BUSINESS ADMINISTRATION CONSULTANT
REGIONAL BUSINESS SERVICES
I was running early for an appointment last week so I took the opportunity and popped in to the Harold Street Mini Mart for a coffee (Great coffee by the way). As I was walking in a ‘little old lady’ walked in just in front of me, walking cane in hand.
I ordered my flat white and began to wait till it was ready. The ‘little old lady’ was finalising her shopping, placing her items on the counter. Without much chit-chat, her purchases were rang through the till. As the Attendant picked up her bottle of milk, he opened it and placed it in her bag.
I was really shocked because I couldn’t figure out what was going on. Was the milk past its use by date and he was ensuring it couldn’t be returned? He hadn’t said anything to the lady so I was confused and a little angry at what I thought was happening. Then I realised why he had done this. He had broken the seal on the milk lid, so that it was easier for the lady to open when she got home! I was SO impressed (and a little sheepish at my attitude). I headed off with the ‘warm and fuzzies’ and not just because of the delicious coffee!
It got me thinking about what service is all about. I have always thought service starts with a smile and a friendly word, but this is not necessarily the whole case. I know a lot of gruff people who provide an awesome service and it does not even cross my mind that they don’t smile or offer the superficial pleasantries that we normally associate with customer service. So what is service all about? I have broken down what I think are the three most important components to consider to provide good service, regardless of what industry you work in and whatever product or service you provide.
Whether you are receiving an order at your cafe, receiving an order for your warehouse or gaining a new client in your accounting firm it is of paramount importance that you seek clarification in multiple ways. Clarify the service your client is expecting (timeframes, pricing, outcome). Clarify your ability to deliver what they expect and be up front if it is different to your expectation. How do you clarify everything in an ongoing manner? Communication.
Simple, clear, regular and concise. If you are having a meeting, send through the agenda early. Once a customer has placed an order, confirm it with them. Are you confused about something? Pick up the phone, send an email or organise another meeting. Communication is two fold. It is not just about what you think you know, it is confirming that it is the same as what the client knows. Follow up after you have completed your task to ensure that is was delivered to the clients expectations.
This (in theory) should be easy. Especially if you have had strong clarification and communication throughout your sales cycle. Just do what was agreed upon! Don’t make the mistake of over servicing, because it can produce mixed results. Throw in a freebie and people might begin to expect it (or think they ended up paying for it). Do more than what was agreed and it might be more than what was actually wanted. You should have a pretty good feel for what is important for you to deliver if you have clarified and communicated well.
Remember it’s not just about smiles and pleasantries, it certainly helps, but it is really about knowing what your clients want and can expect.