Beat the Competition by “Hugging” Your Customers

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September 14, 2018

Last Updated: Sep 29, 2014In today’s tough economy, small business owners are faced with the difficult task of doing much more with a lot less. Ed Hess reminds them that even though they might be making cuts to their prices and budgets, now is not the time to start cutting great customer service out of […]

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Last Updated: Sep 29, 2014
In today’s tough economy, small business owners are faced with the difficult task of doing much more with a lot less. Ed Hess reminds them that even though they might be making cuts to their prices and budgets, now is not the time to start cutting great customer service out of their business plans.

The U.S. economy is still in a deep funk, and for many small business owners that means business isn’t exactly booming. Forced to do more with much less, the small businesses that have managed to surve and even thre during these tough times have recognized one factor: You can’t always compete on price, but you can compete on service. And the best thing about great customer service is that providing it doesn’t cost you an extra penny. Ed Hess explains that when your competition is scrounging for , you have to hold yours close, and that starts with great customer service.

“Today’s small business owners need to understand that cutting costs will not save their business,” says Hess, author of the new book Growing an Entrepreneurial Business: Concepts & Cases (Stanford Unersity Press, 2011, ISBN: 9780804771412, $75.00, www.EDHLTD.com) and professor at the Unersity of Virginia’s Darden Graduate School of Business.

“Remember, are concerned about their own financial security. When they walk into a business, they need to feel cherished and special. They need to be ‘hugged’ by great customer service. don’t expect to get bottomofthebarrel prices everywhere they go, but they do expect to be treated with respect.”

Great customer service doesn’t just happen. It starts with employees who have been trained in the science of service.

“Your employees will treat your as they have been treated by their leaders,” explains Hess. “Treat employees in a respectful, caring manner, and that will be transferred to . The business research done at Harvard, Stanford, Michigan, and my research at Darden Business School all finds that happy employees make for happy .”

Today, not every business is getting customer service right, but not every business is getting it wrong, either. Fortunately, for any small business owner looking to improve his customer service, valuable lessons can be learned from both the good and the bad. Hess provides examples from his own experience and teaches what can be learned from the good and bad sides of customer service.

In tough economic times, small business owners should have a lasersharp focus on great customer service, doing everything they can to ensure their feel respected and loved. After all, studies have shown that it costs much more to attract a new customer than it does to keep an existing one. So it is that business owners do everything they can to keep their current happy. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.

“I recently went into a local coffee shop to get my wife her favorite latte,” says Hess. “I ordered, paid, and waited for the drink to be made. When the employee gave it to me, she said she was sorry but they had run out of skim milk and as a result the cup was less than 2/3 full. And that was it. She turned and went on to the next customer. I stood there thinking, But I paid for a full cup! Instead of making her problem my problem, she should have offered to refund part of my money, or even better, she could have gen me a coupon for a drink on another day. Nope. Nothing. Pay for a full cup; get 2/3s of a cup…better luck next time. Needless to say, I have not been back to that coffee shop.”

Remember, disgruntled won’t complain; they just won’t come back. If you don’t ge your the courtesy of taking the time to provide them with excellent service, they are not going to take the time to tell you how to improve your business. “Remember, too, that in ition to not coming back to your business, unhappy will likely tell others about their bad experience,” says Hess. “The ripple effect of just one bad customer service experience can be very damaging. Be sure your employees are providing consistently great customer service.”

Provide special training for frontline employees. The employees who interact directly with are essential for your business. “Their attitudes, communication skills, and style of service are what your are going to associate with your business,” explains Hess. “Make sure your employees are trained to handle the potentially stressful task of working with .”

Make sure a customer is happy before moving on to the next customer. At many small businesses, like the coffee shop in the example above, value quick service just as much as they value quality service. But you can’t sacrifice one for the other. “It’s to make sure one customer is satisfied before you move on to the next guy,” notes Hess. “That can be as simple as asking, ‘Is there anything else I can do for you today?’ Remember, you’re not done serving the customer when you think you’re done. You’re done serving the customer when the customer is completely satisfied.”

Compensate for mistakes. Never, ever shortchange your . “If a mistake was made or some other circumstance is preventing you from providing the best level of customer service, find a way to make it up to your customer,” says Hess. “I would have gladly continued going to the coffee shop in the above example if the store’s employee had offered to make amends for the fact that I was getting less than what I had ordered. But the employee allowed me to feel shortchanged, and that isn’t a feeling that any customer is going to want to repeat.”

Provide solutions. Never make your business’s problem or an employee’s problem your customer’s problem. “At the coffee shop, the employee who served me probably isn’t the one who does the store’s inventory,” notes Hess. “So maybe she didn’t think there was anything she could do to remedy the situation. But that really isn’t the case. Allow your employees to have the latitude to provide your with solutions when they can’t satisfy a need. For example, as I mentioned above, she could have offered a coupon for a drink or even a pastry. She could have told me about the problem before making my order and asked if there was a beverage I would like to substitute. Any offer would have been better than simply having a betterlucknexttime attitude.”

