Research suggests that businesses which offer great customer service grow twice as fast as those with poor service records. Derek Williams of The WOW! Awards offers his tips to help you dazzle your customers
- Make customers feel special. If you know that a customer is coming to visit your premises, put up a sign that welcomes them. Tell your team who is coming so that they know who your customer is and can greet them by name.
- When you visit a customer, take them a present. A special balloon, a box of cream cakes, a funny badge - something that will make them remember you. Over the years I have won huge amounts of business from taking cakes to meetings. Just make sure your gifts are proportionate.
- Let customers know about things that might be of interest to them, even though they do not necessarily come directly from your business; maybe a classic car show, a rock concert or a business event. If you can engage your customers on a personal level, your business relationship will be even stronger.
- Guarantee what you do. If your customer wasn't happy with what you had done, you would probably move heaven and earth to put things right. So why not guarantee it? And make your guarantee truly outrageous. The greater your commitment to your customer, the more likely that they are to try buying from you.
- Map out every single touch-point that customers experience when dealing with you. Against each item think about how you manage those moments - what does your customer feel and how could you do it better?
- Control your communication. It's not just what you write and what you say; cracked coffee cups, a scruffy appearance or a dirty window all tell the customer that you don't care. Remember, too, that communication is just as important with internal customers (our employees) as it is with external customers.
- Ask your customers for feedback at every single opportunity. Most people will not tell you how you can do it better until you ask.
- Accept complaints graciously and treat them as nuggets of pure gold. These are your opportunities to improve service and increase loyalty. Research shows that 70% of people who have a problem resolved to their satisfaction are more loyal after that complaint than they were before it arose.
- Remember basic human psychology. Always smile when you greet a customer, either in person or on the phone. The customer can sense if you are not pleased to see them. Don't forget to make eye contact either.
- Make your shop or office a fun place to go to. It has to be fun for you, fun for your team and fun for your customers. Find ways to catch your people doing things right. When we catch people doing things right and recognise it publicly, it's a powerful way of reinforcing that behaviour.
- Understand the power of saying thank you. Thank your customers. Thank your team. Thank your referral sources. Try sending a thank you note to customers who pay you promptly - it can have an amazing effect.
- Under promise and over deliver. If a job is going to take one week then allow some extra time in your quotation and then surprise your customer by completing it early.
- Think about how you manage your people. Is the only time that they hear from you when they do something wrong? Is that the best way to manage them? How could you do it better? Make sure you are giving your staff regular motivation and recognition.
- Reward your people for any behaviour that impresses the customer, regardless of whether it leads to a sale or not. If you reward your people purely on orders taken or sales made, you might not get the long-term growth that you would like.
- Add the wow factor. What could you do that would really dazzle your customers? For example, a restaurant in Leeds called Gueller's keeps a range of prescription spectacles, just in case customers forget their own and are having difficulty reading the menu.
Derek is creator of The WOW! Awards, as well as an international speaker and author on customer service. He is the past chief executive of the Society of Consumer Affairs Professionals in Europe.