What Makes Good Customer Service?

Understanding what the customer wants begins before the customer enters your business. By advertising specific goods or services for sale, your customers will self-select, based on their needs. When their needs and your sales offers match, they will come to you to fill the needs.

Being prepared to follow through on the advertising and branding is your first step to filling that need. If you advertise something, but don't have it in stock, the customer will likely walk. If you brand your store as upscale, but the building looks like a Costco, the customer will likely walk, or expect low prices for otherwise expensive items. Once you've shown them that you have what they want, presented in the manner they expect, customer service truly begins. It's how you interact with your customer throughout the actual purchase transaction.

Good customer service representatives know that asking questions and listening are two crucial skills in their ability to fulfill customer requests. If the customer feels she has been listened to and that the service representative has taken time to make sure she's getting the products and services she's requested and paid for, she'll be happy.

After she's made her purchase decision, a customer should be acknowledged with a personal thank you. If you have her address, sending a card or e-mail to thank her for her purchase and offering information on other potential sales can go a long way toward building a lasting relationship. Even if she doesn't open the e-mail or respond to the mailing, it's been another point of contact and a good reminder to her of the excellent service she received in your store.

Other hallmarks of good customer service include little things, remembering someone's name or remembering that she prefers a specific brand. Stellar customer service involves knowing that she was looking for a specific gift last Christmas but was not able to find the item, checking to see if something similar will be out this year and following up with a call or e-mail to let her know it’s in stock now if she wants to buy it in time for this Christmas.

Databases can help large retailers know what customers have purchased in the past, but they can't track current or upcoming needs. By developing a personal relationship with customers, and keeping a tickler file to let them know what's new, you can provide personal customer service that is often sorely lacking in the internet age.