This sign hangs in the office of a local tire shop: “Prices subject to change according to customer’s attitude.” Anyone in sales or customer service can understand the frustration that inspired the statement! Sometimes we feel like charging certain customers extra because they are so difficult to serve.
While this sign is obviously a joke, consider this underlying truth: a customer’s attitude about your business will directly influence how much he is willing to pay you—and whether he will even pay you at all. How he feels about your business is a primary factor in his decision. If he feels good, he will happily pay your asking price. If he feels bad, unsure, or uncomfortable, he will walk away with his money in his pocket.
Is there anything you can do to change how your customers feel about your business? Yes! You can influence how your customers feel by giving them a good experience as they interact with you, your employees, and your products.
What does it take to make a customer feel good about doing business with you? Part of that answer is good service. But what is good service? How does it look? How do we provide it? Let’s look at seven things almost everyone considers good service. You can remember this list with the acronym COURTED:
- Time saving
- Easy transactions
Of course, serving a customer is different than courting, but those of us who are married or courting have good insight into how this word applies to customer service. Before we were married, we tried hard to please and impress the one we were courting. We wanted our friend to feel special and appreciated. We went out of our way to serve their needs.
Consider your business. Which characteristic of good service do you need to improve the most? Which is most important to do well in your business?
Few things will turn off a customer faster than facilities and people that look dirty, feel grimy, and smell bad.
Does your real estate have good curb appeal? Make sure the grass gets mowed and the drive is free of weeds. Maintain a regular cleaning schedule for your shop, office, and customer areas. Websites belong on the internet, not in the corners of your building! Check for dust on your product displays.
Are customer areas kept smelling clean and looking fresh? Restrooms are a special area of concern; when it comes to cleanliness, customers comment on restrooms the most. Walk into your restroom right now. Does it smell good?
Develop good habits in personal hygiene. Clothing should be as clean and neat as possible in your environment. Body odors and bad breath are especially distasteful. You may need to address these things with your employees.
What grade would your customers give your business on cleanliness?
Your customer areas should be neat and organized. To help customers quickly locate what they need, keep your store shelves filled, organized, and labeled. Are your showroom and sales counter tidy? Are all areas well lit? Try to make customer areas quiet and comfortable.
Desktops should be clear and open instead of covered with stacks of papers and paraphernalia. Paperwork should be organized and filed away. Rather than an empty desk being the sign of an empty mind, let it be a sign that you are ready to focus on the customer and his business.
Organize your sales literature and website to clearly communicate what you have for sale. Your marketing materials should clarify exactly what customers need to do next to move toward a purchase. Is it clear whether they should call to schedule an appointment, click to request a quote, or simply visit your store during business hours? You want customers to easily understand what they can expect from you. Give them all the information they need about products, services, and the purchasing process so they can find answers to their questions.
You and your employees should have clear roles and responsibilities. Are your people trained on how to answer common questions effectively? Logistical questions are common: How long will it take to get this? Which shipping company do you use? How many do you have in stock?
Do your customers experience orderliness in your business?
Everyone wants to be understood. Even more, we want to be accepted without being criticized for who we are.
Work to understand customers at these three levels:
- How are they doing today? This is a check-in on the daily ebb and flow of feelings each of us experiences. Pay attention to your customers’ tone of voice, facial expressions, and body language. A response of, “Good,” could mean many different things.
- What recurring issues or inconveniences do they experience? Be interested in learning what you can do to improve your customers’ lives and help them solve problems they confront.
- What are the life values and goals that drive them? Learning your customers’ hot buttons can help you understand and communicate with them better. Get to know your customers’ goals and values at their heart level. This can be done with an active ear in casual conversations, scripted questions your employees ask, or surveys.
How would your customers rate your level of understanding them?
The customer you are with is the only customer you have—as far as he or she is concerned. Whether you think of him as a “big” or “small” customer, he is a real person with feelings. We owe each customer the love, respect, and attention we would want for ourselves. “Love your neighbor as yourself,” Jesus said.
Do you practice proper etiquette? Give each customer a cheerful greeting. Shake his hand, smile, and learn his name. Make sure to remember the names of your regular customers.
Do not let customers get the feeling that you are too busy for them. Show interest and listen—really listen. Can you empathize with them? Give your customers enough respect that they have some left to give back to you.
Your sales copy should focus on benefits to the customer. Explain what your products and services will do for them instead of focusing on how great your company and products are.
Are customers attracted by the respect and warmth you radiate, or repelled by your bragging?
Most people, especially business people, want to save time. Do customers get immediate attention when calling or walking in? Work to minimize the amount of time they wait while you look up information or check with someone else. If customers need to wait or be on hold, find ways to make their wait worthwhile.
Estimate how much time is required for your customers to unpack, assemble, and set up your product. What can you do to make the process easier, less frustrating, and quicker for them?
How much time do your customers waste when doing business with you?
Customers should enjoy doing business with you. They will not appreciate it if doing business with you feels complicated or difficult.
Make it easy for customers to learn what products or services are available. Clearly explain the service you are offering, your payment terms, and your guarantees, as well as what steps they need to complete in order to buy. Design a process to move them comfortably into the purchase and payment. Aim to service all paperwork quickly.
Think ahead to when your customer gets home and interacts with your product. Make their experience pleasant by providing clear instructions for your products’ assembly, use, and maintenance.
How easy is it for your customers to reorder? Should you begin a reminder system making it easier for them to replenish their supply or renew their service agreement?
What would your customers say is the most frustrating part of dealing with your business?
Broken promises will frustrate (or anger) your customers. Promptly open for business at the time you advertise, and be consistent with your open times. Show your customers—and employees too—that you are dependable by following through with tasks on time. Customers love when you respond to email and voicemail messages on the same day.
Work hard to meet delivery and shipping deadlines. When you are unable to meet deadlines, communicate as soon as possible. Most times customers will work with you if they feel you are doing your best to work with them.
Don’t set unrealistic expectations though your sales and marketing. Customers won’t come back if your products don’t perform according to the expectations you gave them.
Dependability is not just about good customer service—it is an integrity issue. Dependability sets others free to trust you. Does your integrity bell ring clear, or is it cracked by undependability?
Cleanliness, orderliness, understanding, respect, time savings, easy transactions, and dependability combine into a very positive service package. Think back over the customers you served over the last week. Do you think they felt COURTED?
If you are not sure, take what you think is the worst part of your customers’ experience, and make the necessary changes to turn it into the best part.