“May I Help You…?”
With the high street and many formerly high-flying chains suffering asking does service really matter almost seems a cliched question. Yet many firms ignore service considering slashing costs and prices to be the be all and end all
Article by Malcolm Levene
Does service really mater? It’s like asking me if being able to breathe matters. Service matters now in Britain more than at any time in the recent past. Fact is, in these challenging (Brexit) times offering good service will enable a business to survive, without it, it’s likely to take a dive. We all need to wake up to the reality that change is upon us; the relatively easy times are no more. I for one think this is potentially a good thing for the customer service industry. The years of affordable money, excessive spending and a kind of resignation that service didn’t really matter as long as we were hoovering up the next best thing are no more. Nobody needs to be reminded of the state of the world’s economy. However, what we do need to be reminded of is how we in the UK can meet the economic challenges that will be facing this country.
One of the many ways we can work towards extracting ourselves from any downturn is to develop a passion for being a world leader when it comes to service. Owing to the value of the pound, we are seeing more tourists in the UK than we have for some time. We need to make a lasting positive impact on these visitors, one that leaves them feeling buoyed about their visit to our country. Brits are currently staying at home and spending their hard-earned cash in the UK instead of rushing off to warmer climes. Great service will encourage the home-grown consumer and the tourist alike to spend more. And as a bonus, good word of mouth will ensue, which will attract more customers to spend more money. Ergo – better business and more money will be pouring into our economy.
Providing good service has the potential of representing an important contribution to this country’s economic growth. Experts tell us that at least 50 per cent of the reason we’re all spending less is because of our lack of confidence and uncertainty. That being the case, unlike the economy, our confidence levels are something we do have control over. And here I’m talking directly to those of us who provide customer service: be more upbeat, convey positivity and embody a can-do attitude. Think of it as: this is your new job. And for those of you who are familiar with ‘mirroring’, your customers will mirror those characteristics, thereby bringing about a double dose of confidence. As a direct result they will feel more inclined to part with their hard earned cash. Please remember, what you put out there will be reflected back to you. There’s a raft of research to support this. Put simply, its human nature. So be highly aware of your attitude, behaviours and the way in which you communicate with your customers. If you want customers to spend money with you, spend time being really, really nice to them.
In the UK there seems to be a kind of disconnect between service and selling; a lack of awareness that service and selling are inextricably linked. Researchers tell us that consumers, whether they’re buying a service, or a product, spend more money with people they like. And being likeable is an integral part of providing the kind of service I’m talking about. It takes 10 seconds to make a positive impression, that’s it. Therefore, the way we initially interact with a customer is likely to determine the outcome. It’s in the first 10 seconds that our ability to engage and build rapport is tested. It’s knowing how to engage and build rapport that’s key to what I describe as ‘service before selling’, or, what is more commonly known as ‘opening’ the sale. So if you are able to connect with your customer in the first 10 seconds, they will be more amiable towards you, your product or your service.
In a former business life I owned and ran the MALCOLM LEVENE retail fashion business in London’s West End. My clients included Tony Blair, Alastair Campbell, Emma Thompson, Michael Gove, and the window cleaner. Yes, my products were top quality, exclusive and expensive, so were many other retailers’. What enabled my business to stand out from the crowd of competitors was the level of service my staff and I offered. I gained a reputation for providing the kind of customer service one might describe as old fashioned. A welcoming smile, politeness, and a passion to be of service were always on display. Whether a customer purchased a 20 pound item or spent £2,000, they were treated equally. I managed to sell my business in the middle of the last recession. One of the reasons for this was because it was thought of as being recession-proof. In part, this was due to the fact that I was considered as having a unique, niche market. At a time when people felt vulnerable and insecure, my staff and I made every customer feel as though they were the only person on the planet. That’s why the business managed to retain all of its customers and how it went on to acquire many, many more.
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It is said that you get what you pay for. If that suggests purchasing services or goods at a highly competitive price means that one should expect ‘no frills’ service, think again. First, let’s be clear about what no frills means and doesn’t mean. Most importantly, it absolutely doesn’t mean ‘no’ service. In many cases, lower prices are everywhere, from hotels to cars; prices have been slashed by up to half. That doesn’t constitute a reason to reduce the level of service, not one iota. In fact, quite the reverse, at this time, service, be that at your local supermarket, an eatery, hotel, or in fact, anywhere, needs to be top-drawer. It’s now that all customer service operatives need to shine brighter than they have in recent history. We’ve all heard about going the extra mile; I often wonder if it’s clear to those who work in the customer service arena, exactly what that means. At its most basic, here are the underpinnings of going the extra mile:
- Treat every customer as you yourself would like to be treated.
- Recognise, that indirectly customers pay your wages.
- Smile and act positively, even if you’re are having a challenging day.
- Always be polite, friendly, helpful and enthusiastic.
- Remember to leave your personal issues at home.
- Consider that you are fortunate to be employed.
- Adopt a can-do, will-do attitude.