Everybody’s business: Customer service can distinguish business

Attention business owners: Are we ready for the prime season of the year? Now is a good time to tune up the customer service engine. A customers’ perception of how they are treated has a dramatic effect on net profits. In this struggling economy, many businesses have cut back on employees to reduce costs, but if customers have to wait in line or can’t find staff to assist them, they will take their business elsewhere. Owners who have a website or do business over the phone will need to tune up these areas as well.

Any business can easily distinguish itself by offering better customer service than its competitors. It starts with the owner and management. The first impression the customer has of a business is number one on the tune up checklist. Next, make sure employees are fully trained and empowered to handle all of a customer’s needs. Part of having excellent customer service is staff knowing what happens next when a situation exceeds the employee’s authority or expertise. The checklist includes having management present or available to assist when necessary.

Many businesses brag about service before, during, and after the sale. The “after” part is where many businesses fall short. The next checklist item is ensuring each employee is trained in conflict resolution, return policies, and additional procedures involving a potential unsatisfied customer.

The last item on the customer service tune-up checklist involves communication. A lack of communication between management and employees can result in poor service to the customers. From a businesses’ perspective, do the current employees meet the standards used in hiring new employees? From the employees’ perspectives, does management regularly communicate with you? If either of these answers is no, corrective measures are needed.

Gordon Smith is a business specialist at the Small Business Development Center at Clovis Community College.