One of the key phrases often used in sales or retail is "added value." In the case of a hot dog salesperson, that means frying the sausage, adding a bun and offering ketchup or mustard, rather than supplying uncooked ingredients separately. Better customer service also imparts added value, and it can mean retaining customers even when your prices is a little higher.
The purpose of retail is essentially to sell items. It is often hard to measure customer service without using artificial metrics – how do you measure customer satisfaction? so it may be ignored until it becomes an issue. However, better customer service can lead to an uptick in sales. A recent American Express survey indicates that more than two-thirds of customers are willing to spend a little more if it means better customer service.
Humans are social, cooperative animals for the most part, so being made to feel welcome and getting taken seriously are key tenets of the customer service experience. The interaction with the cashier is the only interaction most people have with a business. No matter how hard big corporations try, they can rarely get the feel of a mom-and-pop shop where the owner or cashier remembers your name.
The essence of this customer interaction gives small and medium businesses the chance to give value to their customers. Deliver personalized customer service that is better than your competitors, and you retain more customers. Offer easy returns, respect and a smile, and solve problems when things go wrong. While customers are still more likely to remember and relate bad customer service experiences, they relate good experiences as well. In the American Express survey, 46 percent of respondents stated that they always told others about good experiences. In addition, two-fifths of respondents said that they would trust a friend who recommended a store. This makes better customer service vital.
Implementing better customer service does not have to be hard. Your staff should greet customers with a smile, say "hello" or something similar, and talk to them. There should be enough staff on the floor that a customer needing help can quickly find a staff member when necessary. Staff members should be trained to handle difficult customers. In addition, the staff should have good knowledge about the company's products.
Better customer service has to be tempered with practicality and an awareness of the bottom line. A small minority of customers do try to abuse the system, and some are unreasonable. However, if your business offers a better customer service experience than any other business in the area and is still able to keep prices roughly in line with similar businesses, customers are more likely to frequent your business on a regular basis.
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