How Good Customer Service
Can Actually Hurt Your Business

by Tom Egelhoff

Do you agree with the title of this article? Doesn't every business book available tout the virtues of not just good customer service but "knock your socks off" customer service? So you may want to ask yourself that question again at the end of this article.

One of the great things about belonging to an organization like M.E.R.A. is that you have a place to exchange ideas with others that have the same interests you do. That one thing is the success of your business in the Mobile Electronics field.

But the other side of the sword is that you are all different. No two of you run your respective businesses the same way and that brings us varying levels of customer service.

What Exactly Is Customer Service Anyway?

If I asked ten shop owners to give me a definition of customer service I'd probably get ten different answers. We find it hard to define but we definitely know when we DON'T get it don't we? Now that becomes the problem because each of your customers also have their own definition of what good customer service is. You may think you're providing it but they may think you aren't. So the next question is how can you define something that has so many definitions? The answer is you can't. So are you out of luck when it comes to providing good service? No here's the way to look at customer service.

Look At The Extremes

Do you think, if your employees really applied themselves, that they could drive every single customer out of your shop without making a single purchase? I think that's possible. So there IS a level of BAD customer service that would really hurt your business. In fact it would probably put you out of business. So that is one extreme.

Now, would it make sense that the other extreme could do the same thing? Service too good could also put you out of business. Let's explore that for a second. Could you offer free pick-up and drop off to customers that live 200 miles from your shop?

You could but not at a profit. That would be great customer service but you couldn't do it consistently or profitably. And that is the real key to customer service. What is the best level of service you and your employees can provide both profitably and consistently?

What Is My Level Of Service?

Why do 90% of franchises succeed and 85% of small businesses fail in the first five years. The franchise knows how to deliver consistent profitable service. Whether it's Wal-Mart, McDonalds' or Pier One. When you walk into one anywhere in the country there is almost no difference. A Big Mac is exactly the same in Florida as it is in Alaska. Employees are trained in what to say, how to say it and what services they can and can't offer to customers.

I don't care how bad you want a Whopper you aren't going get one at McDonalds. Could they make you one? Would that be good customer service? Or would the customer walk in everyday expecting you to provide a Whopper made specifically for him.

How To Deliver Consistent, Profitable Customer Service

Here is what makes an organization like M.E.R.A. so valuable. At your next employee meeting ask everyone to make a list of the products and services that you do really well and really profitably. Then get out the M.E.R.A. membership list and call some members in towns similar in size and demographics to you. Ask them the same questions.

What products or services do they provide at a profit and how do they do it? If you are having trouble in a certain profit center perhaps they have a tool or procedure that will speed things up. Perhaps you can't provide some services. You can't make Whoppers because you are a McDonalds.

Trying to provide something you can't usually translates into a bad experience for the customer. You would be better served to send them to a competitor than to create a bad customer experience.

Make It A Company Effort

Consistency is the key to good customer service. Every time that customer darkens your door they know they are going to get a quality product, in a timely manner at a fair price. Make sure each employee has the guidelines they need to provide the best service possible at the highest profit margins.

For example, there is a repair shop nearby that has a list of key phrases near every phone. These phrases are clues that the customer had a bad experience at another repair shop. I know you can hear these, from your own customers, in your mind as you read this.

Train Employees To Listen

How much training and certification have each of your employees had? I bet the walls are full of certificates and diplomas from all sorts of schools. How much listening training have they had? Chances are - next to none.

Customers will give you all sorts of clues in their words and actions that will help you make their experience in your shop better. Learn to listen and encourage your employees to listen as well.

Satisfaction Is Contagious

Do you have letters from customers praising your service? I bet all of you do. One company here puts them in a binder in the customer waiting area. They are in plastic sleeves and the waiting customers can get a healthy dose of positive re-enforcement about your business.

Remember, if you concentrate on the things you do well your satisfied customers will spread the word.

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