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Train. Ask. Listen. Bend.


     First of all, there’s no reason in the world a small business needs a customer service department or customer service representatives. EVERY manager and every employee is or should be able to handle any customer complaint, concern, question or transaction. If they’re not, TRAIN them. Spend a few dollars to bring in a professional trainer (it’s cheaper than paying a rep salary or a department full of salaries).

     Periodically send a friend or relative in (physically, or by phone or email) as a “mystery shopper” to keep everyone fresh and on their toes. Tell your people of course that this will happen from time to time. You can even make a game of it with mystery shopper points for outstanding ratings, adding up to dinner for two or some inexpensive but fun reward (again, still less expensive than permanent salary or benefit increases or bonuses).

What should the training be focused on?

ASKING customers’ questions. (Not “What can I interest you in today?” or “How’s the weather outside?” or “Why don’t you want this product?”) Ask how they are or were using, or plan to use, the product? Ask what three things can you do for them right now that will help restore their confidence in your company, or how can you help them to have a positive shopping experience with your business, or what will it take to get them to return…to send their friends and relatives?

LISTENING to customers’ answers. (Not token “hearing,” but deeply listening, and understanding, and processing the comments, and paraphrasing them to make sure your understanding is correct.) The customer should do 80% of the talking. You should do 80% of the listening. Oh, and take notes. Always take notes. Nod your head. Smile. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes (empathy). Avoid crossing your arms, legs or hands. Be engaging. Use eye contact (not staring) and avoid looking past or over the person in front of you. 

BENDING to customers’ requests.This means really and truly bending over backwards to accomodate what’s asked of you. This does NOT mean you should give away the store or the farm or your sister. Don’t roll over and play dead to every request (assertive refusals can be delivered very pleasantly), but offer SOMEthing. Most people are happy with being acknowledged and listened to. Those who want more are usually happy with some token of appreciation for their forthrightness. Remember your goal needs to be to deliver exceptional attention to each customer with no exceptions. Send each one off to sell your business to others.

     If you have a small operation, with a dozen or fewer people, and want to save money, do the training yourself…but do your homework first, ask everyone to contribute a segment, and remember to practice what you preach!

     The bottom line is the old “Golden Rule” of do unto others as you would have others do unto you! There is no better approach to customer service in ANY economy. And when business is slow, there is no better approach to speeding it up! Try it! You’ll like it!     

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Send your input anytime: Hal@TheWriterWorks.com (”Businessworks” in the subject line) or comment below. Thanks for visiting. Good night and God bless you! halalpiar              # # # 

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