Customer service is so important to each and every business. If the service is great, your customers will keep coming back. If it is poor, they simply will not.
One important thing to remember is that the quality of the customer service you provide is not judged by you or your company. It is entirely about the customer’s perception. You must do everything in your power to ensure that the service rendered matches up with what the customer desires.
There probably is no better way to kill a service experience than using the word “no.” Sometimes “no” is disguised in phrases such as, “against company policy,” “we just cannot do that,” or “that is not permissible.” Disguised or otherwise, “no” words destroy your business’ relationship with its customers because they stop the conversation and leave the customer with no choice but to walk out upset, vowing never to come back. Taking choice away from your customers is the death knell for repeat business.
If a customer comes in wanting to return an item and the clerk says the only way to accept the return is with a receipt, which the customer does not have, they will leave the store unhappy and probably not return. While intended to protect the business, this tightly framed return policy creates service experiences that customers perceive as negative and undermines the business’ ability to generate repeat sales.
Ironically, so many companies implement these rigid policies to keep from being taken advantage of to the detriment of their business. These “no” policies repel good, even great, customers who have simply lost their receipts. Where generating repeat business is a priority, a policy that undermines your ability to be successful is just not good business. I recently bought a shirt at a store, and once I got it home, I found that it did not fit. Of course, when I went to return it, I had lost the receipt indicating how I had paid for it. Obviously, the store did not want to give me cash, but they offered me store credit instead.
The store credit alternative was absolutely fine with me. The key piece to note here is that the clerk did not say the store could not accept my return because of company policy. Rather, the clerk said they were delighted to accept my return and give me store credit to use on a future purchase of my choice.
Another person walked into a store and wanted to make an offer for an item rather than pay the printed price. The clerk told the customer that he could not take anything below the listed price. Ultimately, that may have been the appropriate response, but saying “no” should have been the absolute last resort.
The clerk could have been trained to explain the item’s value, what comparable prices are, and encourage the customer to pay retail. If that approach failed, the clerk should have been instructed to call in a manager.
I am certainly not saying that you should take less than retail if a customer comes in one day with a similar request. Rather, I am suggesting that the response should avoid using the word “no.” “No” stops all dialogue, and you want to keep the conversation with your customers going.
Now go out and make sure that your staff is trained to avoid using “no” and all its variations. The benefits will be huge and the cost minimal.
Jerome S. Osteryoung, director of outreach services at the Jim Moran Institute in the College of Business at Florida State University, can be reached at (850) 294-7478.