Deliver Top-Notch Customer Service
Many stores have incentive programs related to sales, but do you offer anything to reward excellent customer service from your employees?
Customer service is the key to the survival of micro independent businesses. I’m pretty sure every micro independent pet business owner knows how to provide superior customer service, but do your employees? It is so easy to go above and beyond with a customer who is generally happy. True customer service skills come into play when someone is furious with your store. Many stores have policies in place to get an owner involved when someone complains, but I think the first step is empowering all employees to do whatever needs to be done to try and make the customer happy.
If a customer comes in and says they are not happy with something, they should not feel as if they are getting bounced around. They should not have to continue to voice their complaint to many different people. The core of superior customer service is making the customer feel like their problems are being heard, understood and resolved. Except in the case of a customer asking to speak to a manager, your employee should be empowered to take ownership of the complaint and resolve the situation. Depending on the issue, the resolution might be getting an owner involved, or it could be as simple as giving a free bag of food.
Trying to put “superior customer service” into a new-hire handbook or a policy statement is very difficult because there are so many different things that can happen to make people unhappy. I had a customer come in and express how unhappy she was with her last bag of pet food. It seems the food was moldy, and she just pitched the whole bag. In talking with her, I found out she did not have a receipt, and she wasn’t 100 percent sure she even bought it from my store. I talked with her further, and it was pretty clear she did not want to go back to the previous brand, so I offered her a free bag of another brand. She did not ask for a free bag, nor did she expect it since she didn’t have receipts, so she left very happy.
I think most storeowners would’ve done exactly the same thing after listening to this customer talking about throwing away an $80 bag of food. Whenever something like that happens, I always make it a point to discuss it with all of my staff members. I want them to understand what I did, and I expect them to do the exact same thing. The absolutely best way of training is always leading by example.
Employees might fear doing harm to the business, which could result in poor customer service. As owners, it’s very easy for us to make decisions on how to handle a customer, but your employee has the extra stress of possibly making the wrong decision in your eyes.
It’s not always the concern of costing the store money that ends up causing poor customer service. Have you ever walked into a store where the employees stay more focused on getting their tasks done? Storeowners always like to stress to employees the importance of getting inventory put up in a timely manner, cleaning and all the other little daily tasks it takes to keep a store operational. There is a small chain store near me, and if I walk in 10 minutes before closing time, not one employee is going to stop what he or she is doing to see if they can help me. They are busy getting all their closing tasks completed so they can leave on time. They do greet me when I walk in, but then they immediately go back to their cleaning tasks.
In my store, we always stress that the customer walking in the door is the most important thing. Tasks and chores can wait until the customer has been taken care of. I feel the exact same way about the telephone. If you call my store, chances are you will get our voicemail. That’s because the customer standing in front of me is the most important thing to me. I’m happy to return phone calls, but the priority will always be the customer that has taken the time to walk into my store. One of my mentors always used to say, “Never put a person standing in front of you with a wallet full of money on hold.”
I stress to my staff that they will never get in trouble for trying to make a customer happy. Many store owners are scared of being taken advantage of. I am not. I trust the judgment of those I hire, and I trust my customers.
B.C. Henschen, a certified pet care technician and an accredited pet trainer, is a partner in Platinum Paws, a full-service pet salon and premium pet food store in Carmel, Ind. His knowledge of the pet food industry makes Platinum Paws the go-to store for pet owners who want more for their pet than a bag off a shelf.