Do increased profits sound good to you?

The Institute of Customer Service has conducted research showing that companies with a reputation for service excellence have on average a 24% higher net profit margin than same-sector rivals.

Who is the first person someone talks to or sees at your company? Who is the “contact us” person on your website? These are the people who establish the first impression that prospective customers form about your business. That all-important “first impression” sets the tone for future business. At a minimum, people considering spending money with your company expect to be treated with courtesy.

What role does your customer service strategy- or lack of one–play in increasing profits?

Looking at what it should be, and making sure your staff knows what it is and are trained in using it, is critical in “branding” your business as customer responsive.

To evaluate or develop your customer service strategy, ask yourself a few questions:

1. If I walked in or called in to my business for the first time, how would I expect to be treated? (Was the phone answered quickly and professionally? Was my presence acknowledged immediately (even if I had to wait)?

2. If I made a repeat visit, how would I expect to be treated and what would be different? (Did they remember me or who I represent?)

3. If a transaction didn’t go well, what would I expect? (Did they listen to my concern? Can I talk to someone who has power to rectify it, or at least explain it to me in a manner that I can understand? Do I have options?

4. Are there steps my company can take to repair a damaged customer relationship?

5. What level of customer service do I expect when I deal with other companies?

Consistent, good customer service instills customer loyalty. The customer may not buy from you during their first interaction with your company; but they certainly won’t buy from you in the future if their initial contact was unpleasant. People remember both good and bad interactions. You want yours to be remembered as a good one. Success must be measured not solely by a sale or an upsell, but also by producing a pleasant, personal interaction and lasting relationship with the customer.

As the owner or manager, you must be responsible for setting the tone for good customer service. You have to model what you expect. You have to teach your “brand” of customer service. Employees must know what you expect.

Consider adding customer service assessment sessions to your employee meetings, where you teach or reinforce your expectations. Also, give employees a forum to discuss both difficult customer interactions and successful customer interactions in a structured setting with the goal of making customer interactions even better. Let your employees know how to communicate “deals” and other promotions to the customer. And, if you haven’t already, you can identify and authorize key trusted employees to make customer reparations should/when a situation goes awry.

Highly responsive and pleasant (excellent) customer service can increase your business, while the opposite means fewer customers (who can’t wait to tell others about what a terrible experience they had).

I don’t mean to be preachy, but good customer service can be as simple as “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”.