Everyone claims their customer service is excellent; yet we’ve all heard horror stories about how poor customer service ruins sales and loses customers. Business owners hear that too, but many will simply discount it, thinking it doesn’t apply to them. Others may just chalk off one lost sale as a drop in the bucket. But it does count, and it all adds up.
According to an article I read over the weekend, US businesses experience an annual loss of $83 billion, as a result of bad, or no, customer service. It’s mind-boggling. Consumers are people. They understand that good customer service is built into the price of the product and that they have options. The same article also noted that a full two thirds of buyers said they would be willing to spend more with a company they believe provides excellent customer service. What does that tell you?
While it’s easy to assume the enormity of the numbers may be skewed by large businesses and big box chains, that’s always the case.
For example, a friend of mine purchased a specialty product from a local retailer. Since he was the only local resource for the product, she had been a purchasing it from him consistently for a number of years. Recently, she went into the shop and saw a lovely gift basket of samples at the counter with a sign saying ‘free with purchase.’ When she got to the register she asked about it. The salesperson’s reply? ‘That’s not for you. That’s for new customers.’ So, my friend asked ‘What are you doing for your existing customers?’ You know what the response was? ‘Nothing. We already have you. We want new business.’ My friend left disappointed, not that she didn’t get the freebie, but because they showed no regard for customer loyalty. She’ll never shop there again and will likely repeat the story to friends. Smart businesses understand that their most valuable customers are their existing customers. If you don’t acknowledge them and show them you appreciate their business, you’re throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Another example: A different friend got a new smart phone for Christmas but didn’t like it. When he went to exchange it, the salesperson tried to upsell him on all the bells and whistles another phone had, without even asking why he was returning the one he received – what he liked/didn’t like about it and what type of device would best fit his needs. They just pitched a ‘hot’ product. He returned the gift phone and left the shop empty-handed. A potential sale was blown. The lesson here? People want to buy from businesses who care about their needs. They don’t want to be ‘sold.’
Yes, I do think it’s likely the big chains and corporations with their sales and marketing systems, and productivity apps, that depersonalize the sales experience. I do think they contribute more to lost revenues than small businesses. But we too must assume responsibility. Let’s look at these stats as opportunities, and see how we as small businesses can benefit by demonstrating that we actually care about our customers. Let’s be the preferred alternative. Our strength lies is in our ability to provide an excellent customer experience every day, and in every way.
- We can do it better.
- We will treat everyone as we would like to be treated.
- We will get it right – and when we don’t, we’ll fix it.
- We will demonstrate value and respect, always.
- We will never stop finding opportunities to delight and surprise.
- We will start now.