DOWN TO BUSINESS
A look at small business questions from the Southwestern Oregon Community College Small Business Development Center (SBDC).
By Arlene M. Soto CMA, CGBP, Southwestern SBDC Director
How do I make sure I keep customers coming back to my business?
The short answer to keep customers coming back to your business is to provide what customers are looking for at affordable prices along with great customer service. But what does it mean to provide great customer service? Unfortunately, the answer to this question depends on customer expectations and those are different for each person served.
Barry Moltz and Mary Jane Grinstead surveyed successful business owners for their book BAM: Bust a Myth, Delivering Customer Service in a Self-Service World and here is what they heard:
• “Be personable and gracious toward the prospect or customer at all times.
• Treat every person with dignity and respect.
• Consider the other person’s needs and point of view first.
• Encourage customers to express their needs and desires.
• Listen to what the customer needs and desires.
• Provide customers with everything they expect, then give them service beyond what they expect.”
Providing excellent customer service is all about listening to customers and delivering on promises made to them. Train employees to treat customers graciously. Know the limitations in your company and don’t over promise what can be done to meet a customer’s needs. If you can’t meet the customer’s expectations at least try to help them find a solution so they feel comfortable coming back in the future.
No response to telephone and email communications can be an area of poor service complaint from customers. If you are going to be out during regular hours of operation, leave a message to that effect along with an estimate of when you will be able to get back to prospective customers. Then, make sure you do reply to that customer. Even if you don’t have an answer immediately, your customers will appreciate the communication about when you will be able to respond to their request.
Finally, great customer service is about dealing with customer complaints in a timely manner. No one likes to hear complaints but that is your customer’s way of trying to communicate their unmet expectations. It can even be an opportunity to build a better customer relationship in the future.
The SBDC is a partnership of the U.S. Small Business Administration, the Oregon Small Business Development Center Network, the Oregon Business Development Department and Southwestern Oregon Community College. Arlene M. Soto has been the Director of the Southwestern Small Business Development Center since July 2007. To ask a question call 541-756-6445, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, or write 2455 Maple Leaf, North Bend, OR 97459. Additional help is available at the OSBDCN Web page www.bizcenter.org.