Business tips from SCORE: Dedicated customer service is the foundation of brand loyalty
OK, you created a brand. If you want loyalty to your brand, creating a customer-service-first culture is the foundation is a must.
If your goal is to not only attract buyers to your business but also retain them, then job one is putting service to your customers on the top of the list of values that define your brand. This is accomplished by always making your customer come first. It is not about you and your products/services it is about the needs, wants and desires that your customers require. It is you finding out why they seek you out for a solution and then focusing on delivering a solution that will address their needs.
Buyers are looking for solutions to their issues. If you focus on customer solutions, the customer will see your mission is delivering values important to them. If you can make your communications personal you are making the customer feel valued. The interaction is not transactional, but relational. It is not a buyer entering your store, seeking a certain size nut and bolt to repair a screen door, paying then leaving. It is you creating a dialogue about the door and the issues that caused the need for a new nut and bolt to understand the customer's need and address what else might be involved in this issue. When a seller shows interest beyond the immediate need, they are creating a relationship that will form the foundation for a return engagement to meet the next need.
If you can exceed the buyer’s expectation then you are checking off a box in their mental checklist of why they should continue to do business with you. The lawn is mowed, the hedges are trimmed and the landscaper notes that there are weeds popping up in one of the yard’s gardens and addresses their removal. This is done without charge. You have just exceeded their expectation and created value in the relationship. When the contracted tasks are completed and you ask the client what else they may need to have done, you are creating a relationship rather than just showing up, doing the work, then leaving without checking in with the client before departing for the next job. When you complete the installation of a new bulkhead, sending a handwritten thank you note, exceeds the customer’s expectations.
Customer service entails engendering trust. Trust that you will do what you promise in your proposal and when it will be completed. If circumstances beyond your control require rescheduling, then give as early notice as possible. Not showing up does nothing but reduces trust and disappoints the buyer. Trust starts with connecting. Connecting means talking with your customer, not at them. The challenge is understanding what drives their buying decisions so you can get one step closer to closing a deal every time you communicate. Having an understanding of their buying motivation keeps them engaged, buying again and referring you.
As sellers and providers of customer service, we have to keep in mind that buyers’ needs are currently being met by someone else. They are having their autos repaired, houses painted, lawns mowed, and newspapers delivered by another seller. In order for you to replace them, you have to have a differentiator. That difference might be how to treat your buyers and how you create “fanatic fans” for your brand. It is making customer service everyone’s job. Everyone’s!
As the owner or manager of a business make customer service personal. Engage personally with customers to understand how they feel about the work you do, the services you perform and take either corrective action or improve your interactions to keep them buying from you. The way you get the best information is to ask. Ask how you are doing satisfying their needs, wants and desires. Ask how you can improve your service. Ask them what else you can do for them. Connect with them to prove you are the knowledge leader where they can get answers to their question willingly and for free. Staying connected between purchases allows your customers to not feel taken for granted.
Customer service is all about the customer, not you. Make it job one at your business.
Contributed by Marc L. Goldberg, Certified Mentor, SCORE Cape Cod & the Islands, www.capecod.score.org. email@example.com, 508-775-4884.
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