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The 3 Most Common Customer Service Cracks. Sew what?

By Mark Wardell @MarkWardell |

For the average business, customer service tends to be the area most prone to business 'cracks'. It's no wonder why, as this is the area that depends most on human consistency, and even the best of us make mistakes.

Far too often, there is a lack of synergy between the big-picture goals of a business owner and the way his or her team interacts with customers (this includes the marketing opportunities attached to customer interaction). The good news is that, with the help of a little training and some strategy, you can not only fix these cracks, but improve the overall state of your business.

To illustrate how this can be done, I'll use the example of Mason Sewing Machines. When the owner, Ken Mason, approached us for help earlier this year, he told us his company was coasting. Their numbers were fine, they had a solid product line, good reputation and a great team but, says Ken, "I just felt we were letting balls drop, though I couldn't identify exactly what the balls were or where they were dropping."

After meeting Ken and assessing his business, we quickly recognized three "cracks" where opportunities were being lost in his business on a regular basis. Here I outline how you can avoid these common cracks in your business.

1. Customer Service begins with marketing. Evolve your marketing plan.

Great customer service begins with a strong marketing plan, not a dusted off ad campaign from last year.

For most small, family-run businesses, change tends to happen slowly. We all know about SEO and Social Media Marketing. But what some smaller businesses tend to overlook is the fact that at the very least, they need to make sure their business is leveraging the tools that make them "findable" to their customers, many of whom are online.

While this game changes every year, there are a few basics here. You need a site that is easy to navigate, professional, and searchable. You need to ensure search engine optimization (SEO) is working for you and possibly enlist the help of a specialist. And if you advertise, you should, on a regular basis, be assessing where your target audience is, who they are, and evolving your strategy accordingly. Many small businesses get stuck in a routine and lift up their heads years later to discover that their target demographic has changed by a decade and is no longer visiting the properties they are advertising with.

Develop a strategy that forces you to stay current. Each year, ask yourself if you're considering all the industries, organizations and places your customers might be?

In Mason's case, they realized they were missing out on some valuable target audiences in the movie industry, hospitals, and hotel/hospitality and took a more proactive approach to reaching new audiences. A significant sales jump followed.

2. Customer Service starts BEFORE a customer ever reaches your brick and mortar store.

Shopping today ain't what it used to be.

When making big purchases, customers often begin their shopping with an online search. Sometimes they call the store to ask a few questions before coming in person.

In fact, I do this myself. Recently, I bought an ipad for a gift and called the Apple store to ask a few preliminary questions. Even at Apple, I didn't find the agents particularly helpful onl the phone, though they were phenomenal in person.

This is the mistake that Mason was making. People would call in with questions before driving out to see the sewing machines, but their sales cycle didn't actually start until the customer was in the store. Customers were falling through the cracks because they weren't given enough information when they called. Now Mason treats these calls the same way they treat people in person. As a result, they've had way more customers coming through the doors AND customers are more prepared to buy armed with the information they received before getting through the door.

Say what?? Training your sales team to say the right thing.

We all know that feeling of receiving great customer service. Sometimes, it's so good we want to tell a friend or write a status update! Conversely, when it's bad, or inconsistent, our reaction is the same.

The lesson? Provide a script to your customer service team, along with a motivational training workshop every month to keep people focused.

At Mason, customers would receive great product demonstrations and helpful service but they weren't receiving all of the critical information important to the sale, such as the fact that the company has been in business for 60 years and offers unparalleled follow-up servicing. These additional selling features turned out to be huge factors to their buying customers. With a little training, Mason's Customer service staff now follows a script that includes all the product highlights, facts about the company, and information about upcoming sales.

The benefits of improving customer service, while at the same time addressing the associated marketing opportunities, are limitless. Most businesses find that when these cracks are fixed, the business overall evolves into a more profitable enterprise, as everyone in the company starts to focus in the same direction. As we say at Wardell, it's all about the strategy. So map out some guidelines for yourself, and avoid losing money, time and people to these causes.

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