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CUSTOMER SERVICE

Ace Customer Service Every Time: 5 Rules

Little things often make a customer interaction a success or failure.

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This week, I went to two shoe stores in the same chain and inadvertently did a little experiment.

The first store I visited had plenty of styles I liked, but its employees did customer service all wrong. I chose to go out of my way to the second location in search of a better buying experience. The team in store No. 2 was at the top of its game, and I ended up making my purchases there. This got me thinking about how it is often little things that can make a customer interaction a success or failure.

Get your team ready to win by focusing on these five rules of customer service and sales:

1. Hustle
Workers who drift around the store or office are slow to react to a customer's presence, and this slowness gives customers the impression the employee is uninterested in the customer's needs. The salesgirl in shoe store No. 1 took forever to wander over and ask me if I would like to try something on, even though I had shoes in my hand, and was the only customer in the store. In store No. 2, the salesguy greeted me when I came in, and explained how the store was organized. He let me browse, but stayed close enough that he could easily help me when I was ready.

Ask your staffers to always be looking for things they can do to make the sale happen, either by helping customers directly (finding a size) or indirectly (making sure samples are returned promptly to their place).  

2. Focus
When a customer speaks, every word she utters is an instruction to be carefully noted and, ideally, carried out. I showed the girl in the first store four pairs of shoes I liked and gave her my size. She glanced at them and then brought me only one pair I had requested. When I wondered where the others were, she told me she wanted to first be sure the size was right. If she really had my interests--or her company's--at heart, though, she would have brought me all the choices at once. Of course, shoes vary in fit and size. In the second store, the guy noted my size and quickly retrieved all the shoes in stock.

Pay attention to how your staff listens, and point out ways that listening closely can drive sales performance. 

3. Notice
Important details are not always spoken. They also come in the form of silent subtext. I picked out four different types of shoes--that is to say, not all sandals, or all heels--because I was looking to purchase more than one kind. In store No. 1, the salesgirl ignored this clue, showing me only the styles I asked for, even though she was out of one of them. In so doing, she automatically lost 25% of my potential business. In store No. 2, the salesguy brought me an alternate choice when he realized he did not have one I wanted in my size; he kept his sale possibility at 100%.

Teach your team to pick up on the hidden meanings in transactions so they can move your business forward fast.

4. Anticipate
Closing a sale requires foresight. In the first store I visited, I had chosen a pair of shoes, but noticed they were damaged. The girl informed me it was the last pair in that size, and put the shoes back in the box, ending our interaction. She could have offered to call another location, or even to give me a discount on the damaged pair. In store No. 2, the employee offered to call store No. 1 for a missing size I wanted. When I asked him not to, he checked to see when the next shipment would arrive at his location.

Make sure your team has the know-how to be one step ahead of the customer, so that no one walks away empty-handed.

5. Communicate
Even in a transactional business, in which a customer is likely to purchase only one time, building a relationship is key. In store No. 1, the girl barely looked at me, asked me no questions, and sold me only on the idea that I would never come back to her store. In store number No. 2, the guy was surprised when I told him not to call the other store for the missing size, and he asked why. I told him that I would not go back to the other store because the employees there were lazy and unhelpful. This provided him valuable feedback for his company, as well as for his own sale. He seemed unhappy about what I said, and did his best to make my experience with him a good one, by informing me about other models soon arriving, giving me a catalogue to take home, and even offering me a free upkeep kit for my shoes.  

Emphasize to your employees that making the sale is not only about dollars spent, but also about the long-term value they create. 

Last updated: Jul 2, 2012

In 2004, VANESSA MERIT NORNBERG opened Metal Mafia, a wholesale body and costume jewelry company that sells to more than 5,000 specialty shops and retail chains in 23 countries. Metal Mafia was an Inc. 500 company in 2009.
@vanessanornberg




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