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Thursday, October 1, 2015

What Is Your Business's Customer Service Philosophy?


 by Juliette Enfield, Penn State Extension Educator, Warren County

Although we give and receive customer service almost every day, we rarely take time to stop and think about what customer service means. Customer service does not come easily or naturally for most people. Providing good customer service is a skill that involves product knowledge, concern or empathy for the customer, readiness to help the customer, and knowing where to go to find answers. John Berry, Extension Educator in Lehigh County reinforces these ideas with a four step process for providing excellent customer service:
Be sure your employees know about the product they are selling.

      Know the Product

      Reach Out

 

      Be Alert

     Get Help
Customer service affects a business’s bottom line when there are many competitors. The fewer competitors, the less customer service matters, such as in the telephone and internet service provider industry. The more competitors, the more customer service matters, which is the case in the food industry. 
Another benefit to providing good customer service is the cost savings associated with customer retention. Losing one customer can have a domino effect on a business. The business from this customer is lost, but so is the business they could have brought to you, as well as the opportunity to change something that was not working well in your business. Remember these two rules of thumb: attracting new customers costs 5 times more than keeping existing customers, and 80% of your sales come from 20% of your customers.

Taylor's Farm Market (which I recently visited on our Are You Crazy Retail Farm Market Bus Tour) in Inwood, West Virginia shares their customer service philosophy.
You may have protocols in place for handling returns, or complaints, but it’s the customer service philosophy that is portrayed in these actions. Consider what script(s) you want your employees to follow when providing good customer service. For example, Sue Miller of Birchrun Hills Farm in Chester County, PA told me that for her, marketing is about having good relationships and providing good customer service.  She says she enjoys trying to guess what the customer wants. She believes that people don’t want to take advantage of you. She believes in treating people the way she would want to be treated. Sue says that if a customer is ever dissatisfied with her products, she is happy to exchange the product for a new one.
Below are some questions that can help start the customer service conversation at your business. I filled in some of my own reflections to get you started.
1. What is your business’s customer service philosophy?
We want people to feel that we care about them and their health by shopping with us.

2. What makes implementing this philosophy challenging?

Lack of sleep, not being able to relate to the customer-who may not have much awareness about agriculture, who may be from another culture, may make more money than I do, etc....
3. What works?

Not taking criticisms personally, offering services such as carrying heavy items, being honest...
4. What doesn’t work?

Apologizing when I don’t mean it...

5. What kind of customer service do you enjoy when shopping?

I like when the sales person is knowledgeable about the product, I also like when the sales person is not overly aggressive about making sales...

6. Does your business have a customer service training plan in place? Circle one.

Yes                                           No

Useful Books & Videos:
Carlaw, P. and Deming, V. The Big Book of Customer Service Training Games. McGraw-Hill. New York, NY. 1999. (This book is cheap to buy and has fun and educational training games that you could play with your employees)

Wicks, Judy. Good Morning, Beautiful Business. Chelsea Green Publishing. White River Junction, VT. 2013. (This book was featured at the Pennsylvania Women in Ag Network's Annual Symposium in 2013. Judy Wicks spoke about her inspiring business and customer service philosophy.)

Telephone Doctor® CUSTOMER SERVICE TRAINING, 30 Hollenberg Ct. St. Louis, MO 63044,(314) 291-1012, Fax: (314) 291-3710, E-mail: nancy@telephonedoctor.com, www.telephonedoctor.com (Purchasing these tools is not cheap but there are some sample materials on YouTube which are entertaining and educational)


The Learning Service, Ltd., 2800 Market Avenue North Canton, Ohio 44714, Phone: (330) 456-2422, Fax:(330) 456-8944, E-mail: learningservice@aol.com, www.thelearningservice.com (This company has published several books on customer service which are listed on their website)


Sources for this blog:

Berry, John. I Seem to Have Lost a Customer Some Place! April 8, 2014. Agricultural Entrepreneurship Blog. <http://farmbusiness.blogspot.com/2014/04/i-seem-to-have-lost-customer-someplace.html> Accessed Sept 9, 2015.

Lawrence, Alex. Five Customer Retention Tips for Entrepreneurs. Nov 1, 2012.
<
http://www.forbes.com/sites/alexlawrence/2012/11/01/five-customer-retention-tips-for-entrepreneurs/> Accessed Sept 8, 2015.

Makovsky, Ken. Where Customer Service Doesn’t Matter. Jan 23, 2014. <http://www.forbes.com/sites/kenmakovsky/2014/01/23/where-customer-service-doesnt-matter/>Accessed Sept 8, 2015.

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