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  • Richard Walsh

What is customer service?

“What is customer service?” is a bit of a loaded question. I know everyone thinks they understand customer service but I’ve discovered that definition can be incredibly varying from business owner to business owner.  Many times a business adapts its own brand of customer service that tends to be very industry specific. It’s an attitude of “that’s how it’s done in this business.” When you go to the doctor’s office you expect to be greeted, sign in and sit and wait...forever.

Unless you get to the doctors practice that has decided that he will not make his patients wait forever and has put the right system in to overcome this common problem and all of a sudden he has a growing patient list because people know they don’t have to wait...forever, to be seen.

Here’s a short list of customer service obligations:

 How you handle complaints and issues regarding your product or service. 

 How you first contact your customer. 

The first impression they have when they walk in your business or meet a salesman 

 How you communicate through the entire process of the sale

 How you follow up after the sale and for years to come.

The way your showroom is laid out

Ease of access to your location

Ability to contact your company 24/7

A user friendly website

A hassle free return policy

Discounts and service upgrades

Unexpected and meaningful gifts

Speed of delivery

Expert and continuous follow up

Clean, presentable, courteous employees

Let’s start from the top:

How you handle complaints and issues…

Immediately is my answer. Every moment, hour, day or week you delay in handling customer complaints your business foundation crumbles a little bit more. You need to realize virtually every time a customer complains or raises an issue it’s legitimate. You may not think so but to them it is 100% legitimate. They are paying for your service. They are a future testimonial and referral source for your business. They truly hold a key component to the future success or failure of your business.

What I have found after over 30 years in business when a complaint was brought to my attention I only had to say one thing. “What can I do to make it right?” That one question saved me both time and countless dollars. The reason why is simple. You may think the people want the world to fix a problem but that is seldom true. Most everytime I have been so pleasantly surprised by how little they actually wanted. You can spend all day conjuring up what you “think” they’ll want when all you have to do is ask that one simple question. Many times it’s just a misunderstanding of the work completed. So attack complaints and issues with speed make them a priority and your customers will love you that much more.

How you first contact your customer...

This is about the response time and manner in which you return an inquiry to your product or service. This I’ve seen too many times be days even a week to simply return a simple phone call for an estimate or question from a potential customer. How is that even remotely acceptable? Every business is literally a click away these days and your inability to return a simple phone call at least the same day, should put you out of the market. If people just grasped this one concept their businesses would improve. If you’re too busy working to return a phone call hire a service to handle the incoming calls or an in house rep. To set appointments and answer basic questions.

The first impression a customer has…

There’s a saying that fits this perfectly, “People shouldn’t judge but they do.” Everyone responds to what they see in one way or another. If I wanted the cheapest guy around to cut my lawn what would I look for? How about a beat up pickup truck with a mower and two guys sitting in the truck bed with crooked mailbox stencils on the doors with their name and phone number on it? Am I wrong? 

Compare that to the landscape truck that has a crew cab with four guys in it pulling a covered trailer and both the trailer and truck are vinyl wrapped with the company name and logo. The 4 workers are in uniforms and put cones at each end of the truck and trailer when they park. They take out well maintained rider mowers and weed whips and all four get the entire yard mowed, edged, trimmed and blown in 15 minutes, pack up the truck and move to the next location.  

Who’s charging more? Who do you want taking care of your beautiful lawn and landscape?

Do you think scenario #1 has any chance of Scenario #2 homeowner ever calling them? Pretty sure that’s a NO. First impressions are critical. Know your client base and what they are attracted to and be that company and knock it out of the park for first impressions. I’d hate to lose work just because we didn’t “look right” but it happens all the time.

How you communicate through the entire process…

Communication is becoming a lost art. Communication is how you build rapport with your clients. It’s how you convey how the work is going to be done down to every detail. It’s how you update your client on delays, cost overruns and change orders. This process begins with that first call, continues through the sales process, into the job performance, collecting the final check and into a lifetime of customer communication, updates and future work. If you don’t have a system that you routinely follow and can teach you’ll have breakdowns somewhere along this chain of communication and that will certainly hurt business.

How you follow up after the sale and job are finished…

So many companies just get their final check, give a handshake and off they go chasing the next job. This is the epitome of short sightedness. That customer has a lifetime profitable value (LPV) to you as a business. If they spent with you once they’ll spend with you again. (Unless of course you’re that bad!) If they spend $5,000 with you on one project and they probably will call you another 10 times over the next 20 years that’s at least $50,000 for their LPV. This doesn’t even consider referrals, testimonials and before and after pics. Each customer has enormous value to your business, treat them like it.

