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Customer Service Basics

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This short article points out a common business failure, namely creating unnecessary obstacles for people who might otherwise become loyal customers. Competition is based on price, product or service. …

This short article points out a common business failure, namely creating unnecessary obstacles for people who might otherwise become loyal customers. Competition is based on price, product or service. Those are your only three choices. Of those, service is the only basis of competition on which your business can truly distinguish itself. It is also the only one that doesn't have to increase your operating costs, or cut gross profits.

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  • corporate rerstaurants now impliment many strategies, but do emphasize service. Besides building a guest(not 'customer') database, we now can meet and greet people on a more familiar basis, know their preferences, and deliver greater expectation satisfaction. But there is still no substitute for honest goodwill, sincerity, and personal interaction. Some of these techniques can be trained, but experience brings more confidence, resulting in a mature, more satisfying guest experience. This often know where I practice these ideals, as the 'Richard Oelschlager Experience'... try it, and you'll get hooked! Thanks Dale, for a great article, I'd be happy to pass it along!
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  • 1. Customer Service BasicsBuddy, Can You Spare a Sandwich?I recently had an experience I feel compelled to share. It was Friday night, the end of a longweek. After fighting construction traffic for 45 minutes, I stopped at a national fast-food fastchain. I ordered three sandwiches. Mind you, I didnt order drinks chips or dessert, just drinks, dessertthree sandwiches. The bill came to $27.14. Since I didnt have much cash on me, I handedthe salesclerk a credit card. I was informed their "system" onl allowed credit card charges onlyup to $20.Since I have previously bought takeout from this chain many times without encounteringthis problem, Im not certain whether it is a new corporate policy, a misguided rule imposed ,only by this franchise, or, as I strongly suspect the employee was simply mistaken or ,improperly trained.Regardless of the reason, it points out a common business failure. The problem is creating .unnecessary obstacles for people who might otherwise become loyal customers. customerI have written many times that competition is based on price, product or service. Those are serviceyour only three choices.Perhaps spurred by the current slow economy, price competition is clearly the mostpromoted basis of competition. It is especially prevalent in the food service industry.Witness Applebees "Two eat for $20" or Pizza Huts "$10 any pizza, any size any toppings" size,campaigns, just to cite two.Low prices are completely objective, easily communicated and quickly adjusted asnecessary. Unfortunately, while coupons, discounts and sales may bring more customers orethrough your door, they always cut into your gross profit. You simply cannot consistentlysell a product or provide a service for less than your cost and survive!Price competition also presents a more immediate challenge. In a high-tech world where s techany customer with a Smartphone can quickly determine if your competition is offering abetter price, the strategy is certainly no guarantee of marketing success. The risk is success.escalated if low-price guarantees are common in your business. Furthermore, if someone price ipurchases only because you are the cheapest available option, he or she is unlikely todevelop any customer loyalty unless you are always the low-price provider. Few businessesare large enough or profitable enough to be in that enviable market position.
  • 2. Competing mainly on product also carries risks. Even if you think your product or service isunique, the reality is there are probably countless options that are close enough to serve asa substitute for customer needs. A classic example is the difference between a Lexus and acomparably equipped Toyota that sells for thousands of dollars less. Product competition isalso complicated by the widespread availability of on-line shopping and free shipping.That leaves service as the only basis of competition on which your business can trulydistinguish itself. It is also the only one that doesnt have to increase your operating costs,or cut gross profits. A friendly smile and prompt, courteous service cost nothing! Moreimportantly, superior service cannot be instantly matched by the competitor up the street.Superior service encompasses the entire customer experience, starting with the momentthey enter your facility or contact you. It continues until the product or service produces thelevel of satisfaction the consumer expected. It includes point-of-sales services such asallowing credit cards, answering questions, gift-wrapping and perhaps even walkingpackages to their car. It also includes after-sale services like satisfaction guarantees,generous refund policies and warranty service.Whats the lesson here? Ask yourself two questions: 1. Are your policies and procedures primarily designed to make your life easier, or to increase customer satisfaction? 2. Are your employees adequately trained in those policies and procedures, and are they consistently delivering a customer experience that will keep shoppers returning year after year?Ill end with a quote from Mark Cuban, billionaire owner of the Dallas Mavericks. Hesummarizing the essence of Customer Service # 101 with this, "Make your product easier tobuy than your competition, or you will find your customer buying from them, not you." © 2012 by CFO AmericaAbout the author: Dale R. Schmeltzle, CPA is a partner of CFO America, professional consultantsdedicated to helping business owners define, implement and monitor the strategic and tactical elementsnecessary to achieve financial and operational success. CFO America provides fractional or part-timeexecutive management expertise not available on an in-house basis. For more information, please visithttp://www.CFOAmerica.biz or follow us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/CFOAmerica. Consulting CFOs and Executive Managers 2
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