When tasked to write a blog about an aspect of business, I thought to myself, why not start at the beginning of what inspires me to patronize a business. By starting from this angle, I hope to motivate the burgeoning or growing business owner to take a moment or two and think about what is in my opinion the most important aspect of running a successful business, customer service. A business can spend thousands of dollars on advertising, which I’m not saying is not at all important either, but when it comes right down to it, if you patronize a business and receive poor customer service, will you come back regardless of the advertising campaign? I know the answer for myself, and I probably know your answer as well without even having to ask.
So what gave me the idea to write about customer service and its effect on the success of a business was my experiences with my favorite restaurant and also being a former restaurant owner myself. More on my business later, but for now, I would like to focus on what makes my favorite restaurant my favorite. I have come to love a cozy little Italian restaurant which is located about thirty minutes from my home. The distance does not stop me from making the journey to this restaurant at least once every two weeks. I have been making this journey faithfully for over two years now, and the reasons for this are the keys to sustaining a successful business of any kind.
I was recently reading an article about the practices that make for excellent customer service, and I realized that my favorite restaurant covers many of these practices, which is why it has become my favorite restaurant. As a customer, I am greeted at the door and shown to my seat. The owner himself will many times shout a hello and wave from the kitchen. My waiter always knows the answers to my questions and is attentive but not intrusive. But perhaps most importantly, the food is always delicious and consistent. It is in this last statement that I feel lies one of the most important aspects of customer service. Customers need to know that the product that they receive from your company will always be consistently of top quality. So my admiration of this restaurant relies on several factors related to excellent customer service, attentiveness, friendliness, knowledgeability, and consistency. I don’t need to see this restaurant advertised. I don’t care that I have to drive a little farther to get there. I go regardless because I know I will be pleased each time.
As I mentioned earlier, I was a restaurant owner too. Several years ago I sold my restaurant which I had operated for seventeen years, but in those seventeen years I learned many aspects about good customer service. Our customers were treated like they were family. We learned the names of the “regulars” and welcomed them each time they came to patronize us. I worked very hard to serve food that was consistent in appearance and quality. But let’s face it, sometimes customer service requires more than just consistency and friendliness. Sometimes you have to be an actor. Sometimes customers are difficult and you have to keep that smile on your face, or sometimes you are under the weather but the show must go on. So you have to learn to fake it sometimes too. You also have to learn to be a good people reader. No two customers are alike, so the ability to read personalities will help you to better serve each customer.
Surprises and usually not of the good kind also factor in to good customer service. You must always be prepared to calmly handle the unexpected, an irate customer, a technical malfunction, or a myriad of other possible pitfalls that may come your way. The most important things to remember about providing your clients with excellent customer service is that this is what is going to keep them being your clients, and the steps for you to maintain that good customer service are always evolving. You must be flexible enough to evolve with them. Most importantly, pay attention to all of your customers and learn from them how to give them the best customer service you can offer. They will tell you in subtle ways, if you are willing to take their cues.
So marketing your business may be a necessity, but once those customers are acquired, customer service is what is going to keep them coming back. Make customer service the focus of your business objective and you will have a much increased chance for success.