Speaking of customer service and word of mouth and …

31 Oct

Every retailer loves word of mouth, especially when it’s good. There’s an old maxim that says a customer who has a poor experience will tell a lot more people than someone who has a positive experience. The message? Eliminate all negative experiences.

The advance of social media, of course, takes word of mouth to a new level. When everyone is a reviewer or critic or potential raving fan, then the pressure is really on us to make sure everyone has a great experience. We can’t let a few people slip through the cracks.

Impossible? Well, perhaps 100% success is more than any fallible human can expect when dealing with other fallible humans (employees) and walk-in fallible humans (customers). But we can strive for 100%. The weird thing is, from what I’m sure has been a common experience, so many businesses seem to pay little or no regard to customer service training. That’s inexcusable, because the people you hire and put out on the floor BECOME the face of your store when you can’t be there. Do you want to trust your investment to someone who clearly doesn’t give a rip? Who is rude, uninformed or indifferent to customers?

Well, if you answered the obvious answer (duh-uh … it’s “NO!”), then what are you doing about it? Shouldn’t our little business community collectively swear itself to an oath of absolute maximum stellar customer service? Sure, the product or service has to be good, too, but the human connection is often what makes the difference (hey, anybody can stock Levis).

If you want to learn more about the customer experience and how it can negatively affect your business, this is a great overview article at the Wharton School of Business web site.

And after reading that, if you decide you want to do something positive, here’s a good place to get some free customer service training. The Travel Oregon web site developed this a couple of years ago, primarily for people working in the tourism business, but the ideas carry across all businesses. It’s called Oregon Q Care, and is available to all your employees online.

Not every type of business has found its way into the virtual world yet. Restaurants and hotels were early candidates, driven by the desire of travelers to have a good experience. See what the world says about Hood River’s dining scene, for instance, at Trip Advisor.

You’ve heard (or maybe you haven’t) about Angie’s List, which lets customers post their experiences with everything from auto mechanics to physicians. There’s not a lot of activity in there for Hood River yet — they’ve got a Portland page but once you register, your search focuses on businesses within a radius of your home. For instance, I did a recent search on car repair places, and got three business names in Hood River (I know there are a lot more), and none of them had reviews.

So let me finish with this idea: Let’s use Angie’s List to help us all (as businesses and as customers) create better word of mouth for ourselves. Just do it.

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