Good customer service is the best competitive advantage of any small business. It’s about sending people away happy, happy enough to say good things about you to others, and to come back and support you often.
Good customer service is more than The Eight Rules for Good Customer Service, or The Ten Commandments of Great Customer Service. It’s about connection. Relationship building. Listening to your customer and trying to find a way to say yes, instead of no.
If I know this, why do I consistently fail in such spectacular fashion?
Here, see what I mean. Watch this.
The Forum for Women Entrepreneurs in Vancouver asked me to be a panelist at a recent roundtable event and speak on the topic of customer service. I thought it a risky move on their part, as my views on the subject tend to be somewhat unorthodox. Jill Earthy, the Executive Director, was confident the audience would glean enough value to make my participation worthwhile. I suspect she couldn’t find anyone else.
My own public speaking insecurities notwithstanding, it was a fun time and I managed to cover off a half dozen or so points I’d scribbled on the back of an envelope I’d pulled from the recycling bin the morning of the gig.
The group question was, “how important is service to the success of your business?” This blanket query established the premise to which we were expected to expand on as it relates to our specific endeavors. My individual question was, “Your current business has both retail and online stores. How do you ensure a consistent high level of service for both”?
It’s pretty obvious in retail that without customers you’re not in retail anymore. A store devoid of customers is a storefront waiting for a property managers “for lease” sign. And in a world where we’re over-retailed, where we don’t need any more of anything, you better be really good at what you do to compel people to keep you in business.
With respect to service levels, the bricks and mortar environment is substantially different from the e-commerce environment. In the former, I’m expected to shave, shower and smile. In the latter, all I have to be is truthful, honest, and fast. No one cares if I process online orders in a Lone Ranger bathrobe. For the purposes of the roundtable discussion, and the breakout group afterwards, I chose to focus on Mink’s physical store and my customer service philosophy within those four walls.
It all begins with hiring. Putting the right people in the right position is the foundation for building a successful serviced oriented approach to retailing. Training becomes, by default, the next most important aspect of my selling philosophy. Regardless of the tools used to train, each employee must become skilled in the position, and immersed in the culture of the organization.
Once you’ve got these competencies aligned, it’s vitally important to recognize that your customer is No.2, and that your staff is No. 1. Beat your staff into providing exemplary service to your customer, and they surely won’t. Treat your staff supremely well, and they will by nature do the right thing, and provide the highest level of customer care.
To be successful in retail, one also has to realize that you can’t be everything to everybody. Defining your brand and its position in the marketplace will help define your customer. At the confluence of all these factors is the final, ultimate tool to provide a consistent, high level of customer service, and that’s choosing good customers.
Great customers will go on the journey with you. Bad customers will give you a headache.
Mink Chocolates Inc.,
Mink A Chocolate Cafe Ltd.
Call the store: 604.633.2451
Call my mobile: 604.376.3464
Call toll free: 1.866.283.5181
Watch: youtube.com search mink chocolates
In Person: 863 Hastings Street West, Vancouver, BC V6C 3N9
Nine out of every ten persons say they love chocolate. The tenth lies.
– Anthelme Brillat-Savarin