Note from Phil: What follows is a terrific guest post from Shep Hyken, a master of customer service. I was fortunate enough to spend a little time with Shep at a conference I attended this summer, and I’m honored he wanted to be a guest writer here on my blog. His new book is terrific too, and I know you’ll enjoy the lessons he shares below.
Successful businesses understand that the key to winning customers, keeping customers and increasing sales lies in customer service.
For my latest book, Amaze Every Customer Every Time, I decided that instead of sharing examples of many companies’ strategies for success, I would select just one company to serve as a role model. The company I found that rose to the top in terms of delivering an amazing customer service experience is Ace Hardware. Think about it – Ace Hardware stores face incredible competition from big box stores such as Lowe’s and Home Depot, but they have successfully positioned themselves as the most helpful hardware stores on the planet. I have compiled six strategies from interviews with Ace retailers. Although they may seem simple, they are powerful tools that amaze customers.
1. A Warm Welcome – Whether in person or on the phone, offer a sincere, pleasant greeting that makes the customer feel comfortable and appreciated. A good first impression will reassure the customer that he or she has made the right decision in choosing to do business with you.
2. An Open-Ended Question – Asking the standard “Can I help you?” is generally not a productive question in terms of determining how to meet the customer’s needs. Instead, ask a question that requires the customer to offer more information. For example, “What can I help you find today?” will prompt the customer to tell you the reason he or she has come to your business and enable you to provide the appropriate product or assistance. An open-ended question calls for more than a yes or no answer, giving you the information you need to serve the customer.
3. A Follow-up “Why” Question – A powerful strategy Ace employs is to ask another question after determining the product that the customer has come to purchase. The follow-up question could be something like, “Why do you need a battery charger?” or “Are you working on a painting project?” If the customer is purchasing paint, for example, the follow-up question and resulting conversation could reveal opportunities to upsell and ensure the customer leaves with all the items he or she needs.
4. Upselling – When appropriate, suggest other merchandise that the customer may require. Using the example of the customer who has come to buy paint, you might ask if he or she needs any brushes or rollers or other items to complete a painting project. Upselling is more than just trying to increase sales – it is a valuable form of customer service. Ace understands this and teaches its associates to make sure the customer has all the necessary items for a job or project. It saves customers time since they don’t have to make multiple trips to the store, so not “upselling” when appropriate is actually a form of poor customer service.
5. One More Question – Before you conclude an interaction with a customer, ask if there is anything else you can help provide. A customer may have another item to purchase – if so, be sure to go through steps 3 and 4 again – or may simply want more information or advice. Continue the process until you are certain that you have satisfied the customer’s reasons for visiting or calling your business.
6. A Sincere “Thank You” – At the close of every interaction, offer genuine thanks to the customer. A feeling of appreciation will leave a lasting impression. That, along with the amazing service that you have provided will resonate the next time the customer is in the market for your product or service.
Shep Hyken, New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author and hall-of-fame speaker is the Chief Amazement Officer at Shepard Presentations. As a customer service expert, he helps companies build loyal relationships with their customers and employees. For more information about his upcoming book, Amaze Every Customer Every Time: 52 Tools for Delivering the Most Amazing Customer Service on the Planet, go to www.AmazeEveryCustomer.com. Follow on Twitter: @Hyken