Customer Service In A Small Town: The Key To Survival

The economic vitality of a small town absolutely depends on the quality of products and the customer service offered by every business in the community.

Most business organizations say they are customer focused, but is that a desire or an actual fact? There is a lot of talk about customer service and yet many customers do not feel they are truly being taken care of. In today’s highly competitive environment, the customer is king and you should be the valued servant. This is especially important in a small town so the locals will not travel to a larger city to get their needs met.

If you plan on staying in business in today’s tough business environment you must focus your energy on serving customers so that the value you create is fundamental to their success. You must listen to them and understand their problems, needs, and desires like no one else. Having listened, you must then apply your knowledge and expertise, making it possible for your customers to be 100 percent satisfied. “All employees” must understand the important contribution they make in this partnership with your customers.

To help focus and align your thinking and actions, and in order to anticipate and correctly react toward building both a “perceived and an actual customer value proposition,” you and indeed every member of your organization, must be able to answer the following questions with a big yes!1. Do I deliver what I promise?

2. Do I anticipate my customer’s needs?

3. Do I proactively listen to the customer?

4. Do I proactively seek to meet the needs of my customer?

5. Do I provide customers with what is required for their satisfaction and success?

6. Do I create new and unique products and services that will benefit the customer?

7. Do I seek to understand my customer’s problems, needs, and concerns?

8. Do I constantly develop solutions that solve the customer’s problems?

9. Do I outperform the competition?

10. Do I encourage customers to recommend my products and services to others?

11. Do I continually work on improving my relationship with my customers?

12. Do I continually make it easy for my customers to do business with me?

Customer-value focus is essential, because it is the reason why your service or company can stay in business. Without the customers seeing and buying the value of your knowledge, products, and services, they may not see the need to return or recommend your business to others. In the eyes of the customer, do you truly outperform the competition?

The action of delivering what is promised speaks to the idea of commitment. Commitment to the customer is essential in building a customer focused relationship. Relationship building leads to a better understanding and an anticipation of what your customers need and the products and services they are seeking for their future success or enjoyment. By understanding the specific customer needs, you are better prepared to create new and unique products and services that will benefit the customer.

It is very important to understand that customers buy your products and service for their reasons, not yours. This is why you must walk in their shoes, understand what problem the customer wants solved, and proactively seek to meet your customers’ needs. You must help the customer connect your knowledge, products, service, and solutions to their problem or need.

When you truly walk in the shoes of the customer, you then begin to see how you are perceived from the outside, looking in. Are you easy to do business with? As an example, can the customer call one place and get whatever they need – from the purchase of a product and service, to having a problem solved? Does your attitude and body language convey a genuine excitement when solving a customer problem? What do you say and how do you act when you do not have what the customer needs or wants or the customer needs or wants something you cannot provide? Finally, do your personal actions demonstrate the fabric of your collective customer awareness?

When you begin to honestly answer the questions provided, you gain the insight and knowledge required to take specific actions to shape your customers’ present and future needs. That is what customer-value focus and service is all about. If you and members of your organization cannot answer yes to all of the questions posed in this article, then there is room for improvement to better serve your customers.

Remember, going the extra mile to serve the customer who pays you for your service will pay off, and the applause and appreciation they return is the extra satisfaction you earn when truly satisfying the customer.

Deliver Amazing Customer Service – This Year and Beyond

The start of a new year offers the chance to look back and reflect on the lessons of the year before. In doing so, I have rounded up some of my favorite ideas, strategies and tactics from last year and offer 13 customer service tips to jump start your customer service efforts in 2013.

1. Strive to offer legendary service – Discuss your greatest customer service successes and create your own customer service “legends.” This sets a level for everyone to aspire to.

2. Be a role model – No matter your title or position within the company, you can be looked up to as a role model of customer service. Consistently set a good example for everyone around you to admire and emulate.

3. Know what customers are saying on social media – and respond – Monitor social media and use it to your advantage, even when customers complain. The key is to respond as quickly as possible; fix the problem and then let everyone know via social media as well. Don’t forget to acknowledge and express gratitude for positive comments too.

4. Add value through YouTube – As one of the most popular forms of social media, YouTube is a valuable tool for value-added content. Use it to answer commonly asked questions or demonstrate ways of using your products. All kinds of businesses – including mine – regularly post videos on YouTube. It’s another positive way to connect with your customers.5. In one word or a simple sentence, define what you want to be – When you think of Ace Hardware, does one word come to mind? Of course, it’s Helpful. My goal with customer service is Amazing. What’s your word or phrase? How would you want customers to describe you?

