Friday, October 17

Customer Service - is it dead?

Don't you sometimes wonder why people go into business?  There seems to be a perception in the business world that if you have a business - you just have to open the doors and the people will come and you will get rich.  I often shake my head as I leave a business, wondering how the business people think they can survive.

Business is generally a tough gig.  I suspect that there are more businesses that started and failed, than have made a success.

Appealing Shop Front.

Have you ever entered a shop and been dismayed at the lack of appeal - perhaps crappy notices falling off the front window, a display that looks old and miserable, untidy in need of a good vacuum and clean, windows all marked with handprints, and the greatest mistake of all - a grumpy unwelcoming staff member behind the counter?

We'll come to the grumpy staff later on, but a business has to look and feel welcoming.  Fresh, clean, and with products well displayed and with prices easy to read.  How many times do you go into a shop and the price is not visible, or easy to read?

                        Business Open when it says it will be.

You'd think that this would be a given.  I can name two shops around the area I live who don't seem to understand that if a customer goes to you shop in the hours that you advertise you will be open, and the doors are shut, you are doing your business terrible harm.   Strangely the two business I am referring to for this example, are in the food business.  One an Indian Restaurant that advertises on its window that it is open from 8 am for breakfast.  It was once or twice, and maybe business was slow, but it takes time to develop a business and increase your client/customer base.  Despite saying that they will be open for lunch - I seldom see the doors open.  I don't know how many folk I know have said they have gone to dine there, but it was closed.  Strange way of doing business.  

The second business is a supposedly boutique cafe - owned by a couple who are full time workers who set the cafe up to help an unemployed daughter.  The shop is pretty ordinary - nothing appealing about it at all - and they too are seldom open.  The girl is a party animal and often feels seedy and is unprepared to work.  When she does her mood is not conducing to good business.  She looks and dresses badly for a business, and has no personality or welcoming skills.  I have tried to support the business dropping in for coffee with friends but we always leave a little unhappy.  There's nothing special about the cafe, and of course customers drift away.  It is sad because the parents have tried to help their daughter, but it looks to me, and I don't know the full story, that she is somewhat ungrateful.  Sadly the business is doomed to failure.

                                        Useless Marketing.

Not opening the shop/store at the times you advertise is one of the silliest marketing strategies there is.  Another is having flyers printed - that are pointless.  The second business asked me to help with their marketing - oh, and they couldn't pay.  Mmm.  I have done nothing other than put limited information on a website, but the same business supplied me with a flyer they had printed.  It was very colourful - and could have been useful - but the name of the business was in such small print in the midst of a colourful splatter of pictures (not of anything in their shop!) and the address was not listed. It was as if they assumed that everyone would know the new business.  What??

They scatter signs throughout the district - but it is pointless.  If you see the sign and head for the cafe, 9/10 times it will be shut anyway.

                             Grumpy People Behind the Counter

Now this really annoys me.  I don't care if the person behind the counter is having a bad day (oh, I sort of do, but in business you have to put on a brave front!), but if you go into a shop and the shopkeeper does not welcome you with (a) a smile (b) bright words of welcome or an offer to assist, you are not likely to inspire your customers to return.

I can recall several businesses that I had either frequented or have known the business person, who have reduced their customers to tears by their rudeness.  Now, I know that some customers can be challenging, but the men I refer to had a habit of doing this.  I guess one of the golden rules is to NEVER EVER forget that in business you need to be friendly to all your customers and having them run from your shop in tears is not a good look.  There were a couple of women two renown for their bad treatment of customers - especially customers that look but don't buy and "waste" their time.

Bright and bubbly, and helpful characters behind the counter will be most appreciated by your customers and those who enter your shop.

                                    Customer Service

There are many great articles about quality Customer Service and I don't intend to add much here, other than to suggest that if you are going into business you (a) study the qualities of good customer service businesses and (b) visit a number of businesses, similar to your own if you can, and focus on what they do in the customer service area which is working for them.

Things like doing what you say you will, deliver on time, friendly, courteous and helpful persons that the public come into contact with etc. Set your own goals and standards and see if you can improve them.

Perhaps even have some (short)  feedback questionnaires for your customers too - if there is a problem YOU need to know about it and fix it quickly. It is better you know than other potential customers.

Study the best businesses

Take a good look at businesses like yours and see what  is working!!!  Business is tough - and you need to be a good competitor to make it through and I guess then, there are no guarantees. The two businesses I mentioned above will probably not be surviving in a few months from now.  Sad, as they have put time and money into it - but they have ignored some of the fundamentals of good business.



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