“OVERDELIVER” AND SEVEN OTHER TIPS ON CUSTOMER SERVICE BEST PRACTICESApril 18, 2012 (0 comments)
By Caroline Stanley
Merrick, NY—Now that anyone can get almost anything, anywhere, with the click of a mouse, it’s more important than ever for retailers to offer not just outstanding, but amazing customer service. The Centurion spoke with David Peters, Director of Education & Industry Relations for Jewelers of America, who moderated a roundtable on just that topic, “Amazing Customer Service,” at Centurion Scottsdale in January. His retailer roundtable attendees put their heads together, compared notes and shared their best customer service practices. Peters elaborates on those savvy nuggets, in no particular order.
Amazing customer service boils down to two facets, people and policies, he says. Let’s first examine policies:
1) “Over-deliver,” says Peters simply. Think seriously about any sort of promise you make to a customer, whether it’s related to a repair, a special order, or a watch battery. Always make sure you can over-deliver. Make it a policy to do so, whenever possible.
Robert Girard of Tivol, Kansas City, MO, delivered over-the-top customer service last year to keep a long time customer’s son very happy. Girard’s customer called from out-of-state, telling him he needed to facilitate two engagement rings for his two sons. The older son took care of his ring quickly and easily, but the younger son had a custom job involving a new center stone and other stones from his mother’s ring.
Due to the custom work, the ring took a bit longer than expected. Unbeknownst to Girard, the son had planned a surprise proposal along with an engagement party. When Girard let him know the delivery date, the son realized the ring would arrive too late. The son offered to drive down from Chicago and pick up the ring to save time.
Girard realized it was up to him to make the sale happen and to deliver the ring to his customer. “Don’t worry, I’ll have it there. I’m supplying the ring, so I’ll come to you,” he said. He took a half-day off work and hopped on a plane to Chicago’s Midway airport to deliver the ring.
Girard carried a Tivol bag into the Chicago Midway terminal so the customer would recognize him. The customer found him, thanked him, and offered to buy him a beer. Girard said thanks, but he had a return flight in 20 minutes!
“The amazing thing is that the father never heard about the story. He’s still a very good customer and I have hopes his sons will be too. The relationship is more important than profit,” Girard said.
Keeping your promises to customers isn’t enough any longer, says Peters. You must exceed them. If you know you can have a repair done in two days, then promise three. Then, call on day two and pleasantly surprise your customer by saying “ready!”
2) Regularly seek feedback from customers and employees. Do customer satisfaction surveys on a regular basis (via email or by leaving comments cards on the counter for easy access).
“We follow up with our customers via phone (and sometimes via email) after each transaction, whether it’s a minor repair or a big sale,” says jeweler Susan Eisen, Susan Eisen Fine Jewelry & Watches, El Paso, TX. “We’re in it for the long term, not just for each short individual transaction. It’s a call to ensure that the customer is happy and it can also be an opening for future business. Since everything we do has our name attached to it, we want to be sure it meets our high quality control standards every time.”
Do the same with your employees. Find out and pay attention to what attitudes each employee has and how they feel store management runs the store. Find out what they think you are doing right and what you are doing wrong. “If your employees are not happy, there’s no way they will deliver good customer service,” says Peters.
3) Put your customer service policies in writing,” says Peters. Ensure your entire staff knows what is expected of them.
4) Upgrade your technology. Technology has made customer service easier across the board, says Peters. From an auto inventory reordering system that keeps popular items in stock to email blasts/newsletters sent to your customers to data management systems that track customer’s purchase histories, all these technologies make it easier to better serve your customers and their needs.
What role do the people play?
5) “Hiring and keeping the right people is key,” says Peters. As JA’s director of education, Peters has great insight into adult learning: hire for attitude and train for skills. “You can’t change an adult’s attitude; you can teach one new skills.”
6) “Empower your staff as much as possible.” Ensure they can make any decisions that can be made. “Never, ever open your store without someone there that can make any decision that might need to be made,” stresses Peters. “Fifteen years ago, a customer would accept hearing “I’ll talk to the manager or owner tomorrow and call you back.” In today’s world, no one will wait a day.” Customers demand immediate satisfaction and gratification and they need answers immediately. Ensure you store is prepared to meet this need at all times.
7) “Pick the right customers.” Know your strengths and your inventory and market yourself to the appropriate clientele. Your advertising should match your store’s brand. Know who you are, who you serve and market to the right customers. This is the beginning basis for good customer service.
8) “Promote shared accountability.” While everyone in the store does not do the same job, they must accept the same accountability. Your employees can’t say “that’s not my job.” Accountability must be shared. Every person in the store must be willing to keep the customer happy.
When queried where a jeweler can go for a ‘customer-service’ tune-up, Peters reminds JA members they have access to JA’s online e-learning center. There, a jeweler can can access information on customer service, customer management and other relevant retail topics.
As a store owner, how do you know if your customer service is working?
“Do the customer service surveys and find out,” says Peters. “Do the surveys twice a year.” Keep your fingers on the pulse of your customer service, both with your customers and your employees. Fine-tuning your customer service will keep your customers and employees happy—as well as your bottom line.