While shopping at the various retailers recently, I have noticed that some of their customer service is just not the same. At Sports Chalet, I paid for my items. The cashier handled the transaction, put my items in a bag and then dropped the bag on the counter. No thank you, no smile, nothing. At Macy’s, the salesperson would walk around the counter and hand you your bag/hanger. Now it was shoved across the counter, but I did get a smile and a thank you. There are other examples that I have experienced in the past months and I started thinking if the large retailers are doing this, what are our small businesses doing?
I read recently that Ritz-Carlton consciously decided not to match misery with misery during the recessions. They realized that their guests may be concerned about their finances but that does not mean that guests expected the Ritz-Carlton to cut back on their special touches. When the times improved, their brand hadn’t been destroyed.
These examples probably seem silly to focus on. They are, but they are not. The customer may not even realize what makes great service but when it is missing, it gives them a reason to go elsewhere. Customer service is critical to small business. It is one of the few ways small business can compete with the larger retailers. Daniel Butler, National Retail Federation, points out this “buyer experience” is where owners of small stores have a big advantage over their chain-store counterparts. They can actually be in touch with their customers and make a personal connection.”
Have you been cutting back? You need to evaluate the changes you have made. Have they been to the betterment of your operation? Have you been losing customers? Cutting back on staff might seem to give some relief to the bottom line at first. However, if this means your customers have to wait longer at the counter; this can lead to unhappy customers! This can also lead to unhappy employees. They may begin to feel overwhelmed by the amount of work they are expected to do. These employees are the face of your business. You have set standards for your business and in the slow times, you cannot compromise them.
Remember when you first started your business? At first you have one customer. You bend over backwards to service that customer. Along the way, you have 100 customers. Suddenly you don’t have the time to do all the extra things you did in the beginning. If you can provide the same level of service to those 100 customers and the next 100 customers that you provided to your first customer, you will never be out of work.
We have all heard about the successful cleaners that are open 24 hours, who have donuts and coffee in the call offices- just to name a few perks. These entrepreneurs were thinking out of the box. YOU need to be creative. You personally know your customers and you recognize their needs. You need to cater to your customers’ lifestyles. Make certain that what you are offering is something your customer can value. Jump ahead and give a more personalized service to your customers than your competitors. The dry cleaning customer is changing. You can’t be stuck with the way you did it 10 years ago. The opportunities are endless.
Above all, don’t ignore SOCIAL MEDIA. Social media is not a wave for the future. It is NOW. If you don’t have a website and most cleaners don’t, make that a priority. There are so many web designers out there and it is relatively inexpensive to obtain and maintain one. Have you heard of YELP? Many of you probably don’t even realize that there could be many negative comments about your business floating around. So Cal Cleaners Association had a meeting recently about “Managing Your Social Media”. The attendees received invaluable information. If you did not attend, that was your loss. Your competitors are so far advanced with their websites and email campaigns. This technology is not going to disappear. You need to take advantage and climb aboard immediately.
Customer service is an integral part of your job. Customers are your most vital asset. They need to feel appreciated. Take good care of your customers and they will take care of your business.