Customer Service: Back to Basics

by Eileen Nonemaker

Eileenís long, successful career in sales and sales management makes her an easy choice for those leaders and managers who are responsible for generating revenue and achieving corporate goals and have no time to waste getting there. Clients appreciate her ability to help them quickly select, assess, train and develop their sales teams whether they are selling products or services. New teams get brought up to speed quickly and experienced teams develop what is necessary to perform at the next level. Through goal setting, skill refinement and the development of accurate forecasting skills, she has helped both individuals and teams develop strong success strategies. Utilizing her formal training as a business coach and consultant to supplement her natural ability to connect with people, Eileen gains the trust and respect needed to interact with both leadership and team members. When coaching individual clients, Eileen becomes a 'lady on a mission' to help them succeed. Eileen is able to help them stay focused on their objectives and establish goals that take them to that next level in their personal and/or business lives. Her coaching typically involves teaching people how to set measurable goals, how to look at goals objectively and how to re-evaluate them periodically to stay on track. Eileenís goal as a coach is to help her clients find the right balance between career and family so they have the best of both worlds.

An article, "Back by Popular Demand", by Alex Williams, was published by The New York Times on Sunday, May 24th. This article focused on a new "niceness" that has resulted in reaction to the present world troubles. One example of this niceness is a shift in behavior at elite restaurants Customer Service: Back to Basics, with chefs now paying attention to "regular" diners, not just V.I.P. guests. Imagine ALL guests being thanked on the way out, not just the famous ones. This is back to basics.

When times are good, it is easy to forget the smaller or one time clients, almost taking them for granted. But when times are tough, every purchase or sale becomes very important and suddenly many organizations begin to re-evaluate their customer service teams and policies.

In a recent seminar I facilitated at the Chamber of Commerce, the participants were asked to list all the "Points of Connection" that occurred during their last hotel visit. Points of Connection are defined as touch points between clients and customers and the organization serving them. The hotel visit exercise generated between fifty to sixty touch points, from online or telephone booking, to the parking lot, the front lobby and everything in-between check in and check out. Collectively the group discovered fifty to sixty opportunities to get it right OR to get it wrong.

How many organizations spend the time to take a Customer Walk? That is a walk through the touch points between their organization and their customers from the customer's point of view. It is an interesting exercise and can often uncover strengths and weaknesses in the customer relationship.

Dr. Ted Levitt, senior professor at Harvard Business School, wrote "The function of every business is to get and keep customers." We all know it is one thing to attract customers and another to maintain them. Today, the concept is more than good customer service, and it evens goes beyond excellent customer service. It has become important to develop customer loyalty. By taking that customer walk, teams can discover why clients stay or leave and evaluate what they need to do to create the loyalty that will help sustain their business.

In "The "Nordstrom Way", Spector and McCarthy (John Wiley & Sons, 2000) provided examples and lessons on how to find and focus on customer needs. Customer loyalty, what keeps them coming back to you, occurs when there is a bond, an emotional connection and level of service that cannot be replaced. Customer loyalty is created when high level service is an organizational value and when frontline employees are empowered to make decisions based on that organizational value.

During a Customer Walk, a firm like Nordstrom's would assess and evaluate the physical environment, but also assess and evaluate the employees' communication skills, professionalism, ability to deal with issues and stress. Product knowledge or the ability to find an answer and follow up will distinguish organizations who value client loyalty, from those who do not understand the long term relationship and the future.

Business owners and leaders know how important repeat business is to the bottom line and to the morale of their teams. In the tough economic climate of today, when we go back to the basics of attracting and maintaining customers, and creating customer loyalty, we are positioning ourselves for our ongoing success. Developing excellent customer skills helps create and maintain that loyalty. It's remembering the basics - like saying thank you to everyone - now and when good times return...and they will.