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It's the Service After the Sale that Builds Your Brick & Mortar Business
Five Tips For Improving Customer Service
By Dahna Chandler

You hear it all the time "Get the sale! Sell, sell, sell!". There are entire books, web sites and articles dedicated to making the sale. But what about keeping the customer after the sale?

The basic truth in business -- especially home-based business -- is that it's repeat business from loyal customers that builds your bottom line. Statistically, it's much easier to keep a customer and cross-sell other products and services to that customer than it is to gain new customers. In fact, 20% of your regular customers will generate about 80% of your business.

Here are five tips on providing outstanding customer service to continue to generate new and repeat business:

1. Don't be a "fly by night, gone by day" business. Sell an honest product or service that you believe in. Too many businesspeople are in their business strictly for profit. They sell the products or services that will make them the most money the quickest with little regard for the quality of the product or the value of the service to the customer. Your customers will know this and that awareness will be reflected in your bottom line.

2. Guarantee your customer's satisfaction and stand by your guarantee. Make your "no questions asked" guarantee twice as long as your industry's average-and your competitors'. The longer your guarantee on your honest product or service, the less likely the produce will be returned or the customer will want a refund. On the other hand, don't guarantee something you can't deliver! And if you make a promise or set a deadline that you later find you cannot keep, make sure your customer knows IMMEDIATELY. Then, offer to compensate them (e.g., gift certificate, discount on that product or service, etc.) for any inconvenience your inability to keep your promise or deadline causes.

3. Make it easy for your customers to contact you with questions or concerns. Use all of the ways that are available today to make it easy for your customers to find you. Get voicemail and make it available 24 hours a day. Get a dedicated fax machine and keep it on 24 hours. Get an email address just for customers, a pager that offers voicemail and numeric options and a cellular phone with voicemail. Don't make your customers have to wait too long to talk to you or have to hunt you down. Don't let their inability to reach you be the reason why your customer becomes your competitor's.

4. Take seriously your customer's comments, concerns or questions about your product or service. Respond to their comments and get them answers to their questions fast! If there's a problem with your product or service, tell them you will solve the problem right away and then do it! If you can't solve the problem right away or to the customer's satisfaction, offer a replacement or a refund promptly and readily or a discount on future products or services and let the customer choose the option they want!

5. Solicit your customers' opinion about your product or service and encourage them to be honest! Provide forms for them to complete to evaluate your product or service or ask them to write you a letter. Then LISTEN to your customers' input and make changes to your product or service accordingly. Most importantly, send them some token of appreciation for their input (e.g., a gift certificate) and let them know how you've made changes to your product or service based on their suggestions. Your customer will be thrilled!

If your business is a customer driven business, it will be apparent throughout the sales and service process with every customer. While many businesspeople understand that they need to provide a quality product or service, they need to remember that customers care just as much about service as quality. You must provide both to keep your customers back.

Related Articles:

Top 10 Ways To Keep Your Customers 
1. SAY thank you and smile. Project an image of someone that others will want to do business with. A good attitude is a powerful customer service tool.

Build A Better Business With Customer Feedback 
One of the most overlooked methods of improving one's business is getting customer feedback. Customer feedback is vital to a business' success because without it, the business will not know how it can improve.

Communicating with Customer Focus
Having a customer-focused mindset is important in providing exceptional customer service. Applying effective communication skills is equally important.


(c) 1998

Dahna M. Chandler is the President & Chief Relationship Officer of E*pifany[TM] Communications Group, Inc., an integrated marketing communications and marketing consulting firm based the Washington DC area. Ms. Chandler is also a journalist whose stories have appeared in print and online publications nationwide & in Canada. Contact her at Dahna_Chandler@alum.wellesley.edu

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