Start with customer service

As uncertainty is still lurking at every corner right now, we can latch on to the things that we can control. It is more difficult than ever to control the revenue stream, supply chain and the swings in the economy. The economy is slowly opening and we are all smart enough to know that the old normal is long gone.

While we are riding up and down on the roller coaster of the current business cycle, latch on to what you can control. We like to know what is happening, delegating and following through.  Not only is the economy spinning up and down, but our teams are stressed with many issues and we are having to learn how to keep them engaged remotely. In the last few weeks, the possibility of bringing back the office and its unity has come up.

There is always one thing that you can control, and it is the most important aspect of any business, and that is the customer experience. Never is this more important than at times such as this.

First, recognize that you have many tiers of customers. There is your customer that you sell directly, but there could be a different end-user. Internally, your support teams are all working to drive revenue to the bottom line, thus making them a customer of your sales team. And vice versa, your sales team needs to recognize that the support teams are their customer.  Externally, you have your vendors, suppliers and partners. The relationship that you have with everyone in this group is essential to the success of your business.

  • Determine what you want your company to stand for with customer service now, how do you want to be branded with this? For some companies, it is part of either their mission, vision, or values. Yours may need to adjust based on what is important now, to all three tiers of customers.
  • Ensure that your entire team believes in the customer service that brands your company. All team members have a vested interest in the customer service of your company and each individual’s buy-in makes all the difference. Do their performance reviews reflect this?
  • Make this a collaborative effort to take care of all three layers. Create a Service Star Team, in your organization, that comes up with modes of customer retention. Make sure that all departments are represented and rotate who is on the team.
  • Ask all three tiers of your customers for their feedback, measure this frequently and consistently. Then course correct, or celebrate, where needed.

During the time that I ran stores, we constantly had to work at greeting the customer and making them feel welcome. All members of the team worked at this. If someone worked in Receiving, they needed to be able to smile and say Hello! We communicated about customer service daily and engaged everyone. The result was the highest satisfaction scores in the company. But the ultimate win was the year we won the Customer Service Store of the Year Award in Boca Raton, with results that exceeded all others in the nation. It was also the same year that we hit peak sales and profit numbers. That was not a coincidence.

Patty Soltis works with companies that are in growth stages, with more than 20 employees, to discover market share, products, processes and prospects for revenue and expense savings. During the 25-plus years she worked for Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor and Marshall Fields, she innovated collaborative ways to strategically increase sales, control expenses and exceed profit goals. She can be reached at [email protected]. Connect with her on LinkedIn.


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