Customer Service Excellence

excellent-customer-serviceWe’ve all heard the expression “the customer is always right”.  For SMB owners, I’d modify this to read, “give customers what they want on their own terms.” In other words, focus your business on satisfying customer needs.

One of the best examples of customer service can be found on the retail level, a restaurant for example. Imagine you owned and operated a local coffee shop. Which feature do you think would give you the best advantage in the competition for customers?

  • The best prices?
  • The best location?
  • The best coffee?

The answer is simple; none of the above matters if you don’t have any customers. Sure you’ll always have the regulars, but after time even they will leave when they realize they can get what you are offering down the street at another café where they offer free Wi-Fi and have a loyalty program, for example.

Do your policies serve only your interests or those of your customers?  In the case of the coffee shop, do the costs of not offering free Wi-Fi outweigh the actual cost of paying for it?  When it comes to satisfying your customer – absolutely!  What about your policies on business hours or additional fees? Are your solutions based on ways to boost margins or on offering a competitive advantage?

Many small businesses are not focused on what’s most important to the customer. They sell what they have, rather than what the customer is buying.

To help grow your business, you’ll need to ask your current customers several questions to find out what’s important to them, why they keep coming back, and how you can improve your service.  When you complete a project, ask your customer for immediate feedback. Ask them if you did a good job and what one thing could you improve on to make it a better experience.

When you directly engage your customer in your process improvement, not only does it leave your customer with a positive feeling, but it also helps you improve your service offering to meet the needs of your customer. The result is a win-win for you both.

Many successful business owners know that the best salesman is their customer. If you treat them right, they’ll walk out the door and sell for you.

Do you feel good customer service is over rated or is it a key to your success? Do you have good customer service policies at your office? Please let me know what you think in your comments below.

Do You Have A Business Continuity Plan?

Disaster-EventWith the recent storm in the Greater Toronto Area that left several people stranded and hundreds of thousands without power, including hundreds of businesses, I wondered how many companies affected had a business continuity plan in place.

A devastating event such as a flood does more than just damage to your place of business, it can keep employees from getting to work, and prevent customers from buying your goods or services.

Unfortunately, expenses such as rent, taxes, and employee salaries do not disappear during emergency situations. Most businesses will simply call their insurance companies and seek coverage for the damages, and hope that the coverage is enough to keep the business operating post-disaster. However, insurance is only one of the elements to be considered.

On top of insurance coverage being reviewed regularly, a post-disaster plan of action should be to develop a business continuity plan that deals with key employees, landlords, IT infrastructure, the bank, key suppliers and others who you count on when the business is temporarily closed. When the emergency is over, you need to have a plan in place to ensure a smooth and efficient repair process, and if the emergency is affecting your suppliers as well, getting everything back up and running may not be so simple.

It is important to ask yourself the following questions to ensure your business is prepared for the unexpected:

  • Can your business function without you? This may seem like a simple question, but truly think about it.
  • Can all of your employees contact management and colleagues from home? (Without up-to-date contact lists, this is very difficult)
  • How do you retrieve your backed up data, and can your employees access it as well?
  • Is your data still protected if your employees are accessing it remotely? The Wi-Fi at Starbucks does not provide a private and secure connection.
  • Is your insurance coverage enough to replace key equipment if need be?
  • Do you have business interruption insurance that will compensate you for the time you’re out of business?
  • Do you have contingent business interruption insurance to deal with dislocation of the supply chain

Comprehensive insurance coverage and a business continuity plan that protects your business from disruption after unexpected emergencies are essential to your business’ growth and overall well being. Do not wait for an eye-opening experience to develop your business continuity plan – start today!

What measures have you put in place in case of emergency? Have they helped you during crisis situation? Let me know in the comments.