University of South Carolina

May I help you?

By: Frenche` Brewer, brewer4@mailbox.sc.edu, 803-777-3691

This past Thanksgiving, a family on a seven-hour road trip to grandmother’s house, stopped for lunch at a popular fast food restaurant, four hours from their destination. A cranky toddler distracted the mother who ended up leaving behind her purse, with all of her identification inside. She called the eatery back and asked the manager to send her bag by Federal Express to her, and he agreed. But, instead, he drove to the address and delivered the package himself. True story.

Now, that’s customer service!

The lifeblood of any business is good customer service. Send customers away happy, and they’ll be back.

Sounds like a simple enough theory, but apparently few companies really get it right.

Simon Hudson, a University of South Carolina professor and expert on the topic of providing good customer service says, “In a recent study, 300 companies were asked how many of them delivered good customer service? Eighty percent said they did. Their customers were asked how good those companies were doing, and only 8 percent said the companies were providing good customer service, so there’s a big gap there.

Hudson, director of the S.C. Center of Economic Excellence in Tourism and Economic Development, also recently authored a book, “Customer Service for Hospitality and Tourism.”

He says Americans will tell an average of nine people about good experiences, and nearly twice as many (16 people) about bad ones – making every individual service interaction important for businesses.

“Customer service training is often viewed as a cost rather than an investment, and even if companies recognize the importance of customer service, they don’t know how to deliver consistent, high-quality customer service on an on-going basis,” says Hudson.

The average business will spend $75 dollars on customer service training, while a well-known grocery store chain spends $3,000 to train its employees.

“It takes years to build a culture among employees to make them understand that the customer is No. 1. If you deliver good customer service you make money,” Hudson says.

Hudson’s 5 rules for good customer service

 

Lead from the top - Employees don’t naturally come with the skills to offer good customer service, so the boss has to demonstrate how it’s done. The business doesn’t have to be a five-star establishment to offer good service. It takes a leader to understand how to practice giving outstanding customer service. The first rule is to pay attention to detail.
 
Train your staff to always be helpful, courteous and knowledgeable - Do it yourself or hire someone to train the staff. Talk to them regularly about good customer service and what it is (and isn't). Most importantly, give every member of your staff enough information and power to make those small customer-pleasing decisions.
 
Look for ways to exceed customer’s expectations - Whether it's a coupon for a future discount, additional information about how to use the product or a genuine smile, people love to get more than they thought they were getting. Lead the customer to the item, and wait to see if he has questions about it or further needs.
 
Get the message out that you have best customer service – Social media is changing business strategies and messaging. If you can be consistent in providing good customer service, your reviews will reflect that. The higher your review, the more you can charge.
Answer your phone - Get call forwarding, an answering service or hire staff, but make sure that a live person is picking up the phone when someone calls your business.

 

If you would like to read about the best examples of good customer service worldwide, Hudson’s book is available at Goodfellowpublishers.com or Amazon.com.

Posted: 02/14/13 @ 12:00 AM | Updated: 02/14/13 @ 11:12 AM | Permalink