Starbucks Winchester, MA

The good folks at Starbucks in Winchester, MA get it.

Here’s a secret. It’s all about customer service. Here’s another secret. Simple isn’t the same thing as easy. There’s a huge difference between knowing what to do and actually doing it. With that said, here goes.*

1. Answer  Your Phone

I can hear the moaning. What’s that you say? You’re too busy to answer the phone? Really. How  do you feel when you call a company and are told, by a recording, to “listen carefully as our menu options have changed?” I’m used  to it by now but I still don’t like it. When I was working with John Webb from Webb Transportation Services, LLC several months back, it was clear to me that his business was thriving.  I asked him what he was doing that his competition was not. “Simple,” he said. “I answer the phone.”  I tested him by calling the company several times. Guess what. He, or his Director of Operations answered the phone every time. Not every other time. Every time! How refreshing.

2. Return Phone Calls and Answer Emails

This is a tough one. Our inboxes are littered with emails – many of which are spam or plain junk. I get that. What I’m saying is this. Identify which messages are relevant to your business and answer those quickly – the same day if possible. If you’re being asked about something you’re supposed to do but haven’t done yet, politely say that in your response. Responding quickly and honestly is better than waiting a few days to finish what you’re working on and then responding. If you’re in a meeting or at a client site, answer as soon as you can. (I have to say this: if you’re in your car, pull over. There. I’ve said it.) You get the point. I try to practice what Brain Tracy calls single handling. That means responding to important emails right away instead of leaving it for later. You will be more likely to forget if you don’t do it right away. The main point is this. Don’t ignore emails and phone messages (unless you’re doing  it intentionally and with knowledge of any consequences). Doing so will eventually erode your reputation and damage your business.

3. Do What You Say

Nothing will hurt your business more than making promises you don’t  keep. If you tell a client you will have their proposal to them by Thursday, get it to them by Thursday (Wednesday would be better). If you promise to gather some information and email it to them by Monday, email it to them by Monday (the previous Friday would be better). How annoying is it when a client tells you they will get you something by a certain day and then doesn’t do it? But here’s the thing, if you don’t do what you say, don’t expect your clients to either. Remember Ghandi’s famous quote “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

4. Show Up

“Eighty percent of success is showing up”

Woody Allen

For some reason – I have no idea what that reason might be – general contractors have a reputation for showing up late or worse, not showing up at all. (General Contractors, don’t send me hate mail. I’m only stating what I’ve observed and what others have told me.) When Alan Weisner started his interior painting and home fix it business several years ago, he knew that simply showing up at the time promised would separate  him from his competitors. So committed was he to this mission that he named his new company We Show Up. Brilliant! Several years into his enterprise, We Show Up has consistently garnered the Better Business Bureau’s highest A+ rating, qualified for Angie’s List’s Super Service Award in 2010 and 2011 and won Boston Magazine’s Best of Boston Home Award in the Small Repairs category north of Boston for 2010. Amazing what happens by just showing up.

*Disclaimer: I have not mastered all four of these points. I work on them consistently. I thought you should know that.

And  Now Back to You

As a business owner, what is your take on the four points  mentioned above? What about as a consumer? Do you agree? Is it unrealistic in today’s fast paced world to expect businesses to do these four things? Talk to me.

Photo credit: SierraTierra

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