Companies that know great customer service do exist, and Zappos.com is one of them. “Recently I ordered some shoes from Zappos that ended up not fitting,” says Hess. “I sent them back using the provided prepaid shipping form. I immediately got an email acknowledging that my shoes were being shipped back to Zappos, and I could follow their progress on the Internet. When they were receed at Zappos, I got another email telling me my refund was being processed and thanking me for at Zappos. I sent them a response thanking them for the great service. Quickly thereafter, I got a al email from a customer service rep thanking me and telling me that Zappos loves its . She upgraded me to the Zappos VIP site. Wow! I felt cared about and appreciated. And guess what? I went and ordered a different pair of shoes. Zappos truly gets it.”

Happy employees = Happy . Zappos understands that employee satisfaction translates to great customer service. “I can’t say for sure if the customer service rep who upgraded me to the VIP site was completely satisfied with her job,” says Hess. “But I can say that she took the initiate to go the extra mile for a customer when she really didn’t have to. She cared enough to provide me with highlevel service, which makes me think that she also cares about the company where she works. Creating that feeling in your employees will pay you back exponentially.”

Always respond quickly. Your are busy. They have big concerns of their own. They don’t deserve to be left wondering what kind of service they are going to recee or when they are going to recee it. “ress customer questions and problems as quickly as possible,” says Hess. “Even if it’s just a message to say, ‘I am looking into this for you,’ the customer will appreciate being told where they are in the process.”

Make it easy to do business with you. Never make your jump through hoops to do business with you. Have a return policy that is easy to understand and that puts the interests of the customer first. Provide refunds quickly and efficiently. “My experience with Zappos was great,” says Hess. “Sure, the shoes didn’t fit, but everything after that was so easy that it made me want to do more business with them. That is the kind of customer service that can keep you afloat during tough times.”

Keep informed of what’s happening. When know what’s happening with their order, it reduces their anxiety. And when they’re less anxious, they enjoy doing business with you. “Zappos has a great system for keeping informed , but it’s also easy to do in facetoface customer service,” says Hess. “For example, instead of just leaving the counter area, you might explain to a customer, ‘I am going to check to see if we have what you need in our room.’ Or if you’re handling a return and typing information into a computer, you might explain to the customer, ‘I’m just entering the date of and the product number so that we can make sure we ge you the maximum refund possible.’”

Use technology to provide quick, efficient customer service. It’s the twentyfirst century, and email, message boards, and stores provide us with the means to provide service more quickly than ever before. “Small business owners might sometimes make the assumption that don’t like to be communicated with ,” says Hess. “And for some older that might be the case. But by and large, I think people appreciate the ease that and communication provide. As long as you make sure your messaging is detailed and easy to understand, your will appreciate the quick service these technologies provide.”

Make your feel valued. Understand that each and every one of your is special. As the late business guru Peter Drucker said: The sole purpose of business is to serve . “Make sure your employees understand this, and that above all else they must focus on making your feel valued and appreciated,” advises Hess. “As you saw with Zappos’s upgrading me to VIP status, there is never a bad time to throw in a special perk for a customer, to shake a customer’s hand, or to provide a metaphorical hug with great customer service.”

“Today’s small business owners must understand that their business is not about ‘me’; it’s about ‘them’: your employees and ,” explains Hess. “Making cuts to employee perks or customer service perks is not a longterm plan for surval. It might buy you the opportunity to stay in the game a little bit longer, but it won’t make you a winner. In today’s economy, you have to do everything you can to hang on to your and to encourage them to keep coming back to your business. There’s no better way to do that than through consistently great customer service.

“You might not always be able to slash your prices lower than those of your competitors,” he concludes. “But you can make the experience of doing business with you superior to all others. Never be afraid to take your customer service up a notch!”

About the Author: www.EDHLTD.com) and is a professor of business administration and Batten ExecuteinResidence at the Darden School of Business, Unersity of Virginia. He is the author of nine books, over 60 cases, and over 60 articles. His book Smart Growth: Building an Enduring Business by Managing the Risks of Growth (Columbia Business School Publishing, 2010, ISBN: 9780231150507, $27.95, www.EDHLTD.com) was named a 2010 Top 25 Business Book for Business Owners by Inc. magazine.

About the Book: Growing an Entrepreneurial Business: Concepts & Cases  (Stanford Unersity Press, 2011, ISBN: 9780804771412, $75.00, www.EDHLTD.com) is available at Amazon.com.

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Happiness is for those who plan well and pursue. A profound among us have been proven those who have true dream to live for likely REALIZED IT. It is just simply the person working toward the DREAM days and night until accomplishment. There is a phrase of efficiency a head of you. Steps and obstacles at first seem tremendous. However, just with some times those difficult steps and challenges are so easy performance for you. There are also plenty of tools including VISUALIZATIONS and helps are around you.

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