Customer Service Survival Tips

The current economic downturn has already claimed some large corporate victims. Among the list of once strong retailers scurrying for bankruptcy protection are industry giants Linens ‘n Things, Bombay Company, Sharper Image and Steve & Barry’s. Even though the situation may be bleak, there are strategies your business can adopt now that will help you weather the storm.

Dr. Tom DeCotiis, author of the new book Make It Glow (Greenleaf Book Group Press, 2008) explains why customer care is now more important than ever: “In a down economy consumers focus their spending on companies they trust. As consumers become choosier, the companies that fall by the wayside are those that have not earned enough customer trust and loyalty to survive a challenging economy."

DeCotiis offers five customer service recession survival tips:

1. Focus employees on creating positive customer transactions. Give your people the training, tools, and support they need to provide a great experience every time and teach them how to do it. Make sure they understand proper customer service procedures and the importance of the customer to the company's and their own survival. In difficult times, companies do not get a second chance to please their customers.

2. Make sure your customers know how much you value them. Customers need to feel valued, not just for their money, but for who they are. Make sure that your company addresses your customers' need for a strong sense of belonging and significance. For example, make sure that your staff is positive and proactive with complaints rather than negative and reactive.

3. Set your customers’ expectations. It is not just a matter of exceeding customer expectations, but guaranteeing that your customers are never disappointed. Use your company's unique selling point (USP) to shape your customer's expectations. For example, Saks Fifth Avenue attracts consumers based on their exclusive and elegant shopping experience, and when customers go into their retail outlets they are not disappointed.

4. Make sure every employee understands the company's value proposition. People are drawn to integrity whether it comes from another person or a company. If your employees understand your company’s mission, they will be able to accomplish it. Set up an employee training chain, where managers are trained about core values and mission and so are able to pass the information along to their employees. Spot check various locations of your business with "secret shoppers" to ensure consistency.

5. Evaluate how cutting costs will affect your customer. There is a big difference between cutting and managing costs. You never want to cut quality. A company lives or dies by its reputation, and quality is at least one-third of its reputation.

“Focus on keeping your company worthy of your customers' loyalty," concludes Dr. DeCotiis. "It’s the surest way to propel your business through the downturn and create a solid foundation from which to grow.”

For more information, visit www.corvirtus.com


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