1. Over deliver, but don't over promise. - Most companies do just the opposite. They want that sale so they promise their customers the moon but then they fall just a little short. They might have provided exceptional customer service, but excellent service looses its luster if it falls short of the promise. In fact, it’s worse than not promising at all. The bottom line is that you must organize your business so that you always exceed, but absolutely never fall short of a promise to a customer.
2. Use your customer’s name when ever possible. - Your customer’s favorite word (everyone’s favorite word) is their name. Use it, use it often, and when you write it, make sure that you spell it correctly. It’s also important to use a level of formality that will make your customers the most comfortable, so you’ll need to decide whether to use their full names, their surnames or their first names.
3. Give your staff both the responsibility and the authority to solve customer complaints. - Customers like to deal with decision makers, so make everyone on your staff a decision maker. A quick and satisfying resolution to a problem can help to solidify your customer’s loyalty. You’re much more likely to lose customers if they have to wait, or if they get shuffled from department to department.
4. Keep your business spotless. - Unless you own a farm, dirt and clutter give an unprofessional impression whereas a clean business sends a message of professionalism to everyone, including your staff. If you can do this with a business that is typically dirty, like a garage for example, you’ll absolutely dazzle your customers. Just imagine the reactions of customers as they peer through the window of an impeccably clean, neat and organized workshop.
5. Incorporate a dress code. - Some people have difficulty with this one because they want their people to have the freedom to express their individuality, but a dress code can mean anything from completely matching outfits all the way to a minimum standard of dress (i. e. clean clothes in good repair with no written messages). Just as cleanliness does, a dress code sends a message of professionalism to everyone who comes in contact with your business. It lets them know there is a plan here… that some thought has gone into the development of this business, and most importantly, that it is not exactly the same as every other business of its type.
6. Regularly reward your employees for excellence in customer service. - This will show them that you’re not just paying “lip service” to customer service. This doesn’t always have to mean money, it might be as simple as a thank you and tickets to a show, but what ever you do, always do it in front of their peers. Not only will it make them feel good to be appreciated in front of their peers, but it will send a message to your entire staff that around here, customer service really is important.
7. Ask for 3 referrals from each of your clients. - Referrals are always your best source of new clients. Asking for a specific number adds to the professionalism surrounding your request. Don’t worry about offending them, you won’t. Just be polite, be direct, and be professional. You’ll be surprised at how much your customers will appreciate the opportunity to help you out.
8. Smile when you answer the telephone. - It’ll come through in your voice. A great example is The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company which requires that its employees answer the telephone within three rings and with a smile. All too often, business phones are answered by busy employees or even busy owners who give the customer the impression that they’re an interruption to their busy day. No business can afford to send those kinds of messages for long, no matter how successful they are. Eventually it’ll catch up to them, because of course, customers are not an interruption to their day, customers are the reason they’re in business.
9. Raise your prices. - How many customers will you loose if you raise your prices? An accountant friend of mine recently gave this a try. He is now enjoying a larger income and a better clientele. The clients he did loose had been the cheapest and the most demanding of the bunch. So ask yourself this question, “how many customers will I loose if I raise my prices?” The answer may surprise you.
10. Set corporate goals. Celebrate with your staff when you reach them. Give them the credit. - Great leaders set goals, liberally pass out the credit for their successes and take the blame for their failures. I’m not saying that you never let your employees know when they are producing substandard work. Everyone’s got to be working on the same page, but if things don’t work out in the end, take responsibility, and if they do work out, share the victory. Your staff will work all the harder because of it.
Mark Wardell is President and Founder of Wardell Professional Development, a business consulting firm, focused on the unique needs of small/mid sized growth companies.