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The old saying, “The customer’s always right” may not always be true, but for the most part, I think they’re good words to live by, at least for a prudent businessman. Not too many of us can afford to lose customers these days, least of all just for the sake of winning an argument or being able to point the finger of blame. And there are lots of ways of letting the customer think they’re right, even when you both know they’re not.
In order to deliver the sort of service your customers expect, you need to first learn what they’re expecting. This is an ideal opportunity to put yourself in their shoes, and ask yourself what YOU would expect.
Essentially, they want to spend as little as necessary to get the most/best they can. They want whatever they’re buying to be at least as good as advertised, to be of decent quality, and to arrive on time. In other words, they want to feel as though they made the right decision in selecting you to buy from.
Of course, we all know that some products and services don’t really stand out from the competition in all these regards. Some may excel one way and come up short another. That’s fine, as long as the customer’s perception is that they made an acceptable trade-off.
A week late delivery might be a problem for me, but if I bought your product for 50% off, I might find it an acceptable trade-off. By the same token, if on-time delivery is the most crucial to me, I might find it acceptable to pay 25% more.
We all make that kind of trade-off decision every day. We go to a discount gas station, knowing the gas isn’t as good as the brand-name station across the street, but we’re willing to accept that, because it costs us $0.70 less per gallon. Or we may pay 50% more for a cup of coffee at the drive-through coffee shop, that’s not as good as we could get at the donut shop. But that’s okay, because it saves us the time of parking and waiting in line. We judgment calls like that every day. Some of us are more flexible on quality, while others may be less concerned about the price… we all pick our trade-offs. But most of us share the same overriding priority:
If we’re paying more because it’s convenient, or accepting poor quality to get the lowest price, we’re already making a sacrifice. Even though we’re receiving a benefit, human nature shows that it’s the sacrifice we’ll attach more importance to. So if the cashier is snotty with us, or the mechanic talks to us like we’re an idiot, we’ll walk away feeling negative, and we WON’T feel like we made the right decision. Normally, that means we won’t return, so someone has lost a customer.
Why? Poor customer service.
There are some golden rules in proper customer service, which violating can bear a high cost:
- Always give your customer your undivided attention. If he feels as though he’s competing for your attention, then you’re proving to him that he is NOT the most important thing on your mind at the moment. If he isn’t, he SHOULD be!
- Always give the impression that your customer’s concerns is not only your greatest concern, but that looking out for them is a pleasure!
- Always be courteous and polite, no matter how rude or abusive a customer may be.
- Always follow up and keep your commitments, whether it’s a call-back, a new catalog or a credit memo. If you said you’d do it, then DO it! It makes a lasting impression in the customer’s mind, of the quality of the experience they had with you.
- Always remember that without THAT PARTICULAR customer, you wouldn’t have a job. Treat them with the importance they deserve, and you’ll have created the impression of extra benefit they received by doing business with you.
Make it a habit to follow these simple rules, and you’ll avoid alienating customers, and will probably generate more repeat business. You can’t satisfy ALL your customers, all the time. But there’s no reason to chase them off, either.
Customers are powerful advertisements, too. Whether they’re satisfied or not, you can be sure that they’ll let others know about it. You can’t buy better advertisement than a happy customer. And hell hath no fury like a customer scorned.