As the wind of economic cycles blows hard, some businesses try to contain costs by cutting corners on customer service. This is exactly the wrong thing to do, because service matters now more than ever. Here's why:
Wiser spending. When people buy during an economic downturn, they are extremely conscious of the hard-earned money they spend. Customers want more attention, more appreciation and more recognition when making their purchases with you, not less.
More bang for the buck. Customers want to be sure they get maximum value for the money they spend. The basic product may remain the same, but they want more service.
A guarantee. Customers want firmer guarantees that their purchase was the right thing to do. In good times, a single bad purchase can be quickly overlooked or forgotten; but in tough times, every expenditure is scrutinized. Provide the assurance your customers seek with generous service guarantees, regular follow-up, and speedy follow-through on all queries and complaints.
Positive word-of-mouth. During a down economy, people talk more with each other about saving money and getting a good value. Positive word-of-mouth is a powerful force at any time. In difficult times, even more ears will be listening. Be sure the words spoken about your business are good ones!
The Secrets of Superior Service
Giving good service in tough times makes good business sense. But how do you actually achieve it? Here are eight proven principles you can use.
1. Understand how your customers' expectations are rising and changing over time. What was good enough last year may not be good enough now. Use customer surveys, interviews and focus groups to understand what your customers really want, what they value, and what they believe they are getting (or not getting) from your business.
2. Use quality service to differentiate your business from competition. Your products may be reliable and up-to-date, but your competitors' are, too. Your delivery systems may be fast and user-friendly, but so are your competitors'! Make a lasting difference by providing personalized, responsive and extra-mile service that stands out in a unique way your customers will appreciate—and remember.
3. Set and achieve high service standards. You can go beyond basic and expected levels of service to provide your customers with desired and even surprising interactions. Determine the standard for service in your industry, and then find a way to go beyond it. Give more choice than “the usual,” be more flexible than “normal,” be faster than “the average,” and extend a better warranty than all the others.
Your customers will notice your higher standards. But eventually those standards will be copied by your competitors, too. So don't slow down. Keep stepping up!