While visiting a small town in the heart of the citrus growing district of the Gamtoos Valley we had to drive about 10 km from the farm to the nearest supermarket. Although this was a country Spar supermarket it was a pleasure to go shopping there because of the friendly, helpful service. Being in a store with an unfamiliar layout, we were pleased that even the cashiers would get up and go show us where the products were located. We were surprised that they enquired where we were from and how we were enjoying our stay in the village of Patensie.
Friendly, efficient and fast service goes down well no matter whether you are buying goods in the city or the countryside. It makes you want to come back. You also have your identity reaffirmed because you feel less of a number. But the most compelling reason for superior customer service is the impact that it makes on your small businesses bottom line.
How do you go about increasing your customer service, particularly when smaller city businesses have much more competition to contend with? It takes a lot more than just getting your staff to wear a smile on their faces. Potential customers will pick up their lack of sincerity a mile off.
McDonald’s was one of the earliest fast-food chains to systemise their customer service. In “McDonald’s: Behind the Arches” John Love tells how one of the McDonald’s franchise’s operators went about trying to perfect point-of-sale marketing – service at the order window. He developed a detailed tape-recording to train his window crew to provide quick service and greet customers properly. He made sure that crew initiated orders with a polite question: “May I have your order, please?” And would end in order with, “Thank you very much, and please come again.” These service methods helped this franchise owner increase his sales much higher than McDonald’s national average. His tape-recording became the basis for making a professional training film on windows service that could be circulated throughout the McDonald’s system.
The key behind effective customer service is a system that can be implemented and replicated. I recently spoke with the manager of a brand-new restaurant who said his secret of friendly and efficient customer service was constant training of these staff, being there with them and helping them to improve their level of customer service.
In this economy, friendly, helpful service can provide you with a much-needed competitive edge. This not only applies to physical businesses but also online stores. I have not bought iPhone apps merely on the strength of slow and unfriendly replies from the app developers. I will not buy an app until I know how friendly and responsive any small company is who is selling on the Internet.
Perhaps the best measure of your own customer service in your small business can be found by going to visit small businesses similar to yours and checking out how they staff handle your queries and purchases. It may also act as a strong motivator to start implementing your own friendly, helpful service system.