Homesteading Forum banner
1 - 17 of 17 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,935 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Spin off from the other two threads regarding poor or nonexistent customer service.

Here's how to keep customers and get new ones-

1. Recognize and understand this fundemental of business: No customers, no sales. No sales, no paycheck.

I am always amazed at the number of people who do not, or cannot grasp this basic fact. In most retail segments, the employees show up to collect a check and cannot seem to grasp they must actually put forth effort to keep getting one. If you have an employee who presumes their presence alone merits a paycheck-get rid of them. If they aren't interested in working, they aren't interested in helping your customers either.

2. Create a dress code.

Any business can do this, even if it's just one employee. Determine for yourself what is the appropriate form you wish the general public to see when they enter your premises, and stick to it. You can be as specific as you like, even to jewelry/tatts/footwear, whatever. If the employee would otherwise suit, it will pay off in the long run if you provide appropriate attire yourself.

3. Establish priorities.

This sounds simple on the surface, but it is not in practise. If the customer standing in front of your employee is unable to give them their full attention, you will lose business. (Here's a chronic example: Auto parts store-phone rings and the customer on the phone gets attended to before the person standing at the counter with money in hand. How much could business increase if one or more people were hired just to handle the phones?) Employees need to have quidelines as to which situation to address first, second, and so forth, and you can call them duties too.

4. The customer is always right.

The person comes into your store or facility for a *reason*. Do not ever let them leave without something. Even if that something is directions given if they are lost, or where to find an item-even at a competitors' store. If nothing else they will leave with a positive impression of your business.

5. Employees must project competence and knowledge of the product or service.

Another one that sounds simple on the surface, but is so critical to making sales. Most consumers do not need people who can quote minutae, but they do need educated assistance. As an employer, it is your responsibility to teach employees the fundamentals. If the employee shows an inability to learn, find another one.

6. Provide an incentive to put forth effort.

This can be almost anything...meeting sales goals, bonuses of many kinds, raises, whatever. Nothing will light a sales staff like a concrete goal and a good reward. Follow through when this happens, or you will loose valuable staff over time.

7. Most successful businesses have long time employees.

If you are experiencing great turn over (aside from seasonal needs) then you are doing something wrong. Time to pay attention to your own management style and communications, because the ultimate fault is your own. Repeat customers are comfortable dealing with people they know from previous visits. Revisit the list above to figure out where you are going wrong. A few hundred dollars in extra payroll might make the difference between success and failure.


Thats just a few things I thought of this morning. For myself, I give each customer who walks in the door my full attention (when possible because I do get busy and work by myself for the majority of the time) I let the voice mail pick up calls when necessary. I always, always call them back too. I turn myself inside out to get the customer what they need, when they need it, and where they need it. Because of this, I have returning customers, and while overall sales are off-they aren't nonexistent either.

This is also why I have 20 years in the job, with the full confidence of my boss to manage this satellite sales office without direct supervision.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,245 Posts
Could not agree more.

I pay about 10% more for stuff at local hardware store because when I just need to buy a .20cent part, I want them there. Also, when I can not figure out how to do XXXXXX, they always have a solution for me.

I hire those who give me the impression tha they give a darn about my business.

I shop/hire those who are willing to help out, not simply see how many nickels they can squeeze out of me.

I spend money at places that have proven they will do what ever they can to keep my business. In return, they keep it.
 

·
SM Entrepreneuraholic
Joined
·
15,448 Posts
It might work, but I doubt it. Most of the country is in deflation which means prices have to go down. So the problem becomes how can a company maintain good customer service level while at the same time reducing staff and overhead.

Most businesses in US have become sellers of commodities - meaning he who sells cheapest gets the business. Proof - Walmart is only US retailer making money.

So can a company survive by having outstanding customer service? No, not unless that company also has a sound financial underpinning and has reduced overhead to the point it hurts.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,935 Posts
Discussion Starter · #4 ·
MoonRiver, I don't doubt that you are correct. However, all my items above are customer service related. Without customer service, a small business has an uphill battle.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,852 Posts
4. The customer is always right.
No. Some customers are totally unreasonable. Don't do business with them. They represent a tiny percentage of the customer base but will waste your time and money. You will never make them happy. Focus on customers who appreciate your business, product and service. Serve those customers well. To the unreasonable ones simply say, I'm sorry we can't help you.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,935 Posts
Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Well I have certainly run across a number of unreasonable customers over the years. Anyone who has spent any time at a counter has. But there is no reason to treat those you cannot help, any worse than those you can. jmo
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
9,852 Posts
You miss-understood me. I didn't say treat them worse. I didn't say not be polite. Just realize that the customer is not always right and don't waste time trying to please people that can't be pleased.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,935 Posts
Discussion Starter · #8 ·
I jokingly tell my (very few!) employees-the customer is always right, even when they are wrong, haha

I've had a bunch of nitpickers, and a few repeat customers that I mentally cringe when they come in-something is just bound to go wrong with them. Can't be helped, all I can do is the best I can do.

It must work, they do come back ;)
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
757 Posts
It might work, but I doubt it. Most of the country is in deflation which means prices have to go down. So the problem becomes how can a company maintain good customer service level while at the same time reducing staff and overhead.

Most businesses in US have become sellers of commodities - meaning he who sells cheapest gets the business. Proof - Walmart is only US retailer making money.

So can a company survive by having outstanding customer service? No, not unless that company also has a sound financial underpinning and has reduced overhead to the point it hurts.
I disagree. The only way a smaller retailer can survive is through exceptional customer service.

Walmart is not the only retailer making money. Just the only large one. And that is because the other large retailers are trying to play Walmart's game without the same weapons.

