Better Customer Service is Not Optional


Providing better customer service is an obvious competitive strategy that creates the platform to achieve success in your market.  For that reason, is is almost unbelievable that customer service is so poor from so many businesses.  Most business owners I talk to want to provide better customer service.  However, their attempts to develop customer service policies and behaviours throughout their business are often frustrated.  In this article, we highlight why providing better customer service is not optional if you want to achieve business success and some ways to achieve better customer service, by approaching the topic somewhat differently than you might anticipate.

Provide Better Customer Service by Identifying Unmet Needs

One reason many businesses fail at providing better customer service is that they try to compete head-to-head with their competitors.  They take them on at their own game.  This strategy is difficult to make work, because of competitor reactions.  Both you and your competitor either get stronger at customer service, or someone tries to take a shortcut and ends up undermining the reputation of everyone in the industry.  A better approach is to try to identify unmet needs within your market that no competitor is paying attention to.  This is a strategy that can propel your success to market domination like no other.

One company that used this strategy and grew from a neighborhood outlet to a world-wide phenomenon was Domino's Pizza.  In a commodity market such as pizza restaurants, where they were getting killed, Tom Monaghan identified a need that no one was paying much attention to - home delivery.  At the time, home deliveries were seen as a way to top up the down times when the eat-in restaurant was a bit quiet.  As a result, home deliveries were given low priority and often the customer received their pizza order after a long wait, by which time it arrived cold and unappetising. 

Guarantee Better Customer Service to Achieve Market Domination

Monaghan saw a way he could provide better customer service by targeting this unmet need.  He came up with a strategy to deliver to this market "fresh, hot pizza in 30 minutes, or it was free."  He saw a need and used a powerful guarantee of better customer service to gain a foothold in this market.  His strategy was so successful, that the market for pizza grew phenomenally, as he created a whole new market of pizza lovers who preferred home delivery who would not eat at a pizza restaurant.  He not only changed his business's fate from a struggling also ran to a hugely successful multi-national operation, all on the strength of a uniquely audacious guarantee that no one else had the courage to copy.

Achieve Better Customer Service by Selling Them More

One of the disappointing aspects of customer service in many businesses, particularly obvious in retail stores, emanates from the lack of sales skill of most retail sales people.  Many business owners and sales people seem to think that selling is the antipathy of providing service.  People don't want high pressure, you say.  Absolutely correct. But neither do they want insipid sales people who cannot offer quality service because they can't think proactively about what customers may need and are too weak to offer additional opportunities to buy when they have a willing customer giving them their attention.  This poor service comes at a high cost to both the customer and the business owner, as well as the salesperson if they earn any type of remuneration based on performance.

Better customer service can be achieved by being aware of what else your customer might need if they buy a particular item, and ensuring that your sales people ask if they would like it. McDonald’s made this an art form with the question, “Would you like fries with that?” You need to think about what products or services, or combinations of products and services, go naturally together. Offering these extra items is not high pressure sales tactics.  It is better customer service to help someone who needs your product to identify what they want and how they can get them.  If you don't offer these things to your customer you are negligent and uncaring.  As long as you offer them without pressure and allow your customer to decide, you are providing better customer service.

Provide Better Customer Service by Building Intimate Relationships

Intimacy is about knowing more about another person than the norm.  When you build intimate relationships with your customers, you are get to know them in a way that you can anticipate their needs and provide better customer service.  When you are aware of what your customers want and find a way for them to get it, you are not being pushy, as long as you relate to your customer in a way that honors and respects them.  These days there are many tools you can use to increase your ability to communicate with customers and get to know their needs and wants.  You don't enhance your ability to provide better customer service by being back-footed and waiting for customers to ask first.  Your service levels increase greatly when you let your valued customers know how they can get their special favorites first, or how they can jump the queue to get the newest item that may take their fancy, before it is made known widely to the general public. 

Be creative and find ways to develop intimacy with your customers.

Providing better customer service is not difficult if you use your imagination and creativity.  Don't go head-to-head with your competitors and try to out do them where can compete directly against you.  Come up with innovative ways to provide better customer service by looking for unmet needs, or selling your customers more, or by getting to know them better.  It's not that hard and the results can be phenomenal.

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