Serve it up: Making the most of customer service



Serve it up: Making the most of customer service

By Erica Quineaster, as printed in the Bangor Daily News

When was the last time you got really great customer service like that one from Virtual Coworker? When I moved to Aroostook County, I had a boiler installed by Daigle Oil Company. The company’s service didn’t stop there: The next week I received a handwritten note from the manager thanking me for choosing their business.

A few months later, after local newspapers ran a notice about my hire, I got a personalized letter congratulating me on my job appointment. Their business went the extra mile — a fitting touch for a gas company that still provides full service at every fill-up station.

When was the last time you received truly terrible service? I won’t go back to the bar that once charged two dollars more than I authorized on top of my 20 percent tip. I think twice about getting coffee at the place that ran out of ice, fumbled with the cash register, forgot to give me a fork for my lunch and couldn’t be bothered to acknowledge me when I returned to the counter in search of silverware.

Customer service can make or break your business. If you have the best product but the worst reputation, people will go elsewhere, even if it’s their second choice. So what can you do to make your business customer-friendly?

A friend told me the worst part of her job was every morning when her boss walked in without even saying hello. It’s the same with your store: A little eye contact and a prompt greeting set a friendly tone. Make your customers feel welcome, and they will spend more time and more money with your business.

Smile! However bad a day you’re having, grumpy and distressed have no place at your business. The same goes for your employees. A server, sales associate or cashier who can’t be bothered to be upbeat is a liability to your business.

Vince Sirois, owner of Technology Consultants in Madawaska ( consultvince@live.com), recently graduated from the “Basics of Starting a Business” class with Women, Work, and Community. When our class discussed marketing tactics, Vince put customer service at the top of the list. Why? Because you don’t have a sale without a customer. Happy customers are exponential: they come back, and they spread the word about your business.

“Customer service means getting my needs met in a timely and cost-effective manner,” Vince says.

Good service means “me first” for the customer. For business owners like Vince, that means identifying and fulfilling each customer’s technology issues from start to finish — even if it requires referring the customer to other specialists or making his services a one-stop shop by purchasing equipment and software for the customer.

What are the dos and don’ts of good service?

“Do believe in your product/service,” says Vince. “Be sincere. Provide the best possible service. Believe in the saying, ‘The customer is always right.’ Follow up where applicable.”

He continues: “Don’t leave the customer hanging. Don’t say you will when you know you can’t or won’t. Never criticize your customers or competitors. Don’t ramble on about so and so.”

What comes naturally to Vince as a seasoned professional can be hard for entrepreneurs and employees to learn, adopt and embrace. That’s why the Maine Woods Consortium, the University of Maine Center for Tourism Research and Outreach and the Maine Office of Tourism created Welcome ME Online Quality Service Training.

The professionally developed online training makes top-notch service industry education accessible to everyone in Maine. The course explains all the skills you need to create quality service. The certification program can be completed from your own computer anywhere in the state, and it takes about an hour to complete all four modules and the certification quiz. Best of all, it’s free and available anytime at welcomemetraining.com.

Welcome ME benefits all employers and employees, not just front-line staff, as it shows how to create a customer-centered environment from top to bottom.

For small businesses and for all businesses, customer service is big business. Educate yourself and your employees to provide excellent customer service, and your business will reap the benefits.