August 31, 2009

Customer Service for Dummies

"Any time that any person in your organization has any form of contact with your clients or prospects, they are performing a marketing function." -- Customer Service is Marketing Too

In every business, on a daily basis, one encounters customer interaction that is beyond the simple buying of goods. These encounters may be complaints, enquiries, or requests outside the scope of what the business typically does.

Do yourself a favor, and train your staff to take advantage of these situations, rather than become annoyed with them.

During the last 24 hours, I have been at the customer end of two of these situations. In one case, the business surprised me with their lack of flexibility. In the other, the business went above and beyond without me even asking them too.

Situation #1
For Sunday breakfast we needed a loaf of bread. I walked up to the corner store, accompanied by my puppy who is always keen for a stroll. When I arrived at the store, there was nowhere to affix the lead, so I carried the puppy in my arms into the store.

I was taking the loaf of bread off the shelf when one of the staff members started yelling at me over the counter to "get that dog out of here."

I asked if I could just quickly buy the single loaf of bread. The answer was a stern "No, you need to leave now!"

Don't get me wrong... it is the business owner's prerogative not to allow pets on the premises.

However upon walking out of the store (without my bread) I was thinking of all the other ways the shopkeeper could have handled the situation. Naturally she should have come in front of the counter and still been polite.

After calmly explaining to me that they do not allow pets in the store, she could have said "however today, so that you can get your loaf of bread, I will..."Take your money, and meet you outside with your change and your bread, orsee if one of the other staff members can hold your puppy outside for a minute.The outcome for the shop would have been the same (puppy outside). It would have taken minimal effort/time/expense, and would have been a positive experience for me, the customer.

I'm not going to say that we'll "never go back," but that incident has definitely lowered my opinion of the business and it will likely reduce the lifetime value of me as a customer to that business.

Situation #2
I am currently writing this post on a Mac. I'm not a Mac-fanatic -- I have PCs as well -- but I do like using a Mac for casual browsing as it is quick to start up and to get online.

Apple released the Snow Leopard upgrade to their Mac OS X operating system today, and it only costs $39 to upgrade!

I rang a local Apple reseller that opened recently in Toowoomba, to find out if they had any copies yet.

The shop assistant informed me that they did not have them yet, but they were due to be delivered by courier sometime this morning.

She then asked if she could take my phone number and give me a call as soon as the courier comes!

At $39 retail, there cannot be much margin in it for the reseller, and it is not exactly the kind of thing you would line up outside the shop at 4AM to purchase. She had no idea who I was, and if she did she would know that I have never purchased anything at that shop before.

Therefore, her offer surprised me.

Once again, it will not take her very long to give me a quick ring and say "James, the discs are here," but the experience has been positive enough for me to blog about it and will certainly increase the lifetime value of me as a customer to that business.

In summary...
We spend so much time, effort, and money finding new customers. Make sure your staff understand that customer service is absolutely a marketing function, and treat it as such.

James Deck
1300 Web Pro
Twitter: @1300WebPro