Last week in speaking with a customer, who buys a single product from our Calendar Warehouse division, I discovered that what I thought to be standard service in the promotional products industry, is anything but.
This customer wanted to buy some hats. A simple enough request. However, hats, even baseball caps come in many styles, colors, and fabrics. Rather than take a few minutes to ask the customer such questions as: Do you want American made or import?, embroidered or screenprinted?, what type of closure?, structured or unstructured? they handed the customer a 3/4 inch thick catalog and said “Here, find what you want.”, which of course resulted in no sale and no hats for the customer, they abandoned the project.
The last time that I checked, looking through the “catalog” was my job. The way that it is supposed to work is that the customer says I would like hats. I ask the few targeted questions, and then come back with anywhere from one to six suggestions. We narrow down the choices and then get a sample if necessary. Servicing the customer, is how we thought it was supposed to work. This story got me to thinking about customer service in general.
Servicing the customer applies to any business. If you are selling computers or fax machines, office furniture or even consulting services, the person who is selling the product or providing the product should be asking a few questions, giving the customer a chance to ask a few in return and then come back with the information that the customer needs to make a decision.
Self service is OK in the automat, although Horn & Hardart, is long since out of business as well. Maybe that should tell us something. People want to be serviced. I am not talking about waiting on someone hand and foot, but a little help in making someone else’s day go a little bit easier goes a long way. It helps the customer be more productive, and it helps you close a sale.
The next time that someone asks you a question, or asks about your product or service, go out of your way to get them the information that they need and help them accomplish their task. This is customer service.
If you are looking for other ideas as to how you can improve your customer service skills we highly recommend The Telephone Doctor. Don’t let the name fool you, Nancy and her staff can help you navigate any area of customer service. We are still following her advice after hearing her speak too many years ago to count. Using Nancy’s advice for guidance, even if we can’t help someone, at least they do not walk away angry, like the would be hat buyer, and they come back for other things that we can help them with. We have a happy customer and a healthier bottom line because of it.