6. Allow experimentation – Employees will welcome the opportunity to find new ways to offer the best customer service. Set a few common-sense ground rules – always enhance the customer relationship, aim for a favorable outcome for the customer, don’t hurt the company (legally, financially, etc.) – then allow employees some freedom to find their own customer service style. Be sure to follow up, find out what works and share best practices with others in the company.

7. Learn from successes and mistakes – After employees are given the freedom to experiment, take the next step and use their experiences as learning opportunities. Realize the value in lessons learned from mistakes, and share success stories. Celebrate it all.

8. Know and support your community – Be “that” business – the one with the bake sales out front on Saturdays, the company name on kids’ sports teams, the first to give to someone in need in the community. Care and contribute. Whether you operate in a small town, nationally, globally, or even online, know your community, and be visible and active in your support.

9. Make it about more than the product – Chances are, you are not the only business selling your particular product or service, so you need to give customers a compelling reason to choose you over your competitor. To be successful, you can’t necessarily offer lower prices to attract customers. Don’t get caught in the commodity trap – distance yourself by offering a superior customer service experience. Put yourself in the customer’s position and ask, “What can I offer that will make someone want to do business with me, rather than the competition?”

10. Consider the entire customer experience – There’s more to the customer experience than just customer service. In today’s world, there are countless opportunities to interact with customers and potential customers. Positive face-to-face interaction is, of course, still important, but you can add value through social media, and consider the concept of gamification – offering interactive games for customers to play. For an example, check out my favorite, Be observant and pay attention – Even when customers aren’t talking directly to you, know what they are saying about you. For example, during a convention I attended, the hotel food service staff served chocolate chip cookies and I told a fellow attendee they would really taste great if they were warmed. A member of the hotel staff overheard this and soon delivered warm cookies to our table. Look for opportunities to make your customers happy.

12. Recruit customers to serve on a customer service board of directors – More than just a focus group, meet with this group of customers regularly to brainstorm new ideas and get feedback. Be sure to compensate them properly for sharing their time and offering their honest opinions.

13. Never forget the basics – Even with all the technological advances and new ways of connecting with customers, don’t forget to continue with the basics of great customer service. Create a customer-focused culture: hire right, train right and manage right, and keep amazing service alive.

One more thing – don’t try to do everything at once. Choose one of these strategies to focus on in 2013. Once you have mastered it, choose another to implement and always keep improving and moving forward.

Putting Excellent Customer Service in Your Business

Customer service can mean the difference between a successful and a losing business. That’s because more and more customers are becoming more demanding not just in the quality of products or services that they buy, but also in the level of customer service that is offered by the brand or company that supplied the goods or services. There are even cases where customer buying decisions are more influenced by the customer service they expect to get rather than the overall product benefits. This aspect of doing business is actually a big part of your customer relationship management or CRM. And today, there are many CRM tools being offered just to help businesses streamline the way they handle customer service. But you must think that even with CRM tools, customer service still boils down to how you or your people manage customers before, during, or even after the sale.Great customer service in your business can be achieved if you make it a point to take out the unsatisfactory features in your product or service as soon as you are made aware of such things. Consider bad experiences by your customers as the potential Achilles’ heel in your enterprise. Having unpleasant experiences with the goods that you sell will turn off your customers. Worse, one displeased customer will tell other people and, before you know it, your business reputation is in shambles. So, always eliminate product or service features that can bring about a negative view of your company. This is actually the very essence of great customer service, making sure your customers will not have problems with your product or service.

Next, to be able to enhance your customer service in your business, you need to give your customers more options as to how your product or service will be delivered. This has less to do with the way you carry your product to your customer’s household. Rather, choice in product delivery tackles the issue of customizing your product or service according to the preferences of your target consumers. In short, try to provide a spot in your overall business process where your customers can have their say. For instance, would you offer only four flavors of pizza, or would you allow your customers to mix and match toppings according to their tastes? Finally, the bulk of customer service in your business will happen after the sale or the transaction has been done. Your customers may not be happy with your product or service. Or your goods may have failed to deliver your promise to your customers. Whatever happens, make sure that your final efforts of communicating with your customers will leave a good lasting impression in their minds.