It’s easy to have control over all aspects of your business when you’re still a small operator. Things like taking inventory, stock control, manufacturing details, raw materials, hiring, customer service are some aspects of a retail business that business owners focus on daily.
While your business is still small it’s easy for you to keep rapport with your customers as well, and knowing how best to service them. But what happens when you start to expand your business? How do you assure that the same level of satisfactory customer service is provided throughout all your outlets?
Why is consistency important?
Regardless of service, channels and provisions, customers expect a consistent experience across all platforms. Consistency breeds trust between customer and provider. Building a solid reputation for consistency ensures that once customers are delighted, they are likely to return in the future.
Furthermore, organizations constantly face pressures to change, grow and adapt to suit the market’s needs. In this regard, consistency helps you identify and target consumer segments more accurately. It also helps you determine prospective segments to expand into.
Knowing where you stand means integrity, regardless of what type of organization you are. As a leader, providing consistency should be the basis of the rest of your operations.
To do so, here are 3 things Malaysian Small Business Retailers can do to maintain consistency in Customer Service.
1. Have a set of Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
If reputable customer service is what you’re after, you need to set standards for your employees. Employees need to know what is expected of them, so they can perform well. Some of these things include:
• Dress codes
• Location themes (colours, designs, moods)
• Customer greetings over calls, e-mail and personal communication
• Customer follow-ups
The more specific you can be, the easier it is for employees to follow. Vague and open rules can work in more urban and youthful companies, but there still must be a concise framework for expectations.
Try and get existing employees to chime in. It’s not always easy to envision an entire plan independently, and neither is it quite right. The standards set represent the company, not an individual, and therefore should be made with the input of other members.
2. Provide staff training and mentorship [restrict]
As an employer, developing and coaching your team is your responsibility. Share your expectations of what great customer experience means. Correct employees when they fall short, commend them when they perform well.
Provide tools to evaluate customer service. Set up measures to evaluate objective feedback from customers through the likes of surveys and ratings. Surveys themselves are a chapter on their own, but there are some basic formats that are easy to integrate into your solutions:
Comment cards, interviews, web surveys and phone calls are some of the most common, but be sure not to go overboard. Pestering customers can result in a negative customer experience. View it as a long-term goal, and approach customers sparingly. Comment cards allow for customers to choose if they want to provide feedback, and these can be placed over the counter if your business has a storefront.
Digressing, don’t tolerate excuses from employees. Upholding a high standard to customer service is a crucial part of any business. There are challenges that may overshadow the need for customer service, but there is always a solution. Coach your staff to rise above these challenges and focus on the needs of your customers.
3. Be the example you wish to see
Your employees will follow your lead. Even if you’re seated behind a desk mostly, take time to get on the floor and show them how it’s done! This is, of course, without malice or arrogance. When employees see how you approach customers, they instinctively view it as the standard that they must emulate.
You, as the leader, are accountable to your staff’s performance. If you show diligence, so will your staff. If you act indifferent, so will your staff. You should aim to meet, or even exceed the standards that you have set. Being a role model is not an easy-task, but it is a must if you wish to maintain consistent customer service.
Often, reaching your customers is a very simple process. Meeting their expectations in a timely, accurate and friendly manner is what you need to build these relationships. Maintaining the relationships, however, requires a consistent effort on the part of the service provider.
When executed consistently and correctly, you bolster your reputation as a business and create an environment where customers are keen to return. It all starts from the simple phrase,
“Consistency is key.”
At times, we can get stuck between providing a consistency or a “WOW” factor to services. The obvious goal is to not have to choose between the two. The priority should be to have consistency as a basis, then start innovating upon that basis. There need not be a choice, but a priority.