Clatsop Economic Development Resources and the Small Business Development Center are located at the South County Campus of Clatsop Community College:

1455 North Roosevelt
Seaside, Oregon 97138

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Customer Service: A Small Business Edge!

By Kevin Leahy

As our busy summer “high season” comes into full swing for small businesses in our region, what is the most important strategy for business success in this economic environment that every business owner and manager needs to embrace? CUSTOMER SERVICE. Getting service right is more than just nice to do; it’s a must do! According to American Express Global Customer Barometer:

  • 70% of American Consumers are willing to spend an average of 13% more with companies they believe provide excellent customer service. (Price is not always the determining factor)
  • 60% of American Consumers believe businesses have not increased their focus on providing good customer service. (Where do you fall?)
  • 78% of consumers have NOT made an INTENDED purchase because of a poor service experience.
  • Small Business Advantage; 81% agree that smaller companies place a greater emphasis on customer service than large businesses and big box stores.

Your existing customers come into your business because of your company’s reputation. You must continue to earn this customers loyalty and dollars every day of the year. Do you know that acquiring a new customer can cost six to seven times more than retaining an existing customer? We live in this area because we love it here, but one disadvantage is our population base, and the fact that one disgruntled customer may go out and bad mouth your business, or post in their Facebook page or on-line in Yelp, or other social media sites. How long does it take to “redeem” your business when this “virus” is spread? Too long! The old adage “The customer is always right” really holds true 99.9% of the time.

Note: New customers become existing customers if they are treated with respect when they enter your business the FIRST TIME.

What tools can you use as a business owner/manager to maximize the customer experience in your place of business?

First and foremost, it starts with you. You set the standard and also set the tone with your employees. They look to you for leadership and direction. Especially during this time of the year, your mood sets the tone. Owning my own retail business for several years and working the long hours and every day of the week can be wearing, but a positive mood and energy level speaks legions to the staff and your customers. Show your employees how important it is to greet the customers within 1-2 minutes of entering your business. Show sincerity in this. Just don’t say “hello”. Role playing here is a way to break the ice with your staff. It may seem a little awkward at first, but once you and the staff goes through this practice a few times, it will become natural. Treat the customer like they are a guest in your home.

What do our customers look for from us?

  • They buy promises you make. Make sure you fulfill them.
  • They buy your credibility or don’t buy if you lack it.
  • They buy your guarantee, reputation and good name.
  • They buy other people’s opinion of your business.
  • They buy expectation based on your marketing.
  • They buy the consistency they’ve seen you exhibit.
  • They buy the confidence you have in your business. Always show that!

Summary Best Practices

Remember the 80/20 rule. (80% of your business comes from 20% of your customers.) Treat those customers with utmost respect. Go out of your way to thank them for their business by giving them first notification of events. Have this customer be an “insider”. They will be your top ambassador and sing your praises through WOM, or word of mouth.

Use customer feedback tools to get the pulse of your customer service results. Consider asking these questions on a written questionnaire, phone or one on one with your customer. How well do we deliver on what we promise? How do we compare with our competition? Did we give you the help you needed? Is the quality of our products/services consistently excellent? What products don’t we carry you would suggest we add? Say this in your own words, and mean it. Customers can see in insincere approach a mile away!

Exceed the expectations of your customers. Remember that at the heart of the success or failure of every business is the connection it creates with your customers. Visually. Emotionally. Functionally. Financially.

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