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Use this to attract and retain more of your customers

by Alison Bradford

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“Care. That, in just one word, seems to be the essence of good customer service.” Seth Godin

Seth provides lots of great quotes ( I recommend signing up for his daily emails, if you don’t already), and I think this one beautifully simplifies what can easily become a complicated topic – Customer Service.

I was recently reading a Which? survey, looking at customer service in some of the biggest UK brands.

Coming out in the top 3 were:

  1. Lush
  2. Lakeland
  3. First Direct & John Lewis

And at the bottom end of the table were; Ryanair, Talk Talk and Npower. (I love that the survey said these companies were told ‘to pull their socks up’!!)

Key findings from the survey, that customers identified as very influential when choosing companies, were:

  • Friendly, helpful knowledgeable staff
  • Quick resolution of problems

86% of respondents also said that they would leave a brand that treated them poorly.

I couldn’t agree more. Customer service is a huge influencer on me when deciding on a company to work with – either large or small.

When it’s done well, it builds loyalty, repeat custom and a willingness to pay more.

Take Lakeland for example, who came 2nd in this recent survey. I’ve purchased online from them numerous times and have had 2 occasions to call them with an issue. They both related to receiving damaged goods (in separate orders).

Rather than asking me to return the goods to them, or questioning me in case I may have damaged them myself, they simply accepted what I was saying and immediately sent out replacements both times.

They advised me to dispose of, or keep if I wished, the damaged goods I’d received, with no pointless messing about of sending them back.

So, even though the goods I received were damaged, I ended up being very happy with their service and this is what keeps me returning to them, and recommending them. Fancy that – the service was more important to me than getting the right goods, undamaged, first time!!

On the flip side of this, I’ve recently had a very poor experience of customer service with a small local company who provide children’s swimming lessons.

My 3 year old has been having swimming lessons with them for a year, on the same day and time, when my husband turns up to take her for her usual lesson the other week only to be told that the class has moved to an earlier time and she’s missed the lesson!

Fuming that we hadn’t been notified of the change in time, I rang them and spoke to the owner who then told me we hadn’t paid and therefore had lost her place!

I then spent time to check my bank statements, to show we had in fact paid a couple of weeks previously.

At this point I was so angry at the poor service we were receiving, I just wanted a refund. I expected that as we have been with them for a year they would have; a. Notified us at least once of the change in class time b. if they thought we hadn’t paid, contact us to let us know.

Needless to say, I’ve had a refund and am now looking for other swimming lessons. Yes it’s inconvenient, but I refuse to pay money to a company that I think has treated me poorly.

So, what does this mean for your business?

This should act a reminder to review your own customer service and how you are demonstrating to your customers how much you care.

Is it easy for your customers to contact your company? Do you have friendly, knowledgeable staff in place to handle customer queries? How quickly do you resolve any problems?

Small companies have a massive opportunity to provide excellent service and compete on this basis, versus competing on price. I know from personal experience of working in large organisations how difficult it can be for them to provide excellent and consistent service.

They are often focused too much on the numbers and delivering shareholder value, and lose sight of how important customer service is to this.

It can also become too large to control properly, with staff training and high turnover of staff being a challenge for many.

As a small company, you have a key advantage here, in that it’s much easier for you to control the level of service provided and ensure it’s consistent.

Make sure you are capitalising on this!

Do you have any experiences to share, either within your business or as a customer yourself? Leave me a comment to let me know.

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Alison Bradford

Alison Bradford is a business coach who works with smart, ambitious business owners to get clarity about how they can grow their business and increase profit. Sign up here to learn 6 easy ways you can boost profit in your business today.

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