With businesses big and small crumbling under the weight of the economy, some look to costly layoffs and cutbacks to keep a business afloat, but experts at the Guerrilla Tactics — Business Financial Forum Tuesday said there may be a cheaper and easier way to draw customers in and keep them — customer service.
“Those of you still in business today are doing something right and one of those things is probably customer service,” said Ron Nielsen from Gila Community College.
“The single most important thing you can do is customer service, you can have a great location, product and do well, but you won’t do great,” said Safeway store manager Dan Dillon.
“The least expensive thing you can do and you will see the biggest reward from is, customer service.”
Dillon stressed to an audience of mostly business owners and managers at the Best Western Payson Inn Tuesday night, that if visitors were taken care of by the businesses in town, they would keep coming back.
“I am not talking about offering good customer service, you have to have outstanding customer service today,” he said.
Dillon pointed out that his competitors sell the same can of beans. How he sells them makes the difference.
All employees at Safeway are encouraged to greet each customer that comes in, an example of good customer service. But Dillon takes it a step further and promotes employees to ask, “What’s for dinner?” and if they don’t know, share recipe ideas. This sells more products, but also creates a relationship with employees and a level of trust.
“You don’t know what someone has gone through in that day, but when they come into your store they should feel safe,” Dillon said.
Perfecting the art of customer service is something Dillon and his employees work on every day. Not every customer will leave happy, because some are impossible to please.
“You cannot have customer service or possess it — you cannot say one day “I got it,” he said.
“It is something you have to work at every day.”
Dean Pam Butterfield of the Gila Community College pointed out that 96 percent of unhappy customers leave without saying anything and those unhappy customers on average tell eight to 10 people about their problem.
“If you resolve a problem in the customer’s favor, 70 percent will stick with you,” she said.
To keep the idea of customer service fresh with his employees, Dillon holds an informal meeting every morning before the store opens. Sometimes he talks about customer service and other times he just listens to his employees.
“How you (a manager) comes into the store, sets the tone for the rest of the day for your employees,” he said. “You need to be approachable.”
Dillon offered several tips for cultivating customer service:
First is hiring for customer service. Ask perspective employees what they think customer service is and to give an example of providing it. Second is creating a tangible and measurable customer service plan for employees to follow. If a customer complains about a price, employees should have the ability to correct it up to a certain price limit.
And when an employee provides exceptional service, recognize them, he said.
“All you got to do is pat them on the back when they do good,” he said. “That goes a long way.”
And if a service blunder occurs, Butterfield offered six tips to correct it.
First let the customer vent, avoid being caught up in the argument, express empathy, begin problem-solving, agree on a solution and finally follow-up with a call.
In this economy, it’s not the revolutionary ideas that could save your business, but the simple act of listening to employees and customers, Dillon said.