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Get Serious About Customer Service

In today’s economy, you can’t afford to lose even one customer.

It goes without saying that outstanding customer service is now an imperative for business success. Customers don’t need much of an excuse to head over to your competitor if your business falls even the slightest bit short in the level of service you provide. And in today’s economy, you can’t afford to lose even one customer.

Most customers won’t even consider doing business with you unless you have a reputation for great service. Even if you do, there’s always room for improvement. Companies that are known for great service are serious about it. They are never satisfied where they are. They are always seeking ways to make their level of service stand out in the minds of their customers and put the “Wow” into their service. A consistently great customer experience is their number one goal.

Seven Steps to Service Excellence
Below are seven steps you can take to improve the level of service you provide, develop a reputation for service excellence and obtain higher levels of customer loyalty.

1. Gather Your Employees
Communicate that you are serious about customer service. Let them know that keeping your customers coming back to you will take the dedicated efforts of every single person. Communicate that everyone is in sales—even if they aren’t responsible for selling or renting equipment. Customers are constantly evaluating your company. Anytime your customer has contact with someone in your company for any reason, it is imperative that care and concern are demonstrated. Involve them in steps 2 through 7.

2. Identify Moments of Truth
In his best-selling book, Moments of Truth, Jan Carlzon identified moments of truth as “every opportunity to make a difference when in contact with customers.” Go through the “touch points” of the service experience in your material handling business.

Sales — What is the level of professionalism of your sales team? How classy do they sound on the phone and especially when they leave a voice mail? Are they more knowledgeable, helpful and dependable than your competitors? Is there consistency in their follow up? How long does it take them to send a quote? Do you have a sales and service process for them to apply that makes your company stand out in customers’ minds? If you don’t, what would an effective process be? Do they stand on their heads to provide more knowledge on how to improve productivity and material handling solutions? Do they provide a higher level of service, and help customers and potential customers far better than your competitors’ sales teams? How can you do better?

Phone — How do you sound when you answer the phone? Do you sound friendly, warm, upbeat and anxious to serve? Do you sound caring? Do you sound empathetic when it’s called for? How can you do better?

Delivery or Pick UpDo you have a process that is applied for delivery or pick up of equipment? Do you discuss operation, safety and maintenance? Do you phone the customer or operator after a few hours to ask how they are doing and if there are any additional questions? What would be a good process that would stand out in the minds of your customers and demonstrate service excellence?

Payment — Is your billing accurate and easy to understand? Do you help customers to understand the charges? Do you apologize if there are any errors in billing? Do you thank customers when they pay you?

Service Techs — How is the level of professionalism, courtesy and urgency to serve? Are they trained to handle difficult customers and situations? Do you have a 24-hour hotline?

Make a list of additional moments of truth and how you can apply Step 3 to them.

3. “WOW” the Customer
Keep in mind that little things can make a big difference. Bring a small and meaningful gift after a sale or during the delivery. One material handling company has a 24-hour hotline that goes directly to the president of the company if it is not answered by the fourth ring. That’s real “Wow!”

4. Demonstrate your Core Values
Ask everyone on your team to state how, specifically, each person should display the core values of honesty, professionalism, accountability, respect, continuous improvement, health and safety, environmental stewardship, and other core values in their day-to-day interactions with customers and each other. During your team meeting, ask your team to help you to uncover and eliminate any service flaws that might exist and seek ways to make it smooth and easy to do business with you.

5. Create Guiding Principles
Work with your entire team in creating guiding principles on how you will treat customers and each other. Then, put them in writing. Examples are below.

• “We will make every effort to be proactive in preventing problems from occurring.”

• “We will have a sense of urgency to serve the customer.”

• “We will make sure our office is spotlessly clean and makes a positive impression.”

• “We will make sure our equipment is clean and properly maintained.”

• “We will make every effort to answer the telephone by the third ring.”

• “We will never fail to address safety procedures with machinery and operation.”

6. Set Performance Standards
Be serious about service. Train your employees on how to act, speak and respond to customer needs and requests. If you let your employees decide how to act, your customers may not always receive the highest level of service. Everything your staff says affects your reputation for service. All of your employees must consistently act as “brand ambassadors” who promote goodwill. They must recognize that the equipment buyer or renter is the person who creates and sustains their job. Every current and potential customer, whether large or small, should be treated as a VIP.

7. Brand Your Service
When it comes to promoting their service, most businesses use similar catch phrases such as “Customer Satisfaction Guaranteed” or “100% Customer Satisfaction is Our Number One Goal.” Branding your service, or making a service promise, demonstrates that you are serious about customer service. More important, it improves customers’ perceptions of your company.

Use words that resonate with your company name. For example, if your business is “Scott Material Handling,” your service brand could be “Scott Service Plus.” If your company is Caliber Lift Truck, your tag line could be “Highest Caliber Service.”

If it is challenging to create a brand that matches with your company name, then make a statement that shows your commitment to great service. For example, “XYZ Material Handling – Committed to Obtaining and Retaining Loyal Customers Through Service Excellence.”

Developing a reputation for service excellence involves a great deal more. But if you take these seven steps, you can improve the level of service you provide and show that you are serious about it. Then, develop an obsession to deliver your best performance with every customer every day.

In the end, the customer will be your final judge and jury on how serious you are about your service.

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association
Christine Corelli Meet the Author
Christine Corelli is president of Christine Corelli & Associates, located in Morton Grove, IL, and on the Web at www.christinespeaks.com.

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