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Doing the Biz

 

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 Service, Service, Service!

 Robert "Rob" Zee

 

Poor service is probably one of the dumbest reasons for any type of business to fail but it is one of the main reasons why many do fail or at least miss a lot of sales and lose good customers.

If you provide excellent service to your customers, your business stands a better chance to excel, get repeat business, and receive "word of mouth advertising"-the best advertising, period!

For several years, I had a business that provided commercial refrigeration service. Our very best, most loyal customers were those who were unhappy with someone else due to poor service. We always strived to provide good service, our prices were fair but usually slightly higher than all others, and we kept our customers informed-if we had problems, or were busy, we told them so.

In the title of this article, SERVICE is repeated thrice for good reason-you must provide service before, during, and after the sale. If your business "sells [provides] a service," for clarity in this article it will be considered a "good" or "product."

Service Before the Sale

When prospects-potential customers-contact you via phone, mail, or e-mail, see your literature, web site, or advertisement, or visit your office, you must be prepared to provide friendly and courteous service.

If your business is doing so well that you or some other human cannot answer the phone, don't send them to "voice mail hell" or put them on hold forever; quit advertising! There's no point in getting a bunch of new prospects to call you if you're going to make them mad and lose them.

Having an informative brochure and price list that you can mail, and a web site with similar information, will help you provide service before the sale. Some large corporations advertise only for name recognition and they omit prices. You should include pricing information along with convenient ways for prospects to contact you for more information, or to ask questions.

Service During the Sale

Some folks in business don't have a clue what this means. For example, many retailers spend "tons of money" to get folks in their store and have an excellent return policy, yet they make customers stand in line for 20, 30, or more minutes to pay at a counter with a rude cashier.

Service during the sale includes everything that takes place during the ordering process, receiving payment from the customer, and everything else that happens "in-between." Having goods in stock, proper packaging for shipping, using a reputable service for delivery, and accurate billing are some of the things that should be of the highest caliper.

When customers have questions about any of the steps mentioned, be prepared to answer them. If something is backordered, be sure to let them know right away. When shipping takes several days, be sure that the invoice [for open accounts] doesn't arrive before the goods. You should allow your customers to choose which shipping method they prefer, however, the normal method of delivery should be a reputable shipper with adequate service.

Service After the Sale

In most cases, this means remembering your customer, sending a thank you note, and a greeting card during the holidays. Often, you can keep in touch with your customers with a newsletter or special announcements which, besides customer service, presents an opportunity for repeat sales from your customers.

If your customers have questions or complaints after the sale, it is EXTREMELY IMPORTANT to help your customers. Failure to do so will result in loss of repeat sales and no chance of referrals!

For repeat sales and continuing services that are billed on a regular basis, marketing needs to be involved in the credit and collections process, too. Often, when bills don't get paid, or services are cancelled, the customer is unhappy. If the problem is resolved, most customers will continue to be loyal, however, after they are gone, it's "near about" impossible to get them to trade with you again.

 


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