Saturday, February 19, 2011

Customer Service Guide.

Walking into a store in Cairns or ordering a meal in one of our restaurants, you become wary about what kind of customer service you may, or may not, receive. Will the staff hover, frequently invading your personal space and cause claustrophobia to rear it's ugly head? Will they ignore you altogether and continue their discussion in a huddle at the counter about the results of The Biggest Loser? Will they approach you half-heartedly with a set list of quotations ready to rattle off their tongues, being neither sincere or particularly interesting? Will they start well, only to get bored quickly and try to hurry you up so they can get on with the more pressing business of re-arranging the store to look pretty?

Most customer service in Cairns is pretty poor. There are exceptions of course but these are more infrequent than they should be. Any business wanting to get your dollars in the till needs to take a really good look at how they are approaching that goal. Are they interested only in the bottom line? Do they have quotas to fill or targets to meet, taking priority over the satisfactory experience the customer should be having? Is the problem the customer service program that many of these employees have to sit through on a regular basis?

It's probably all of those things. With a few more things thrown in. Like a bad day, a bad week or a priority elsewhere that is all consuming. Here's my easy to follow customer service course for all service staff in our region.

The reality is that shoppers will talk about good experiences they had and bad ones. The ones in between, the mediocre sales pitch, will never be spoken of. Word of mouth is still the cheapest, easiest and most effective form of advertising for any business with something to sell. Women are talkers and still do most of the shopping in any household. Serve her well and the entire neighbourhood will know about it. She will also be loyal to your business and become a regular in your store. A well known benefit of providing good service.

Men shop more often than not, out of necessity, not for pleasure. Customer service is just as important for them but the focus is slightly different. While women shop to feel good, men shop to get the best product at the best price. If your sales staff don't know the product, men will walk away.

Introductions are the most important aspect of any sales pitch. All of the customer service courses tell you that there are certain time frames to approach customers in and there are phrases you must repeat with each and every person that you meet. Not true. Throw those manuals in the bin! Do it! Now!

In reality, customer service is about people. You need to genuinely like people and you need to be able to talk, but more importantly, listen. What you say is irrelevant (to a point) but HOW you say it is not. If you ask people about their day be prepared to discuss it further. I hate being asked 'How are you?' when nobody really cares about the answer. Learn to read people's body language. After a little while you will know which customers are 'window shopping', which are unsure and need some help and which already know the why, what, how, and where and just need you to ring the sale up.

Smile. It's the most obvious sign that you don't hate what you are doing and that serving us is a pleasure. It's absolutely essential that the customer feels like they are important and their needs are your priority. Losing interest when it becomes obvious that they are only spending a small amount will invariably come back to bite you when that same customer saves some money and visits your competitor to spend it. Even if they don't buy a single thing, if the service is good, they will be back to buy another day.

Lastly, remember that you are not just a salesperson, you are quite often a customer. Treat your own customers as you would like to be treated if you were on the other side of the counter.

The old adage 'The customer is always right' is real. The customer is the only reason you are there. Without us, there is no business, no sale and no wages. Treat us like your job depends on us, because it does!

Hope that helps. My guide has not been through any approval process and is not written anywhere but here on this blog. Take it or leave it but at least think about it. Even if the level of service you provide is just slightly better for it, I will be happy....and so will all of the other shoppers out there.


  1. Jimmc66@hotmail.comFebruary 22, 2011 at 4:36 AM

    I agree totally with your comments, Leigh. There are three shops in the CBD that get it right, however. Core Corea restaurant in Orchid Plaza and Baskin Robbins ice cream on the Esplanade follow your suggestions, and more. These are the only shops in Cairns where I've actually seen staff RUN to serve faster! Always friendly and great products. Is it coincidence they are both owned by foreigners? The other great CBD business is Cairns Tyre on Macleod St. The owner there always knows his product and recommends what's best for the customer. And one look at his dedicated staff and you know this is a place that does it right for the customer.

  2. Frankly, I have never had any problems with customer service in retail shops or restaurants. The biggest problems I have encountered are with Public Service offices and those dreadful, appalling teleservices. When my husband died and I was obliged to notify so many Government Departments, it brought me into face to face contact with the largest number of Government Departments and agencies I have ever had to encounter in my life. It was a nightmarish experience, exacerbated by receiving wrong information, inadequate information, and staff who admitted they "just did not know". Only one employee from Medibank Private offered condolences. Initially I was told I could not receive the death certificate for six weeks. I knew this was wreong because we had already had the funeral so I had to contact the State Member's office and I received the Death Certificate in the post a few days later. From this first contact, every single other enquiry and contact also resulted in WRONG information or mistakes being made including being sent someone else's mobile phone account from Telstra after I tried (unsuccessfully, because they didn't know how to do it) to change the mobile phone into my name only. On and on it went. We have a public service which is untrained, understaffed, lacking general knowledge,communication and basic social skills.

  3. Cairns is chaotic and nobody should be allowed to advertise with good customer service.
    But Ross from Cairns Tyre Specialists opposite Cairns Central knows what customer service is.
    He really knows what he is talking about and finds perfect individual solutions in seconds.
    It is a pleasure to buy there..again and again...

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