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Business Tip: Customer service key to successful business

July 29, 2014 at 2:29 a.m.


We all know the story: It costs five times as much to bring in a new customer than to keep an existing one. When people become your customer, they want to be loyal. So, why do they leave? Most of the time, they leave because of small oversights and lack of attention to plain, old customer service.

1. Know who is boss. You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Never forget that the customer pays your salary and makes your job possible.

2. Be a good listener. Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying. Effective listening and undivided attention are extremely important.

3. Identify and anticipate needs. Customers don't just buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs.

4. Make customers feel important and appreciated. Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them but be sincere. People value sincerity. It creates good feelings and trust. Most importantly, thank them every time you get a chance.

5. Help customers understand your systems. Your organization may have the world's best systems for getting things done, but if customers don't understand them, they can get confused, impatient and angry. Take time to explain how your systems work and how they simplify transactions. Be careful that your systems don't reduce the human element of your organization.

6. Appreciate the power of "Yes." Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable), tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterward. Look for ways to make doing business with you easy. Always do what you say you are going to do.

7. Know how to apologize. When something goes wrong, apologize. It's easy, and customers like it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately and let customers know what you have done.

8. Give more than expected. Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to put yourself above the competition. Consider the following:

What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere?

What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don't buy?

What can you give customers that is totally unexpected?

Get regular feedback. Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services.

Treat employees well. Employees are your internal customers and need a regular dose of appreciation. Thank them and find ways to let them know how important they are. Treat your employees with respect. Treating customers and employees well is equally important.

Customer service is an integral part of your job and should not be seen as an extension of it. A company's most vital asset is its customers. Without them, you would not and could not exist in business. When you satisfy your customers, they not only help you grow by continuing to do business with you but recommend you to friends and associates.

Kacey M. Lindemann Butler is a Certified Business Advisor IV at the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Corporation.

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