Three simple tips for better customer service

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Recently, I was in the market to replace the cushions for my patio furniture. I thought this would be a straight forward project, it turned out to be a great lesson in the importance of customer service. I like to do business locally, but unfortunately after visiting a few local outdoor furniture stores, I ordered new cushions online because of the lack of interest on the part of the stores I visited.  This is what I should have said to the company that lost my business:1. When someone is going to spend money with your business, be thankful.  Even more so when the purchase is not routine for your customer. Customers need reassurance that they are making the right decision. Showing that you want their business and making them feel like they are welcome are important first steps. Remember, your sales people are part of your customer service department.

2. Take the time to explain what you are offering and why. Customers will not always understand why your product or service is expensive.  When I found out that replacement cushions would cost almost as much as the original patio furniture, I did not want to spend the money. After doing my own research, I discovered the obvious.  Unlike the originals that came with the furniture, “custom” cushions are not made in China. It is up to the business to show value, not the customer to see the value in what you offer.

3. Learn to read your customers.  Customers don’t always feel comfortable telling you they cannot afford your product or service. When a customers starts hinting (or out right asking) about price, offer alternatives. Don’t assume the customer knows all that they need to know in order to make an informed decision.  Make suggestions that can save them money. Most of the time the customer doesn’t know what to ask for and is relying on your expertise. Some upgrades add value, others just add cost in the customers eye.

It is important to note that all of these tips can be applied before the sale is complete.  There is a common misconception that customer service starts when a customer has a problem. In reality, good customer service starts when a customer walks through your door or calls you on the phone. I saved very little by ordering on line, but I did not feel confident I was getting any additional value from the stores I visited for the money I was spending. I am sure the stores could have suggested several ways of saving money along with their lack of enthusiasm interest in my purchase cost them the sale.

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