You have to keep the lines of communication open with them so if there is ever a need for your service by a friend of theirs you’ll be first to mind and you should by now know the power of the personal referral. 

The way your showroom is laid out…

Have you ever walked into a showroom for a business and everything is kind of in disarray, dirty and unorganized? There’s no one around to assist you or if they are they seem completely uninterested.  This is not a good thing. It’s similar to the beat up truck in the landscape scenario. When a showroom looks like that the value immediately drops. It doesn’t matter how much an item should cost that atmosphere drives down the price.

If you have a well organized and clean showroom with engaging sales people the value immediately rises and people enjoy their time there and the longer they stay the more they spend.

Ease of access to your location…

If you’re a destination business you need to have easy access for people to get to you. That means very clear directions and that includes checking GPS to make sure it is accurate. Easy parking and access to your store front. Someone should be answering the phones during business hours. Ease of product pick up or delivery is also a must.

Ability to contact your company 24/7…

People are searching for businesses all day and night via the web. They may actually call at midnight to leave a message for you to call them. Voicemail is ok for them but these days you can outsource a live answering service trained to respond with your company info and it puts a whole new spin on customer service for you. Have multiple ways people can contact you such as a web form, phone call, text or email. Make it as easy as possible. Different people prefer to communicate in different ways so give them options.

A user friendly website…

When you create a website be sure people can easily find how to contact you. Be sure it is above the fold so they don’t have to scroll and search. Simple navigation hitting the bullet points of your business. You can deep with things but for initial contact make it very simple and user friendly. Your primary function is to capture their information for follow up calls and inquiries. Don’t ask for too much information either people won’t do it. Name, email and optional Phone number is usually plenty.I always like to give them something for exchanging their contact info such as an ebook  or other free digital gift.

A hassle free return policy…

There’s not to many companies out there today that put up a fight when someone wants to return something whether it’s on the web or a brick and mortar store. You should follow suit if you’re not already. It’s important to people, it’s a way to remove risk for them to encourage a purchase. You get to be the hero when you gladly exchange something for them and they usually will buy something else in its place. If you make it difficult they will simply shop elsewhere so it’s not a wise move on your part.

Discounts and service upgrades…

This is a fantastic way to up your customer service game. You can always price a discount for products and services. Everyone loves to save a little and just feel appreciated. Upgrades are great ways to give more without it costing you hard dollars. Offer an extended service or raise them to the next service level free of charge for signing the deal today. People always love to get more, to feel special and important.

Unexpected and meaningful gifts…

Exactly what the title says, I want you to give your existing clients unexpected and meaningful gifts. Random gift cards just for being great clients. Thoughtful simple gifts will mean more to your customers than the work you did. Do this completely out of the blue for no reason at all. You’ll feel great and your customers will always remember it!

Speed of delivery…

We live in the age where you can get just about anything from anywhere in the world overnight. So speed is your friend. Especially when it comes down to estimates and product and service delivery. You need to create the systems that will enable you to deliver all aspects quickly. You need to run an efficient jobsite and occasionally finish jobs early for a change. I’ve been able to deliver an estimate, close the deal and complete the job before some competitors even got their estimates to the client. Speed attracts money!

Expert and continuous follow up…

These stats sum up why follow up is so critical:

48% of salespeople NEVER follow up with a prospect

25% of all salespeople make a 2nd contact and stop

12% of sales people only make 3 contacts and stop

ONLY 10% of salespeople make more than 3 contacts

2% of sales are made on the first contact

3% of sales are made on 2nd contact

5% of all sales are made on 3rd contact

10% of sales are made on 4th contact

80% of sales are made on 5th to 12th contact

So 90% of the money in sales is made by only 10% of the sales people. Can you now see how to change your business virtually overnight?

Clean, presentable and courteous employees…

It’s amazing to me this is a topic that even needs to be mentioned but in today's society it’s needed more than ever. You must present yourself properly regardless of your job. Especially if you’re a first point of contact  with customers. Remember I said people shouldn’t judge but they do? It’s still true here also so don’t let a bad first impression cost you a sale. Take dignity in yourself and look great when you’re dealing with people. Believe it or not it makes them feel better too seeing you dressed for success. No one wants to deal with a dirtbag or a slob so step up your game in the area of dress and presentation.

These are Just the very beginning of customer service.  Customer service truly is every aspect of your business. If you approach customer service in this way you can not only have amazingly happy customers but it will be the same for every employee that works for you.  We are in business to serve others so they need to be our focus in every way.

Take some time to see where you can improve your “customer service” look in new places not the usual places and you’ll see things begin to change for the better.


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