Catering To Your Clients Through Customer Service

I am so happy to be given the opportunity to share my experiences with our blog readers. If you would like to get a little background on me, please see Our Leaders page here and click my name: Emily Powers!

Growing up, my father always told me that the gene he was most proud to give me was the empathy gene. My father is a banker. When he was a child, he saw a bumper sticker that said “Bankers Are People Helpers”. Being a people helper himself, he decided that banking was the perfect career for him and it has been for 35+ years. He has always instilled in me that relationships are what last in business. Policies and products may come and go, but if you have a solid foundation with your customers, they will stick with you.

In my former career, I worked in retail sales for a very large company. My mantra every day was, “I am a customer service representative, who just happens to sell things.” I was commended for my attention to my customers’ needs, but my managers always harped on the fact that I spent too long with my customers. I was building relationships which, to me, meant loyal customers that would not only come back, but would pass my name along to friends and family. I was building a solid foundation to cultivate a loyal client base. But, sometimes in the fast-paced world of corporate America, the “what have you done lately?” mentality is encroaching upon doing what’s right for the customer in order to build a healthy relationship. This leaves a lot of customers feeling like a number, not a person.

The wonderful thing about being small is the personal touches you can give a customer. Never forget that! You can take the time to foster a relationship. If you have messed up, admit it and find a special way to make it up to your customer. Last year, John ordered some shirts from a small printing company and our order was not as requested. Not only did the company discount the order, they sent a stress ball with “Sorry We Caused You Stress” printed on it. He was blown away. The company realized the mistake, owned up to it, and sent a simple, yet thoughtful, gift to him that made a lasting impact.

No matter what I do or what industry I am in, I am a service representative first and foremost. I went to a chamber of commerce lunch discussion recently and one word that the leader stressed really stuck with me: servant. Isn’t that where the word service stems from? Take a look at your business. Are you and your employees truly being a SERVANT to your customers? Are you going that extra mile to make your customer feel special and loved?

That’s right! I said loved! I love my customers and I strive to get them to love me back. It is not always easy, though. People can get mad and upset, but it is my job to turn it around. In my experience, it is sometimes our largest critics who can become our biggest fans. I truly believe that a company’s character is best displayed under fire. When the chips are down, how do you react? Do you wipe your hands clean of the situation and point fingers? Or do you own up to it even if it was not directly your fault? Ownership is a huge part of being a customer focused company. Take responsibility of the situation, make up for it, and do everything in your power to make sure it does not happen again.

A fantastic customer centric company to use as an example is Zappos.com. Their founder, Tony Hseih, lives and breathes customer service. Here is a great link to a slideshow presented by him that outlines the Zappos.com customer service model. http://www.slideshare.net/Thor/zappos-lessons-building-a-customerfocused-culture

The bottom line is that good customer service gets people talking and if people are talking about your business, then your name is going to be on the tip of their tongue when they need your service. As caterers, you should be catering TO your customers as well as FOR them!

“A customer is the most important visitor on our premises, he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so.”  ~Mahatma Gandhi