With A Smile

Customer service affects every aspect of your business

Providing an excellent consumer experience is essential to building and maintaining a thriving business. Poor customer service is among the top reasons customers desert businesses, never to return, according to a study by the Small Business Administration.

“The customer buying decision is as emotional as it is rational,” says Chris Bryant, founder of Rapport Strategies Group (www.MrChrisBryant.com), a customer service and personal branding consulting firm in Pasadena, California. “And we’ll drive further and pay more to get what makes us feel good.”

Bryant, a former training director and spokesman for Nordstrom department store and The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., advises his clients to first develop a clearly defined set of core values. Noting that disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy $382 billion a year in lost productivity, he also recommends hiring employees who are naturally good with people and then regularly rewarding them.

Bryant says the key is learning to anticipate a client’s needs before they even know they have them, something he calls the “wow factor.”

Wowing clients transformed Ryan Taylor’s Los Angeles-based custom clothing business, DROBE (www.drobe.com), so much that sales increased from about $90,000 a year in 2000, when he started the company, to more than $500,000 last year. “We anticipated that our clients were going to want a personal stylist, which became critical to our success,” says Taylor.

At its core, excellent customer service is really about meeting a consumer’s needs with a quality product and exceeding their service expectations in a memorable way. Bryant believes this is no longer an option but rather imperative for a business to survive. “Today more than ever, consumers are more informed, savvy, and sophisticated,” he says. “And they have far too many choices to tolerate mediocrity in their service experience.”

Customer RapportScore
How does your company rank in delivering excellent customer service? These questions, can help you identify your company’s benchmark.
1. Does your organization have a clearly defined customer service philosophy?
2. Can employees recite the service philosophy from memory?
3. Is there a formal process to recognize and reward service excellence?
4. Are employees empowered to make decisions on customer issues and concerns?
5. Does your company conduct customer service training at least annually?
6. Do you hire new employees based on demonstrated service-related aptitude?
7. Do you have a new-hire orientation program designed around company core values and your service philosophy?
8. Do you capture, track, and respond to customer complaints daily?
9. Do you know the monetary value of one loyal customer to your business?
10. Do you measure customer satisfaction and share the results with the employees?

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