Customer service pivotal, especially around holidays

By Sandra Taylor-Sawyer: Everybody’s Business

Several years ago, an item I purchased malfunctioned within a matter of weeks. Upon contacting the business, the item was serviced but malfunctioned again.

This scenario of repair-malfunction continued for weeks. Most folks who know me will say I am a patient person; it takes a lot to get me excited. But when I do, I am determined to find a solution.

Eventually the problem was resolved. The outcome was a win-win for both sides because that business will have me as a customer for life.

As we approach the Christmas season with the hustle and bustle of shopping, it is wise to have a refresher course on customer service. Keeping customers happy is paramount to business success. This does not always mean compensation; it translates to excellent customer service.

The small business owner is in a much better position to achieve customer satisfaction than many large businesses. Small business owners can deal directly with the customer to immediately make decisions.

In a well-run business, excellent customer service is the result of a genuine ethical feeling — not a gimmick designed to achieve a goal. Customer satisfaction is the goal. It is important the owner ensures everyone hired has an honest attitude of service, and the structure and operating procedures of the business are designed to provide customer satisfaction.

The person who sells the product must not be allowed to promise more than can reasonably be delivered. Failure to deliver to the level of customer anticipation will result in dissatisfaction.

A potent competitive tool is to maintain a high standard of customer service. It is wise to remember customers are willing to pay extra or go out of their way for good service.

Excellent customer service must be an integral part of the marketing plan and provided for in the budget.

Three basics are necessary to keep the customer happy:

—Make it easy for customers to shop for the product.

—Keep the transaction process simple for the customer.

—Make sure that the customer is satisfied with the transaction.

In most businesses, more than 50 percent of sales come from repeat customers. It is estimated that more than 90 percent of dissatisfied customers will never buy from the company again. Even worse, they will tell at least nine people about their negative experiences.

Attracting a new customer usually costs many times more than keeping an old one. Excellent customer service is a worthy goal and smart business.

Sandra Taylor-Sawyer is director of the Small Business Development Center at Clovis Community College. Call the center at 769-4136 or visit
Retired business counselor Jim Casey contributed to the article.