This week I ran into two vivid examples of extremely poor customer service. It's kind of sad that we often don't think about customer service until we come across an obvious lack of it, because it really is crucial to the success of our businesses. It's also one of the main ways that you as a demonstrator can set yourself apart from the competition. Good customer service is something anyone can do, regardless of how long or short a time they have been a demo, or what their income or title is. There are many aspects of our businesses that we cannot change, but this is one area we have total control over.
The first example came via a downline member who needed to contact a representative of another stamping company to order a product that Stampin' Up does not carry. I was delighted that I could give her the name of a consultant that I knew personally. I consider it a contribution to the overall community of women in small business to be able to recommend a good consultant for any home party company I am asked about. When I know more than one, I am very picky who I recommend. They can't just sit back and accept sales. I appreciate consultants who work for their money!
However, you guessed it--the consultant never got back to her. Here was an order waiting to happen, and the consultant never bothered to reply. Now, before you ask, I do know for sure the contact info is current and I actually Facebooked the consultant to tell her I had recommended her.
The consultant lost more than a single order when she decided, through her inaction, to not follow through. She also lost all future sales from that customer, as well as future recommendations from that customer. She also obviously lost all future recommendations from me, and anyone else I sent her way through the years. Do you see what happened? There's a cascading slide of repercussions from her decision.
Notice I said decision. Now, I'd bet good money that consultant did not read the email and subsequent Facebook posts and consciously sit there and think, "Huh. I think I'm going to ignore this order on purpose and see if I can lose a customer today." However, there must be a "climate of inaction," a habit of not following through, that unfortunately characterizes this consultant's business. There probably never was one single decision that led to the way this person does "business." It was a myriad of small decisions not to put the customer first, to put off until tomorrow what should have been done today, to be willing to settle for less than the best. There must be a tendency to let things slide, a desire not to be inconvenienced that outweighed the the motivation to run the business.
Regardless of whether she realized she was making the decision or not, the result was the same. The consultant (and possibly the company) lost the customer. And, if I need to spell it out--that's the ultimate in poor customer service.
Your company also loses when you drop the ball and don't follow up. Long before I signed up with Stampin' Up, I knew I did NOT want to be a part of a particular scrapbooking company, because I had heard that the consultants were high-pressure snobs. Now, of course not all the consultants from that company were pushy and had their noses in the air, but those mentions had tainted all future contact with that company to the point where I didn't even really want to attend one of their crops, much less become a customer, and even less become a consultant myself.
Obviously, there are times when we all drop the ball. I have let a lead slip through the cracks every now and again myself, usually through my phobia of the phone (I'm working on that). You can't beat yourself up over every business lead you did not maximize to its fullest potential. If you did that, you'd soon become so discouraged you would have to quit. However, this "climate of inaction" should not characterize your business.
You are in the customer service industry, whether you like it or not.You may as well decide that you are going to embrace that fact and strive to become known for excellent service to your customers. The key here is a conscious decision to commit to excellent customer service. It does not happen by itself. And it must be committed to--or you will fail in that area every time you "just don't feel like dealing with it right now."
The second example of poor customer service this week was an email from a quilt shop in response to a request I sent to them to please send me any info they had on a new line of fabric coming out, as I fell in love with a swatch for throw pillows for my new couch and would like to purchase locally.
In danger of swamping the servers by posting the entire response, here it is: "sorry can't help you Kathy"
Getting past the utter lack of punctuation, what a fantastic example of customer service we have here, huh? I guess the only better example of what NOT to do would have been not to get any response whatsoever. This store has made up their mind (consciously or unconsciously) that they will not make the effort to be helpful, will not take two minutes to explain, will not make suggestions.... and therefore will not be getting any business from me.
Action Item: Commit right now to having a business. The very word "business" implies that it will not always be fun and games. You will not always "feel" like providing the good customer service that will set you apart and keep your customers loyal year after year. If you take your business seriously, and run it consistently, honestly, and enthusiastically, you will automatically be providing good customer service.
But take it that next step by striving to provide "above and beyond" customer service. Go that extra mile, and watch your business grow as you stand head and shoulders above those who have not made the commitment to resist that climate of inaction. And if you realize you have let yourself get into a bad pattern of poor follow through, the good news is, you can control this climate change. The success or failure of your business depends on YOU.