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TO SUCCEED, FOCUS ON CUSTOMERS

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One of the biggest hassles for any car owner, short of trying to find cheap parking at a Jazz game, is finding a mechanic who can be trusted. Almost everyone is well-versed in the horror stories related to car repairs. Luckily, there are automotive technicians out there who really do care about you and your car.

"Customer service is the No. 1 concern of my business!" says Bob Jones. The owner/operator of Bob Jones GoodYear in Salt Lake City, he leaves nothing to the imagination when asked to describe the importance of his customers. Like most small-business owners, Jones understands the importance of providing quality service to customers. Many customer service techniques used by Jones and his staff can be duplicated by any service firm.Communicate and educate. Talking with customers and actively listening to what they have to say can provide a gold mine of information to the small-business owner. Customers with comments or complaints can be a wonderful source of feedback. They often provide clues as to what the business could do differently in order to serve customers better.

Jones has personal contact with many of his customers while they are in his shop. He often uses this time to describe the repairs that are being done on the customer's car. "Most people don't understand what is wrong with their car. We try to take the time to describe the problem and the necessary repairs. If we are able to educate the customers, they feel better about spending the money to get their cars fixed. Also, taking time to talk to the customers makes them feel important. They are important to me, so I am more than happy to do whatever I can to make them feel better about the service they are receiving."

Maintain professionalism. Small businesses are small, not unprofessional. Maintaining a professional environment has a positive influence on customers. Jones insists on keeping the shop and waiting area clean. In addition, weekly meetings are often held with all staff members to discuss the importance of promoting a professional image.

Admit to mistakes. Nobody is perfect, and customers understand that mistakes sometimes happen. If a mistake does occur, a small-business owner should admit to the mistake and do whatever is necessary to rectify the situation.

Jones cited several instances where a mistake ended with a satisfied customer. "If the problem is corrected in a prompt and professional manner, customers will usually respond. A mistake doesn't have to mean the customer will be unhappy forever."

Don't let the customer forget you. Many small-business owners fail to see the importance of marketing. If marketing is used properly, business can be increased and customer satisfaction can be promoted.

Customers at Bob Jones Goodyear receive reminders in the mail if their car is due for service. Often, these cards advertise sales on tires, tune-ups or other repairs. "Many of our customers really appreciate the notices. It is one less thing they have to worry about. They come in with the reminder cards and thank us for the notice. We make them happy to come see us. That's what I call good customer service."

Through years of experience in both large and small businesses, Jones has found several benefits from providing excellent service to his customers.

"Differentiation is key. In a pure service industry, customer service is one of the few variables that a business owner can control. By giving customers superior service, I am able to separate my business from the rest of the pack."

Jones also cited increased customer loyalty as being an advantage of excellent customer service. "If customers feel that they are getting good service, they are much more likely to keep coming back." Jones added that many of these customers "spread the word" to their friends and family. In fact, much of his new business comes from current customer referrals.

With the consequences of excellent customer service being so beneficial to the small business owner, it is amazing how often it is overlooked as an essential element of the daily operations of many businesses. The customer service techniques used by Jones and his staff can be duplicated by almost any type of business. Simply taking the time to care about customers and the services provided to them can have a substantial impact on the future success of any business.