Family Finance by Mark Fulton,

Defining customer service for your business

Delivering exceptional customer service that sets your business apart from your competitors affects two key components of its financial future: repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals. Adding a new customer to your business requires a significant investment of time, money and energy. It costs your business a lot less to serve a repeat customer than it does to pursue a new one.

Similarly, word-of-mouth referrals represent the most powerful form of advertising. Positive comments from a satisfied customer to a prospective customer carry a great deal of weight because the endorser usually has nothing to gain other than the reward of helping a friend. Consequently, we perceive the endorser's recommendation with a high level of trust. Of course, negative word-of-mouth comments can be devastating and they travel a lot faster.

An effective concept of customer service must project your company's mission, permeate the thinking of every employee and produce a positive experience for the customer.

Do your customers know your company's mission? Does your mission statement communicate your company's values? Do those values truly guide the day-to-day behaviour of your employees?

From senior management to shipping clerks, every position is linked to an ultimate outcome that involves the customer. Use company communications to reiterate this truth and consider putting the customer service connection into every job description.

There are two parts to the customer service experience: the transaction and the relationship. Your aim in both parts is to create a Satisfying, Appealing, Lasting, Experience. (SALE).

The transaction stage of a SALE involves the individual salesperson and the customer. Do transactions occur in an efficient and timely manner? Satisfaction diminishes in direct proportion to the amount confusion and waiting time involved in completing the sale. Friendly, positive and polite employees make a transaction appealing. Every aspect of the transaction should contribute to a lasting impression that will be passed on to others whenever your customer is asked about your business.

The relationship stage of a sale plays an equally important role in customer retention. How do you communicate with your customers after the sale and show appreciation for their business? Do you give special consideration to repeat customers? Whenever possible, do customers interact with the same company representative? Relationships between a business and its customers are not unlike relationships between two people. They thrive on trust, respect, fairness and thoughtfulness.

A satisfying, appealing, lasting experience for your customers will keep them coming back for more. ?

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