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The Ace Hardware store located in my neighborhood is a great place to shop. Tim, the owner/manager has raised customer service to an art form. As a direct result, his sales have significantly increased ever since Tim arrived. Tim’s growing customer base prefers to shop there rather than visit the local discount

Super hardware store. All because he is purposely bucking the current trend of minimizing service to reduce costs!

 

Each time I go in there, I get a chance to see true customer service in action. These are the five things that Tim’s team does so very well:

 

  • Fosters communications with each member of the team
  • Sells knowledge instead of products
  • Tickles each customer’s “IVY” bone
  • Recognizes and rewards great service
  • Measures their successes

 

To grow your firm’s sales and profits, you must be able to deliver super service inside. The key to making this happen is to use these same five techniques you use to deliver super service outside. As we all know, when you have the structure in place to create happy, satisfied and loyal clients, your sales and profits will soar!

 

While most information about customer service is oriented to the outside customer or client – they who “pay the bills” – another dimension that is just as important is inside customer service.

 

Key Principals of the Internal Customer:

  1. Everyone in our organization has at least one customer to whom we must justify our existence.
  2. The quality of service we deliver to the external customer is a reflection of the quality of service we give to each other inside.
  3. Excellent outside service can only exist when it is driven by excellent inside support.

 

  1. Everyone of Us Has a Customer

 

One reason it can be challenging to improve internal service is because the definition of who my customer remains unclear. The employees who touch the external customer clearly know who their client is and they have regular interactions with him/her/them.

 

Take the employee who works in accounting entering invoices and making payments to our suppliers. Who is his customer?

  • The vendor?
  • The employee who does the purchasing?
  • The supervisor to whom he delivers a weekly status report?
  • The Controller who signs the checks and reviews his work?

The same logic about the external customer holds true for the inside customer. Every day we must justify our existence to the client who gladly (we hope) pays us money for what we provide them. This is the ultimate measure of success in business. The same applies to the internal customer – to whom do I justify my purpose for the work that I do?

 

  1. The Level of Service We Deliver is the Same

 

Outside customer service is a mirror – it reflects how well the inside customers are being satisfied and served. How a firm treats its external customers and clients derives from the employees’ attitudes about the products or services delivered. When an employee resents the work or harbors negative feelings about the client, it shows up in everything he or she does.

 

The same is true for the internal customer. If I feel that you do not value the work I am performing for you, I won’t care about the quality of my work. If you felt that the tasks I am performing do not enhance the job that you do, then you feel that I am just pushing paper.

 

These attitudes about the work we perform for each other reflects in the quality of our work products, in how we communicate with one another, and in our unity or disharmony. Customers are smart! They pick up on things such a bad attitudes and disgruntled employees. If this negativity is a regular occurrence, the customer will go buy from someone who is not so difficult to work with.

 

I was shopping at a department store selecting a suit for an important presentation on culture at a national conference. The sales professional was doing all the right things, asking great questions, showing me a wide selection of options, and suggesting accessories that I had missed. All combined, the clothes I was about to buy were worth a healthy commission to him. When the tailor showed up for the fitting, I felt an immediate coolness as he entered that room. The tailor was uncommunicative and when he did speak he was surly. The salesman disagreed with the tailor’s suggestions and the tailor barked back at the sales pro. I felt awkward being caught in the middle of this tussle. From the words being said, this sounded like a continuing feud.

 

Ann, my wife who goes with me when I clothes shop, felt so uncomfortable she got up and left. I followed. A competitor where the employees really support one another received my business that day and still does.

 

  1. Excellent External Service Comes From Excellent Internal Support

 

Mary was shopping for a tax consultant. Her return was complicated and the company paid for her move to a new home so she really wanted good advice and counsel.

 

Since she did not have any contacts in Seattle yet, she got a listing from the Washington Society of CPA’s and began calling the ones close to her home. On her third call, she contacted a firm where the entire staff was all attending a company retreat. Cindy, the teenage daughter of one of the firm partners was answering the phone and taking messages. Cindy attended college and often did filing and clerical work when the firm had a need.

 

After Mary told Cindy of her need, as she took the information, Cindy raved about her dad’s firm. She told Mary a brief story about how her dad had saved a client lots of money. Then Cindy bragged about the leading-edge information system the firm used to help clients with tax planning. Mary was impressed with Cindy’s enthusiasm and respect for her father’s firm.

 

Mary became a client of that firm and within two years so did several of Mary’s colleagues and even her new employer. Mary was so thrilled with her CPA adviser that she constantly recommends the firm to lots of people. That rewarding relationship all started because of Cindy’s helpful attitude.

 

Sales don’t arrive at your door magically. Generating a sale and delivering the product or service is a team approach. From the marketing group to the sales group to the customer service group and on into the shipping department, warehouse group to accounting and the collections department, everyone has a key role in satisfying the external customer.

 

(Excerpted from the recently published book Fantastic Customer Service Inside & Out. To purchase your copy, visit www.ronrael.com)

 

For Culture Clips:

 

To grow your firm’s sales and profits, you must be able to deliver super service outside. The key to making this happen is to use five specific strategies to deliver super service inside. As we all know, when you have the structure in place to create happy, satisfied and loyal clients/customers, your sales and profits will soar!

 

While most information about customer service is oriented to the outside customer or client – they who “pay the bills” – another critical dimension is inside customer service.

 

Key Principals of the Internal Customer:

  1. Everyone in our organization has at least one customer to whom we must justify our existence.
  2. The quality of service we deliver to the external customer is a reflection of the quality of service we give to each other inside.
  3. Excellent outside service can only exist when it is driven by excellent inside support.

Ron Rael Leadership Provocateur, is a keynote speaker, consultant, and author.

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