tops you when it comes to customer service, correct? Yours is the best
in town. Or is it? Maybe you haven’t paid much attention to your
customer service lately. Maybe you’ve hired an employee or two who could
be doing better on the sales floor. Or, maybe you just assume a customer
isn’t receiving great service at the big box store around the corner, so
you’re sure she is coming to your store for the topnotch service. Plus,
your contractor sales seem to be doing well—they may or may not be
increasing but you think they’re about the same as the previous years.
Well, all of these assumptions could be driving
customers right out of your store. Of course, they’re not all going to
give you a sign by storming out the front door at the same time. But
slowly, a customer doesn’t come back after making a purchase or a
customer may come into your store…only to leave with nothing.
It’s nearly impossible to judge customer service
because you can’t put a price on it. Dealing with different paint or
sundry lines is easy—you can chart increases or decreases in sales.
Customer service is a different story. Don’t fool yourself into
believing your customer service is fine just because no one seems to be
complaining about it. "A lot of dealers seem somewhat satisfied with
themselves and t he job they are doing with customer service," said Ron
Boyajian, product marketing manager of California Paints. "Some
retailers are a bit delusional about how great their customer service
actually is. Everyone can be friendly, but customer service is so much
more than that."
Consider the small-business book "Up Against The Wal-Marts"
written by Don Taylor and Jeanne Smalling Archer, which dedicated an
entire chapter to customer service. The pair listed some "basic truths"
to better understand customer service, including: most people are
willing to pay a premium (up to 10 percent or more) for good customer
service); happy customers will tell their friends, so you will spend
less on advertising; some experts estimate that businesses lose as much
as 30 percent of their potential revenue because of poor customer
relations; and the biggest reason customers will quit doing business
with your company is poor customer service.
So, how is your customer service? Maybe now is the
time to reexamine your customer-service practices. Don’t just sit on
your laurels. Read ahead to find out what others suggest are good
customer-service practices (take a look at the extensive sidebar as
well, featuring some of the best customer service tips pulled from PDR’s
popular Dealer Features from the last four years) and see if an idea or
two fits into your store’s philosophy. You know customers aren’t coming
to your store because you have the best prices in town. They’re coming
to you for product knowledge, industry experience and exceptional
customer service. Don’t let them down.