortunate about this topic is that it is a topic. In today’s society, good manners and kindness seem like a lost art, so business experts and motivational speakers have developed a whole genre of educational materials to help us recapture what previous generations knew instinctively: Be nice.
If your company wants to build loyal customers through good service, make the executive decision that it is a priority and then implement a company-wide program.
You will see the difference in your employees, your customers and your bottom line.
Dona Rains is marketing director at Baptist Health Paducah. She previously served as the public relations coordinator at Paducah Public Schools and a writer and editor at The Paducah Sun.