Thanks Andrea. There is a lot of value in this piece. I agree completely that empowering your employees is a key part of good customer service. What do you think about asking your employees to contribute to your manual by creating customer service scenarios and examples of ways to respond to them? It is another way to empower them and to train your staff on examples of good customer service.
Small Business and Customer Service
Three steps to creating better customer service in your local business.
Recently while at a local coffee shop I began contemplating customer service due to the bad service I was receiving - actually it started with anger, but eventually that turned into contemplation! Specifically, how can small local stores offer worse service than a large corporate conglomerate would offer? Isn't it supposed to be the other way around? I thought corporate America did not care, and that local small business was there for us the consumer? So how is it that many of these large companies provide better service than our mom and pop stores?
After much pondering I concluded that the key is training. The larger companies have an entire staff dedicated to training and customer service. When a new employee starts they do more than just toss them in. They get more training than here is the register call if you need anything. Now don't get me wrong having a training program does not eliminate the chances that a store will have bad customer service, but it does give them a leg up, a better chance to make it! So how do small businesses compete? I recommend starting with three areas: procedure manuals, staff training, and empowering your employees.
Procedure manual? Why should you take the time, which I don't have, to write a procedure manual? A procedure manual is a great way to ensure that the way you want your business run is somewhere other than your head and is available to your staff. Then if you are not around they can refer to it if they have questions. In addition it enables you to walk through all the what ifs that can occur in your business, forces you to think about what exactly you want your business to be and how it is going to get there and makes your business run smoother because everything is mapped out. Training will be based on your procedure manual. It gives your employees a sense that they have the knowledge and skills to do their job right!
Don't let your training end at their first week of work! The second item I recommend is training - all the time! If you continually provide them with extra skills, such as customer service classes, leadership classes, or even history classes on your industry! Not only will they provide better service, but they will feel you are more committed to them and their success. The extra costs will be more than made up in lower employee turnover and happier customers. Most companies do not provide their employees with the skills to succeed, make sure you are a step ahead!
Finally, empower your employees to solve problems and make customers happy. Not every situation you will be able to put into your manual or will your staff take the time to learn about every issue that might occur. So instead, include in your procedures manual a clause about minor adjustments, set a limit on cost, to make customers happy. If your policy is to serve a drink in x cup and the customers wants y cup, let your employees make that adjustment. You will have happy customers and employees because problems can be solved without you!
Don't feel overwhelmed by how long implementing all this will take. It will not happen overnight, but start working on it and you will be amazed at the results! Set aside 30 minutes a day to write and develop your programs. Find templates you can adapt, send your employees to already established training seminars. The most important thing is to just get started. Your business will thank you!
Learn more about the author, Andrea Travillian.
Comment on this article
Posted by Jennifer Krauss, Livingston, New Jersey |
Jun 11, 2009
Posted by Andrea Travillian, Sugar Land, Texas |
Jun 11, 2009
Great idea, any input from employees is great, then they feel like their opinion is valued!
Posted by Yvonne Aileen, Portland, Oregon |
Jun 11, 2009
Andrea, I also think it has a lot to do with attitude, from the owner to employees! I read a great book recently (an old one that's been around a while), E-Myth Revisited. It's about how the attitude of employees comes from the top down, and pervades everything. I changed a few things about my publishing Web site and my approach to business because of it.
I'm always looking for great women writers on my online community for women, 800Muses, which launched June 1. Check us out at http://www.800Muses.com. It's good publicity for you, it's free, and it's a great way to network with other amazing women. Take good care, Yvonne
Posted by Marianna Paulson, Surrey, British Columbia Canada |
Jun 12, 2009
Great advice, Andrea!
There is a dividing line between someone who genuinely wishes to help and be of service vs. those who are just trying to make a sale.
When I was in a great deal of pain pre-hip replacement, it took every bit of strength to get into the store. An over-exuberant salesperson quickly drove me out. I just didn't have the energy for Ms. Hippy Happy. I would have appreciated a friendly smile and an offer of a chair.
Teaching employees to establish rapport & reading the customer greatly improves customer relations & encourages repeat visits.
Posted by Fernandez G, Bangalore, Karnataka India |
Jun 12, 2009
simple and great points in this article... Mahatma Gandhi says "A customer is the most important visitor on our premises. he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him" Small Business owner must consider it and try to satisfy their employee's minimum welfares then only they will treat the customer's as smiling face.
- customer service
- procedure manuals
- empower employees
- employee training