Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Critical Success Factors In Buying and Running a Store #5

Professor Hoch’s fourth critical success factor is ‘Service’. This is the most difficult topic to write about because from our experience in this industry, ‘service’ went the way of the old gasoline station. At the same time, it is likely the most important topic in our list, because we are so deficient in it. Service is the process of gathering resources, skill and ingenuity, and experience, and benefiting our customers through unnecessary deeds. Service does not relate to inventory or the sale of inventory, and it is NOT giving away free stuff. The best kind of customer service is the kind where no money changes hands, but its value in simply incalculable. 

So, what is it our industry does to service its customers? Providing services when asked is one thing. Most of us do that. Providing services when NOT asked is something else, and this is what we are going to discuss now.  

In a job description I picked up recently, here is one employer’s characterization of service: “Retail clerks must be personable and EXUDE customer service;” yet another, “Retail Sales Clerks should be KNOWN for exemplary Customer Service;” and finally, a letter from one jobseekers says it best: (The capitalization is mine, not the applicant’s.)

“In today's customer service oriented society, timely, friendly, proactive service is sought to enhance future business growth. 
Customer loyalty  is always impacted when you employ the right service 
professional to  represent you when assisting your valued customers.

“My long term experience in the service industry has taught me how to meet and exceed each customer's expectations with service that sells. I have assisted all types of customers in all types of settings. I realize that acquiring and maintaining loyal repeat business as well as spreading the word of your business through these loyal patrons is of the utmost importance in every company. Positioning a company for better exposure and greater marketability is a task that I have performed with success many times.” Boy, would I like to get my hands on this individual! I’ve read that resume over and over and I have to admit, sadly, I too am lacking in many customer service skills.  

Bad service is commonplace. It’s much easier to find examples of bad service, because bad service is everywhere. Service is an intangible—good and bad. You cannot hold it, touch it, or taste it. Good service cannot be bought and put under the Christmas tree. Service, good or bad, is an attitude, and everybody has one and the majority of the time it stinks. The idea of ‘good service’ must be planted in a person’s mind to the point where it shows itself automatically whenever it is required. Good service is a creed, a persona, a way-of-life.  

Employees should be hired for it and rewarded accordingly. Employees should receive praise for ‘doing right by the customer’ instead of being penalized for costing the company money.

Please feel free to join in the conversation. I’m sure the things you do (or have done) to practice good customer service will be of value to everyone. I know I will learn from it.

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