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Customer Service Overhaul
The Retail Management Workshop

We all seem to know how important customer service is-if we are going to be successful in retail. Then why do we keep getting lousy service wherever we go?

Assuming most customers are reasonable people, the answer to the above question is 1. Store staff don't know or don't understand what the expected behavior in terms of customer care is or 2. Management gives this issue only a lip service and do not place firm criteria to maintain high customer service levels.

It always boils down to quality of management doesn't it? In both of the above cases, it's management that is squarely responsible. So, before things get even worse, here are the commandments you need to put in place and make sure they are ingrained into everyone's mind:

1. A Vision of Customer Service Excellence That is Clearly Developed and Communicated: If you do not set the expectations right from the beginning, you can't blame anyone but yourself.

2. Recruit, Hire, Train and Promote People with People Skills: When you are interviewing for new people, look for indications of friendliness, helpful nature and ask questions probing for the level of people skills . When evaluating staff performance, make sure there is enough indication and consideration to their performance in customer service.

3. Measure Individual Service Performance, Report Results and Celebrate Victories: What is not measured can not be managed. End of story. Develop a performance chart for each staff member and rate them from 1 to 10 for their Customer Service performance. You'll see a marked improvement almost immediately.

4. Solve Problems When and Where They Occur immediately: Customer studies show that as long as a problem is resolved fast and to the customer's benefit, most become very loyal customers for life. Study your policies and procedures and eliminate the fluff and unnecessary steps that take time. To speed up the resolution process, empower your staff to make certain decisions without having to look for management.

5. Stay Close to Your Customer: When was the last time you took one of your customers to lunch or even a coffee? I know a lot of you are thinking we don't do that in retail, that's the domain of B2B sales; but unless you know your customer's honest opinion, how are you going to improve your operation? Think about it.

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