Somewhere between the milkman of the 1950’s, outsourcing of the 1990’s and the e-movement of the 2000’s, customer service has lost its way. First it was mugged and then it was outright drug into a field, shot and buried.

So why did businesses and society lose its way?  Why have we gone to mega call centers in foreign countries, self service kiosks and the land of touch screen this and that or just simply interacting with an app?  When did we shift to a corporate environment that fails to look at the customer’s problem as their own?  Some say it was when they began touting that they have stockholders to account to and their most important goal must be the profits right?  But what businesses, especially new ones, need to understand is that poor or no customer service training can have a devastating impact on the bottom line.

It costs a business 6 times more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one.  A typical dissatisfied customer will tell 8 to 10 people about their experience.  7 of 10 customers will do business with you again…if you resolve the complaint in their favor.  Moreover,  if you resolve it on the spot, 95% of customers will do business again.  Of those customers who quit, 68% do so because of an attitude of indifference by the company or a specific individual.

If you want to outperform your competitors in this day and age, do this one thing and you’ll see rewards a thousand times over – focus on the customer.  Furthermore, if you are in the service industry such as our company, the relationship you build with your patrons is paramount.  All companies are really in the business of selling convenience, profits or solutions; not their products or brands.   Loyalty is created by one thing – experiences that form beliefs.  Once a belief is formed, it’s hard to move away from that belief.  Thus, if it’s a positive belief, you’ve gained a customer for life. If it’s a negative experience, it will hard to get that customer back.

With that said, we’ve come up with The Eight Essentials of Customer Service:

The customer is THE boss. Employees answer to managers, who answer to executives who answer to the board who answers to shareholders.  Who do shareholders answer to?  The customers who tell them they want what the company sells or for the company to take their product and shove it.  Never forget that the customer pays your salary and makes your job possible.

Listen. You were given two ears and one mouth which means you should listen twice as much as you speak.  Take the time to identify customer needs by asking questions and concentrating on what the customer is really saying.

Identify and anticipate needs. Customers don’t buy products or services; they buy good feelings and solutions to problems. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs. When you can do that, you can offer them solutions which make them happy to buy from you now and in the future.

Appreciate your customers. Treat them as individuals versus a transaction.  Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, in a genuine and sincere way. Doing so creates good feelings and instills a sense of trust.

Understand the power of “Yes.” People don’t come into your business for you to tell them no.  They came there in the first place because they wanted to do business with you.  Always look for ways to help your customers. When they have a request (as long as it is reasonable) tell them that you can do it. Figure out how afterwards.

It’s okay to apologize. When something goes wrong, apologize immediately. It doesn’t take much effort and customers like and appreciate it. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win.  Besides, if you listen to what their issue is, it may just help you improve in the future.

Give more than expected.  If you do what your competitors do, what distinguishes you from them?  Nothing.  Yet if you give your customers slightly more than the competition, you will build a relationship for life.  It doesn’t have to be much or cost a lot, just something extra that the client will value.

Treat employees well. Customers are the boss, but employees make it all happen and are in reality the lifeblood of the organization.  Thank them on a regular basis and find ways to let them know how important they are. If you treat your employees with respect, chances are they will have a higher regard for customers and treat them well as a result.