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Improve Your Customer Service and Retain the Customers You Have


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Crappy customer service is everywhere: unmanned checkout counters, personnel wandering about, employees chatting or text messaging on their cell phones . . . as a partial list. Poor service has become the norm rather than the exception.

Business owners and managers take note! Here are some troubling facts regarding poor customer service:

1. A typical business will only hear from 4% of dissatisfied customers. 96% quietly just go away . . . oftentimes, forever!

2. On average, a dissatisfied customer will tell eight to ten people about their problem. One in five will tell 20. Do the math.

3. It takes 12 positive service incidents to make up for one negative incident. Accentuate the positive.

4. Seventy percent of complaining customers will do business with you again if you resolve a complaint in their favor. If you resolve it on the spot, this figure goes to ninety-five percent.

Handle complaints quickly. Set up an AS IF clause in your business. Always act as if you are the only personal contact that the customer has with the business, and behave as if the entire reputation of the business depends on you. Think about this. Better yet, implement it.

Some additional credos to live by:

A. Customers-clients-prospects-patients are the main reason you and your staff are able to draw a paycheck. That is true in all organizations: for profit, not for profit, retail, professional, government, medical etc.

B. Your telephone policy can help you or hurt you. Call into your own business and check the helpfulness and friendliness of your outgoing message. If the tone comes across as we are very busy here and your call is an annoyance at best . . . or listen carefully as our menu options have changed. Press 1 for . . . or I am away from my desk helping customers (what am I, chopped liver?), making calls in the field, on vacation or . . .

Sorry, Spanky, but I did not call in to wade through a menu or to check on your personal itinerary. I called in for answers to my questions . . . preferably right now.

Please do not misunderstand.

I am happy that you have escaped the chain binding you to your desk, that you have managed to get out to lunch or on vacation, but I really wanted to place an order or inquire about your product or service.

Perhaps your competitor will have a live person answering their phone! Good-bye!

Speaking of chains. Here is an old-fashioned but doable suggestion for big box store managers: unchain yourself from your desk, depart your cubicle and get out on the selling floor, especially during peak hours.

Last week I visited a big box garden shop and counted 14 people lined up at the only check out register that was manned. FOURTEEN!

When I entered the main store, I spotted dozens of employees engaged in various tasks, heads down . . . busy, busy, busy.

Someone in charge should have been walking around and directing some of these people to high tail it to the Garden Shop and help check people out. If not the Garden Shop, the Paint Department and so on.

What a simple concept! No need to hire more people. Re-deploy the people you already have and get the entire store team engaged in taking care of customers.

Tear down the invisible walls separating departments. Have employees check their cell phones when they report for work.

Lead by example. Some will follow. Many will not. Replace those who refuse. Implementing this concept in any business will boost sales and profits immediately with very little investment.

The key to building a high level of customer service is to make it EASY to deal with your company.

Make it easy to:

-Find you.

-Contact you.

-Figure out what you do or sell.

-Select your product or service.


-Return a product if necessary.

-Get answers.

If you like us, tell your friends. If not tell us! What a great motto for any business to adopt, prominently sign and live by every day of the year.

Do NOT be guilty of losing track of this kind of commitment by burying it in your mission statement. Tell the world! Especially your employees!

Bob Schumacher books and articles give entrepreneurs a clear coffee-shop English perspective on how to steer their business or profession into the top 20% who achieve 80% of the business and profits. Visit for a complete directory of his articles and books.


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