This is one of the issues that have been bothering me for years and now, I’m finally able to address it in this column. Let’s first define this, according to Investopedia: “Customer service is the direct one-on-one interaction between a consumer making a purchase and a representative of the company that is selling it. Most retailers see this direct interaction as a critical factor in ensuring buyer satisfaction and encouraging repeat business.”
I would like to discuss this topic because I think a lot of businesses underestimate the importance of good customer service and the impact of word of mouth. As important as customer service is to a big business, it is just as important for those who own small businesses. We all know the kind of customer service that most of us experience at retailers, but because we do not complain when we experience bad service – we are unfortunately feeding the beast. It starts with something very small, a friendly face and a greeting from the person who is supposedly the face of the company.
This applies to those who act as the receptionists/administrators/security guards of small businesses. If the first person that you interact with in the company has a bad attitude, looks bored and doesn’t even greet a customer before servicing them – this kills the whole experience. I’m personally loyal to businesses that treat me well, any business that makes me feel like their only customer in the world – I will go back there over and over again. I will not only go back but also talk about how good they are to my friends and family as well. This kind of word of mouth/recommendation can do wonders for one’s business.
If I go to a business and I find a person who is supposed to serve me looking bored and acting like they are doing me a favour, with my money – then in most cases – I do not go back. I also vent about my bad experience to those close to me and unfortunately the word goes out and spreads. I am assuming that in big retailers especially, there is a basic customer service/etiquette training that is offered to those who claim to be ‘desperately looking for work’. It really surprises me how a person can have a bad attitude at work when serving customers, but we are all – at the same time – complaining about the rate of unemployment in the country. To me, it seems like a person who treats customers badly doesn’t value their work. If that’s the case, should that job not be given to someone who will appreciate it then? However, because we are told that a customer is always right – this also doesn’t give us the right to be abusive to those who serve us.
In my mind, the simple basics in customer service would include saying the following to a customer as they enter the business looking for a product or a service:
1) Good day/Hello Sir or Mam, how can I help you today?
2) In the case of a retail space in the tills especially, it would be followed by this question: Would you like a plastic bag?
3) Do you perhaps have the shop’s loyalty card?
4) Will you be paying with cash or card?
Sounds simple enough, right? Then why does it seem so hard when we are in front of those that are supposed to be serving us? Really beats me. If it’s really this simple, then it needs to be implemented. A business associate who is in the tourism space once told me a scenario, where a possible investor passing by Komani would consider coming back and put in money but be put off by a bad service at a petrol station. Something that we might take for granted, as small as how a possible investor experience customer service in our area could be a decider on whether they come back or not. For those who are not aware, an investment into our area could mean possible job opportunities for those who need them most, so it’s important to think before giving customers attitude.
I would like to advice small business owners in particular to please train their employees on the basics of customer service and monitor that it is actually being practised on a daily basis. For more perspective on this topic, see: https://www.investopedia.com/terms/c/customer-service.asp