Customer and service: put the two together!

Customer and service: put the two together!

The other day a colleague told me about his experience in a sub shop he stopped at for lunch with his son. He orders a small sub and after requesting some toppings and drinks he goes to the register to pay. While the sub shop employee is ringing up the meal he takes another look at the menu and realizes he could have gotten a better deal by getting the footlong, and states this. “Yeah”, replies the employee, “guess you probably should have gone with the footlong.” He chuckles at the rather apathetic tone of the employee and he and his son take off.

What would you think if you were in this man’s shoes? Especially as a business owner, you would probably be annoyed at the lack of customer service. Maybe you would wonder why the owner had apparently not trained their employees very well. And you would probably have a solution, such as training front line employees to offer the better value meal whenever someone is making an order. The point is that front line employees are usually the only contact your customers will have with your business- so you must make sure that the customers are receiving first class service! How do you do that?

Here are a couple ways you can ensure front line employees aren’t sabotaging your business:

1. Provide in depth customer service training

Some small businesses such as fast food franchises and restaurants tend to hire workers with very little experience in customer service. You may have some kind of employee handbook that details expectations. But what if employees don’t bother to read the handbook? And if you don’t have a handbook, how do you train your people to deal with customers? A good way to prepare personnel to deal with the variety of personalities they will have to serve is to provide training that includes role playing, visualizing, and problem solving. This kind of training covers all the different types of learners and will be much more beneficial than simply handing out an employee handbook.

2. Show your front line employees how it is done (or have your management team do this)

If your business is small and your employees answer to you, make sure you are there with them their first couple of days to show them how to give customer service. This way you set expectations and provide a model of behavior. Talk about what you are doing to give your customers a “wow” experience, for example, engaging them in conversation to get to know who they are and what they do. Tell them why it’s important to do this (to make them feel welcome, keep the experience a positive one so they will return) and how it helps them (the store will continue to make a profit and provide them job security). People are by nature self-interested, as the old cliché says tune into their radio station “WIIFM” or “What’s In It For Me”.

3. Collect customer feedback

Perhaps you are already collecting customer email addresses when they come in to your business, a key way to build your list so that you can provide value to your target market! You can easily send a survey to those who sign up. Use survey monkey or some other type of free survey and send it within 24 hours while the experience in your business is fresh in your mind. This will help you measure the effectiveness of your training program. To increase response rate consider offering a freebie for the customer’s next visit to your business. For example in the case of the sub shop from the above, a free cookie or bag of chips with their next purchase of a sandwich would be a good way to not only get them to respond, but possibly even come back if they enjoyed their experience.

To review, the key to ensure front line employees provide excellent customer service, thereby helping you stay in business, is to train them first and then show them what you expect. This is critical because you can’t be in your business at every moment, and even if you could you shouldn’t need to be anyway. To make your business a business rather than a babysitting job, hire quality workers and set high standards for service, then monitor their service through customer surveys. This will help your business to thrive and set it apart from the competition.

What questions do you have on customer service? Do you have your own system for ensuring employees give customers a positive experience? Visit our facebook page and join the conversation:

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