Business Tip: Customer Service is Your Business

Nov. 22, 2011 at 5:22 a.m.

By Lisa Barr

With a small town environment and Facebook, customer service is more important than ever. Word of mouth can make or break a small business.

That being said, I had a friend call me and talk about an experience she had. She needed some flooring replaced in her house and contacted a company that was recommended by numerous friends. The company measured her house, gave her a bid, and ordered flooring. After she cleared out her house for the installation, the crew arrived (late) to install the flooring and then realized they didn't have enough flooring. The crew called their office and the office said that a part of the total floor space had been left off the bid. The company needed to order more flooring. It would cost my friend another $2,000 to complete the project because "someone has to eat that cost." During the process, the blame was passed around the company and the owner never contacted my friend. So, she demanded her money back, will never do business there again, called me, and then posted the experience on Facebook.

If you were the business owner what would you have done? From the beginning, this is what I would have done.

Ask who referred the customer to my business. Send the referring customer a thank you card. (Ensures customer loyalty and return business.)

Double check the measurements on the bid and quote. Once the customer says order it, check again to make sure that enough flooring will be ordered.

If my crew will be late, give the customer a call immediately to schedule a different time. (For optimum satisfaction the call should be made by the owner.)

When a problem arises, contact the customer ASAP so a solution can be reached. If it's an internal office issue, address it with my employees and not with the customer. (Re-train/Rewrite Standard Operating Procedures).

Take 100 percent of the blame if my company messed up.

Remember: Listen, apologize, repeat back the problem, offer a solution, thank the customer for choosing me, and take action/make it right.

In reality the owner might have had $1,000 in materials/labor cost from the $2,000 additional flooring that was needed. While $1,000 is a lot for the small business owner to absorb, consider what it will really cost if you don't make a customer happy? This small business lost a $5,000 job, is stuck with flooring that no one else may order and gained negative word of mouth publicity which will cost thousands of dollars. Therefore, the decision to not take a short-term loss of $1,000 will result in a long-term loss of company profits and reputation. A horrible customer service story which I will now use in my customer service training. So, as the holidays approach and more customers are in contact with your business, what will your customer service story be?

Lisa Barr is the Senior Business Advisor at the University of Houston-Victoria Small Business Development Corporation.



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