Everybody’s focused on holiday shopping, wondering what consumers will and won’t do this season and especially, how much they’ll spend. Will more shop online and skip the frenzy in the stores? How about small businesses: Are growing numbers of shoppers favoring a more relaxed and community-based approach to shopping?
Price Grabber surveyed 2,887 U.S. online shopping consumers about their upcoming plans. While lots of great information came out of its Winter Holiday Shopping Survey, there’s one big headline that dominated:
Sixty-nine percent of consumers plan to shop at the same retailers as they did last year. When asked why, 70 percent said they would remain loyal to certain retailers because of good customer service.
Why has this gotten so much attention? It’s no surprise, right? Don’t we all know by this time that good customer service equals customer loyalty and retention?
Yes and no. At some level, business owners and customers all know this. But all too often, customer service remains an intellectual exercise, something business owners talk about and promote but in the end, fail to deliver on. We’re not sure why. Is it because the more nuts-and-bolts aspects of the business get in the way and take precedence? Or do merchants think customer service will just happen automatically? And maybe, some are guilty of believing that customers will continue to come anyway.
And what about customers themselves? We all say we expect and insist on good customer service. But in reality, we’ll often go back to a place where the service has been horrible, if we really need something there or if it’s convenient. Sad to say, as consumers, we’re frequently unwilling to take a hard stand against poor service.
But the truth is that in an increasingly competitive marketplace, where many are selling commodity products, customer service is the defining factor that differentiates one merchant from the next. And at no other time of the year than holiday shopping is customer service more important or, we would argue, more difficult to deliver. So much multi-tasking, such a frenzied pace, so many distractions—all are factors that contribute to an atmosphere in which customer service becomes an afterthought.
For small businesses, providing outstanding customer service has become a non-negotiable. Not OK customer service, not even good customer service, but stellar customer service. It’s the only way to go. As marketingpilgrim.com points out, customer service is the one area where a small retailer has a fighting chance of beating the big boys. The key words here: “Going above and beyond.” And during the holidays, this means making sure customers find great gifts with little effort and enjoy themselves while they’re doing it!
This may sound like an impossibly tall order, but speaker and trainer Kevin Stirtz, the Amazing Service Guy (amazingserviceguy.com) says otherwise. And at businessknowhow.com, Stirtz offers 10 ways to provide amazing service--and boost your holiday sales at the same time. We love these, because so many of them are simple, no-cost gestures that anyone can do on the spot! We’ve listed them below, but be sure to click the link above for all of Stirtz’s great commentary.
- Put your customers first.
- Have fun.
- Be flexible.
- Make customers smile.
- Put yourself in customers’ shoes.
- Be fast and friendly.
- Help, don’t sell.
- Be extra patient.
- Get suggestions from your team to raise the bar on your customer experience.
Image courtesy of stockimages / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Do you have other simple, easy-to-do ways of providing stellar customer service? Please share your thoughts!