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Building Better Businesses highlights customer service

By ALLISON MILES
Oct. 25, 2011 at 5:25 a.m.

Lisa Barr, left, discusses customer service tips and techniques with employers and employees Tuesday at the Victoria Chamber of Commerce's second installment of its quarterly Building Better Businesses series. Barr is a senior business adviser with the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center.

For more information on the Building Better Businesses chamber series, or to suggest a topic for future events, call 361-573-5277 or visit www.victoriachamber.org.

Lisa Barr, senior business adviser for the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Center, also offered five habits for employers and employees to develop regarding customer service.

Those habits include:

Make a good first impression. Greet customers within one minute of their arrival and be courteous and friendly. Smile with your voice.

Know your job. Understand what is expected of you, what procedures or services are available and the full name, address, location and directions for finding the business.

Communicate clearly. Recognize customer feelings and concerns and don't argue. Ask questions and be reliable. Do what you tell customers you'll do when you say you'll do it.

Handle problems effectively. Identify the issue and use common sense to solve it. If you can't help, find someone who can. Go the extra mile.

Make a good last impression. Ask if the customers' needs were met, thank them for their business and make them feel good about choosing to do business with your company.

Employers and employees alike got the chance to brush up on their customer service skills Tuesday.

The second installment of Building Better Businesses, a quarterly business series hosted by the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, took place inside the University of Houston-Victoria Multi-Purpose Room.

October's session focused on customer service, a subject that seemed to be of interest in Victoria, said Randy Vivian, the chamber's president and CEO. The topic was selected after chamber members and business owners requested it, he said.

Although only in its second installment, Vivian said Building Better Businesses has grown. Nearly 30 people attended the October event, he said, double the 14 people who attended July's session.

"I'm really excited about the growth of this program," he said. "We just want to make sure we're offering something that our members really want and need."

Lisa Barr, senior business adviser with the UHV Small Business Development Center, offered tips to help attendees make the most of their customer service. Those include:

Obey the golden rule: Treat customers the way you want to be treated. Show respect, offer help if they need it, and the like.

Remember the platinum rule: Treat customers the way they want to be treated. Not everyone enjoys being hugged, for instance. Respect their personal space, but provide the assistance they need.

Obey the double platinum rule: Treat customers the way they don't even know they want to be treated. Anticipate their needs and act on them. Go above and beyond to help them out.

Avoid creating expectations you can't meet: This can be as simple as telling a caller to wait "just a moment" instead of "just a minute." This way, callers aren't upset when it takes longer than 60 seconds. Taking a number and calling back later is another option.

Remember nonverbal communication is important: Nearly 80 percent of communication is nonverbal. Greet customers with a smile and make sure other employees appear attentive and ready to help when a customer enters the establishment.

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