Good customer service is the staple of any business, whether you have an online store or a regular brick-and-mortar. It is what brings customers (and their friends) back to your business and often creates brand loyalty. It’s one of the easiest and most budget friendly ways to win customers and keep them happy. So why do so many fail or neglect to do this? As a customer myself, here are some of the slip-ups that I have seen businesses making:
- Questionable or Too Strict Return Policies. Stand behind your product. If it’s defective, make the situation right! Most people aren’t trying to rip you off; they just want their item/product/service to work or be useful. If it isn’t, fix it. Plain and simple. Replacing the item or refunding his or her money will cost you a whole lot less than an unhappy customer that tells everyone and anyone.
- Rude and Less-Than-Helpful Staff. Chatting on the phone while you have customers waiting or having your staff more eager to fill empty shelves than serve customers is just bad. We recognize that you may have product that needs to be re-stocked or cleaning that needs to be done. However, it would be a more appropriate to tend to those duties in between customers, not while they are waiting. Chances are if you don’t have customers, you won’t have a job. Friendly staff = happy customers = more $$
“The customer’s perception is your reality.” -Kate Zabriskie
- Cluttered and Messy Stores. There are definitely ‘small’ retail locations. Some that you probably would want to leave the kiddies at home to visit. Regardless of whom you tote with you on your shopping trips, albeit a toddler or extra-large purse, there should always be room to move around comfortably. There’s nothing worse than having to step over items on the floor or navigating yourself through an obstacle course of clothing racks and display stands. Even the prettiest of frocks will get missed. As customers, we understand that products that don’t get seen, don’t get sold. However, please don’t use this as a motto to advertise every product you currently have in stock. This is an accident waiting to happen, especially for us clumsy people out there. Or if we are so brave to bring our children with us while we shop. Try to keep your business looking neat and tidy, even in the bathroom. Inevitably, the day you dump your day-old coffee down the sink and neglect that full garbage can will be the day that someone has a bathroom emergency.
- Bad Business Hours. Keep in mind that nine-to-five isn’t always perfect for everyone. Especially people who also work nine to five. At the very least, try to offer flexible weekend hours. Dedicate one evening a month to being open late, such as “Midnight Madness,” to try to reach out to the customers that can’t generally make it Monday to Friday. Personally, I enjoy shopping in the evening as I can leave my children with their dad and can shop uninterrupted without fear that my kids will beg and plead with me to buy them something. Great hours are a win-win for everyone.
- Lack of Parking. Understandably, sometimes this is out of your store’s control and there’s not really much you can do about it. That’s when it’s a great idea to let the customers know how much you appreciate them stopping by. If you’re in a position to offer them a small discount or coupon for future use as a token of gratitude, then do so. It’s just a nice way of saying, “We value you as a customer!” This is especially prevalent in places that use overzealous parking inspectors to ticket customers if they go 5 minutes over their allotted time. When that sort of irritation keeps happening, many people might just find somewhere else to shop.
It doesn’t take a lot to keep a customer happy and it’s cheaper than advertising in the local paper. Be nice. Hire pleasant staff. Listen to your customers. Reward Loyalty. It really can be that simple!
“Always do more than is required of you,” -George S. Patton
Isn’t this a better commandment to live by?