1. The five-star guarantee
Here is a very simple but effective neighbourhood marketing tactic. Put up a sign near your waiting area or in your reception — a neat and professional one in Perspex, steel or wood is ideal.
It should simply say: ‘5-Star Service Guarantee’ and have five golden stars underneath it. This sign serves a dual purpose. Firstly, it reminds your staff to keep service levels high, and secondly, it puts your customers at ease. People are prepared to pay a higher price if they know they are going to get five-star service.
Related: Customer Service Success Secrets
2. Welcome new customers
Many of your customers are coming to your store for the first time. Welcome them with a welcome sign that simply says: ‘Welcome’.
Moreover, if the environment and the manners of the staff make customers feel welcome and comfortable, they’re more likely to spend time and money there.
If you have a waiting area, do you have a proper coffee machine? Or do you simply have a tin of typical South African coffee and some half-finished milk? Does that create a welcoming impression? No, it doesn’t. If you’re going to do it, do it right!
Look at your business. If you visit a doctor’s reception area that’s dusty with ancient magazines to read, well, that doesn’t give a very good impression of the appointment you are about to have.
If the doctor can’t look after his reception area, how well is he going to take care of your health concerns? The same goes for your business.
3. Have a distinctive greeting
You must surely be familiar with the Hawaiian “Aloha!” greeting that the staff use at our local Kauai stores. It sets them apart from other health restaurants in South Africa, and is in keeping with their brand values.
Another distinctive greeting I once received was when I had occasion to call up the Kruger Lodge just outside Hazyview in Mpumalanga. This was the welcome: “It’s a wonderful afternoon here at Kruger Lodge. How may I help you? My name is Michelle”… Now isn’t that so much better than the usual “XYZ Company,” rattled off so fast you battle to hear it.
Think of a trademark greeting that you could institute at your company, whether it’s in the physical store, online or in your telephone communication. If you choose well, people will notice and you’ll have set yourself apart from all your competition.
How often don’t we go to a restaurant and we hear: “Hi my name is Tracy, I will be your waitress for this evening”. How about: “Hi, my name is Tracy, I’m here to make sure that you have an absolutely wonderful evening!” See the difference?
4. Know how much your customers mean to you
A good way to boost your customer-service ethic is to sit down and really think about how important your customers are to you.
After all, their business is what stands between you and poverty.
Thanks to the income their support generates, you are able to feed and clothe yourself and your family, send your kids to school, put petrol in your car, shop for groceries and even go on holiday at the end of the year. That’s quite something to be grateful for! Keep reminding yourself and your staff of that, every single day.
These are the people paying your bills and supporting your lifestyle. Appreciate them. Now put that gratitude into your service attitude.
Many of you may remember the famous actor Christopher Reeves, who starred in the Superman movies many years ago. He fell off a horse and was paralysed from the neck down. When interviewed on Good Morning America he mentioned the word ‘grateful’ ten times in a 30-minute interview. He was grateful still to be alive. Gratitude and positivity were at the core of his outlook. This is something to emulate in your business outlook.
5. Never forget the freebie
People want value. And a good way to deliver that is to add a little free gift with every purchase. Throw in a free wheel alignment with every set of tyres. Include the rice for free with every curry take-away purchased. If you’re running a community newspaper, give your client a free ad for every six ads placed.
It doesn’t have to be something too expensive. It could just be a lollipop or a chocolate that you give to every customer, free with every purchase. What about a suit bag with every suit dry-cleaned? A bottomless cup of coffee with every breakfast meal?
Giving people more than they expect means you’re providing value and also shows how much you appreciate your customers. That lollipop is a sign of respect, and customers will take notice.
6. Remember that apathy kills
Some of the worst service I’ve yet received was at a take-away drive-thru in Sandton, supposedly the commercial heart of the country. I drove up to the microphone where I was to place my order to be greeted by dead silence — no welcome, no hello.
I had to shout into the microphone to get someone’s attention and place my order. Then I found myself stuck in the car queue for 35 minutes, with no movement. If I could have left I would have. When I eventually got to the front and asked about the delay, the employee just shrugged and said: “Big order.” They certainly won’t be getting any big orders from me in future.
Does the above anecdote sound familiar? Staff or management who don’t care about their customers can be the death of any business. In the above example, a polite greeting and better communication would have made a massive difference to the customer experience. Sadly, queue management is a forgotten art in many South African businesses.
If something goes wrong, and a long queue develops, too many clerks sit grimly at the counter, when what they should do is go out onto the floor and address the group. Whatever the reason is, communication is the key to managing the situation. Sadly, many workers simply don’t care enough to do that.
That is the apathy that makes customers go away and never come back. But if you can inspire your staff to communicate better and manage such situations, it can be what sets you apart from your competitors.