1. Make sure everyone understands they are part of the team. Whether it’s a receptionist, a stock boy, a manager, or anyone in the store, make sure they know your mission and what you’re trying to get accomplished.
2. Everyone on the team should be empowered to help your customers. Now, not everyone can help, but they should know who to hand someone off to so they get the help they need. One example- when we were at Disney one time, we got a call that our dog died. We were off by some restrooms, crying, and the guy sweeping the streets came up to us, asked what was wrong and what they could do to help. He made some calls and got us some VIP seating to a show. That certainly didn’t take our pain away, but it was a gesture that was very kind when we were upset, and initiated by someone who was one of the lowest guys on the totem pole. As a result, I still tell this story of great customer service, and how much it means to customers when everyone is empowered to help when they can.
3. Pay Your Employees Enough So They Don’t Hate You. I get that employees are becoming cogs in a larger machine. But I also can tell you that the minimum wage folks I deal with in major retail establishments often care so little about where they are and what they’re doing, that it reflects badly on the store, its managers and more. People should not resent coming to work any more than anyone does, getting up on Monday morning. Try making it a place where people don’t feel like indentured servants. They pass this stellar feeling onto your customers.
4. Make Sure Taking Responsibility, Even For The Dumb Stuff, Is The Name Of The Game. I recently spoke with a manager at a large retailer about a problem, and they simply tried to blame the other people I had dealt with first, telling me what they should have done. As a customer, all this tells me is that a) you don’t train your staff well and b) you are more interested in placing blame than taking care of my problem. Staff should feel like they can say to a customer “I am so sorry you are having an issue- let’s what I can do to help you.” That puts the business and the customer on the same team. This is a much better dynamic than having a customer feel that what’s really to blame is your overall business ineptitude. Customers won’t always be right, but attending to them is better than blame shifting which only makes everyone look bad.
5. Live up to Your Promises, and Communicate Frequently. I try to make it my policy to underpromise and over deliver, so things are done faster and better than my clients expect whenever possible. This also builds in some space for delays that creep up on everyone, and builds in a buffer. That said, I’ve found keeping in contact with a client about the progress on a project proactively makes them feel well cared for and that they are a priority for me, and then they are much more likely to understand and work with me if any problems arise. A quick email or call or even text is usually enough.
6. Apologize when you need to. Things go wrong. Mistakes happen. Sometimes, the mistake may not even be yours. But a quick apology followed by a plan of action works wonders. It even works when trying to solve problems with my teenager, so miracles can occur.
7. Remember All These Things Contribute To Your Most Valuable Asset- Your Reputation. All of the things here are pretty straight forward. Building your reputation of being a decent and caring person/business goes a long way towards customer loyalty and word of mouth. We’re in an age where the internet makes it almost too easy to find someone else to work with or buy from, so your reputation is even more important than ever. In the end, you’ll never regret doing the right thing and caring. Even better, your caring shows through to your clients and customers, and they will never forget.
Being nice is more than a good karma act. It may be your single best competitive advantage.