What Are You Looking For?
By Ron Rosenberg
When businesses downsize and reduce the number of people working, without reducing the actual work that needs to get done, the natural result is that their level of service will decline.
That’s why it’s reassuring to find a business that actually understands what customer service is all about.
I recently had a client talk to me about Crowder Brothers Ace Hardware in Sarasota, FL.
As you know, smaller independent hardware stores are constantly competing for customers with the “Big Box” stores in that industry: Home Depot, Lowes, and, to a lesser extent, Wal-Mart.
What these large, national chains have in terms of economies of scale and brand imaging, can be more than offset by a smaller competitor that delivers outstanding service in the stores themselves.
And that’s exactly what happens here, and at other smart Ace Hardware locations.
A Different Kind Of Greeting
When you walk into the store, a helpful person (remember, Ace is the place with the helpful hardware folks...) asks what you’re looking for, and what your name is. She tells you what aisle the item is in and points you in the right direction. But while you’re on your way, something else happens.
The person you just spoke with, whom you told what you were looking for, radios ahead to the employee working in that department with that same information: your name, and what you’re trying to find.
When you arrive at the appropriate aisle, he is there waiting for you with a cheerful, “Are you Bob? Fantastic! I’m Sam, and I can help you find those wing nuts you’re looking for.”
That’s a lot better than just sending someone off on his own to wander up and down the aisles, desperately looking for an obscure hardware item, with a blank expression on his face because the item’s location seems to be a better-kept secret than the formula for Coke.
In a way, this is nothing new; it’s simply an example of personalizing, except that instead of it being used in a printed piece, it’s being incorporated into the store’s ongoing customer-service procedures.
What About You?
Can you customize the delivery of your service to achieve a similar effect? Here are three simple strategies you can try:
1. Give Them a Call – Whenever you get new customers, clients, or members, have a member of your organization’s senior management team call to introduce him/herself, thank them for their business, and let them know it’s okay to call with any questions they may have.
Putting a human face on an otherwise faceless organization helps assure customers that someone will be there in case there’s a problem.
2. Cement the Relationship – The first 30 days are critical, and anything you can do to create a bond during that time will go a long way towards keeping that customer long-term.
3. Stay in Touch – The more you know about your customers, the more you can deliver products and services tailored specifically to their needs. Send a copy of an article they might be interested in with a handwritten note. Send copies of relevant books they might enjoy. Ask for their opinions in areas in which you know they have special expertise.
It’s About the Relationship
Anything you can do to make the entire process of working with you enjoyable, profitable, and fun, should be included as a part of your formal customer-service processes.
In a time when most businesses are cutting back, even the most basic level of service will stand out and put you head and shoulders above everyone else.
Going the extra step and delivering outstanding service on a consistent basis will position you as the only logical solution, and will actually make everyone else look almost incompetent by comparison.
Great marketing goes only so far. You need to deliver on the promise when people respond to your offers.
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