In the different Ace Hardware stores that I have visited, they are really trying to compete with superior customer service and I have bought from them.
 

·
Columnist, Feature Writer
Joined
·
4,568 Posts
4. The customer is always right.
Thankfully this isn't true because my customers have said and thought some very off-the-wall things. Sometimes it's amusing and other times it's a hazard. I can usually straighten out a misconception or explain why what the customer is asking for isn't possible, but they aren't always right.
 

·
Columnist, Feature Writer
Joined
·
4,568 Posts
It might work, but I doubt it. Most of the country is in deflation which means prices have to go down. So the problem becomes how can a company maintain good customer service level while at the same time reducing staff and overhead.
I think this statement is generally too broad. This is probably true of some businesses but not all. My prices fluctuate seasonally but they don't come down because of the economy. Sales have increased, not dropped. A friend with a cottage industry making dolls, something not necessary, continues to increase while her prices also continue to increase. Her costs have not increased.
 

·
Enter farm name here
Joined
·
1,645 Posts
There are many types of customers out there.

1. Ones who shop merely by price and don't necessarily care about the service they get. Oh sure, they want good service and grumble when they don't get good service, but that won't stop them from shopping at a particular store. To them price matters most.

2. Then there are the ones who believe shopping is more than getting the least expensive deal. They believe that getting good service (whether that be a smile & "thank you" or advice about a problem/project/product) is as important or more so than the price they pay for the goods received.

3. And yet still there are others who are a mix of the two above.

I work in IT full time, but sell Avon on the side. My Avon business is MY business. In many locations you can find Avon reps all over the place... so I go above and beyond to take care of my customers, without being pushy about sales. I've even had my customers contact me when other Avon reps leave books with them saying "you're my Avon lady, not that other person". Loyal customers like that are diamonds.

Regardless, there is always room for businesses to serve all kinds of shoppers.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
647 Posts
I think for small businesses, one of the most important things (after customer service) is hours of business. I would like to go to more small businesses - for many reasons - but if I'm doing a home improvement project on a Sat, and I run out of painters tape, is the local Ace open? Nope. So off to Lowes I go, and end up buying a new paintbrush, some rollors, ect so I only have to make one trip out. The local Ace lost $40 due to closing at 2:00 on Sat.
Same with all the local stores downtown. I would love to browse around those stores, buy some x-mas presents from them, but they close at 5:00 on week nights. I don't get home from work until 6:00. So they lose my business.
This is true of almost every small business I know of.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
415 Posts
No. Some customers are totally unreasonable. Don't do business with them. They represent a tiny percentage of the customer base but will waste your time and money. You will never make them happy. Focus on customers who appreciate your business, product and service. Serve those customers well. To the unreasonable ones simply say, I'm sorry we can't help you.
In fact, some customers will cost a business far more money than they (this set of customers) will bring in. One key of business is recognizing which customers fall in this category, and dealing with them appropriately. I am reminded, specifically, of a woman who shopped in a store where I worked. She would buy three or four things, and MAYBE keep one garment. The items she brought back frequently showed signs of use (lots of deodorant marks in the armpits, that sort of thing). The manager finally told her that from then on, all of her sales were final. The woman blew a gasket, swore that she'd never darken our doorway again after she'd used up her store credit, and stormed out. All of us working there were very relieved. It was nearly impossible to sell the items that she brought back.

As for dress codes, I must be getting old. One thing that I hate to see on any visible employee is the sagging pants. I get an almost uncontrollable urge to give them a wedgie. Another thing I hate to see are ultra long fingernails, particularly on a food or health worker. I happen to know that it's very hard to keep the undersides of those nails clean, and I have a very pessimistic opinion about other people's hygiene habits.
 

·
stranger than fiction
Joined
·
3,093 Posts
I think for small businesses, one of the most important things (after customer service) is hours of business. I would like to go to more small businesses - for many reasons - but if I'm doing a home improvement project on a Sat, and I run out of painters tape, is the local Ace open? Nope. So off to Lowes I go, and end up buying a new paintbrush, some rollors, ect so I only have to make one trip out. The local Ace lost $40 due to closing at 2:00 on Sat.
Same with all the local stores downtown. I would love to browse around those stores, buy some x-mas presents from them, but they close at 5:00 on week nights. I don't get home from work until 6:00. So they lose my business.
This is true of almost every small business I know of.
Well, as the owner of a small business (and who also works PT in a large retailer), I can only say that the key word there is SMALL. (We stay open from Mon-Wed and also Sat. til 6pm, til 9 on Thurs-Fri). As a small business, it is not financially practical for us to stay open for 3-4 extra hours for one customer an hour and sometimes none......our store is downtown, and downtown pretty much closes up at 5pm, some stragglers like us til 6 (we subscribe to that ideal that yes, some people work til 5). Large retailers are more likely to get a higher draw of people per hour, because of things like location, size, and variety. Now if you have a store downtown in a busy city, that would be another thing.

You can't please everyone though, unless you are open 24 hours a day. Some people work til 5, some til 7, some til midnight. You will always get someone who is upset that the store is not open during "their" off time. There are way less 9-5ers around now, and more shift workers, so what can you do?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
421 Posts
Businesses, especially small businesses, are as individual as people themselves. I should know, I own three different businesses, all with different customers, and all three require different types of employees to take care of the customers. Hours in the print shop and employment agency are 8-5 M-F, mainly because they are B2B businesses and that is the customary times those type businesses are open. The farm, however, is actually both a production and retail facility, as we raise livestock, but am also dealing directly with the customer as well to sell our goods to them. Hours vary by when they drive up the driveway or call on the phone. It is just part of the business.
 
1 - 17 of 17 Posts
Top