Professional Jeweler Archive: The One-Minute Manager Tackles Customer Service

March 2005

The Store | Managing: Your Customers

The One-Minute Manager Tackles Customer Service

Author Ken Blanchard adds his take on the most pressing issue for jewelers today

By William H. Donahue Jr.

Customer Mania!, the title of Ken Blanchard’s new book, has a clever double meaning. It refers not only to the mania your store and associates need to develop toward customer service, but also to the mania your customers will demonstrate – if treated right – in spreading the news your store is a great place to buy jewelry.

Create a Vision

How do you create raving fans? The first step, says Blanchard, is to have a vision of what you want your customer service to be. What will your customers experience at every contact or interaction point with your store? Each interaction is really a moment of truth.

How do you answer the phone or greet customers? What thrilling moments do you want customers to have while buying? How do you treat them when a problem occurs? Every customer should come away with at least one unforgettable memory.

You can develop your vision in several ways. First, figure out what you want to convey. Make a list of ideas starting with basics. Then move into satisfying higher level needs, such as offbeat but delicious refreshments, unique gifts-with-purchase and extras such as photos or videos of special moments in the store.

Out-of-store treats range from limousine service to tuxedoed courier delivery of gifts or free restaurant meals. Each adds to the experience of giving and receiving fine jewelry.

Get Customer Input

While developing your vision for great customer service, talk with customers, says Blanchard. Don’t just ask them if everything is OK. Ask specifically what they like about your services and what would exceed their expectations of the jewelry shopping experience. Don’t forget to ask what’s not working too.
Keep in mind you should do two things with the feedback. The first is listen to it; the second is decide what to do. Understand these are separate actions – this will make it easier to take in negative comments without being defensive or argumentative. Defending what you’ve done will irritate your customer, says Blanchard. Instead ask: “Is there any way we could win back your loyalty?” Eight out of 10 times, the customer will say, “You’ve already done it. You listened.” Also remember you are collecting insights and desires to help you create and refine your vision of great customer service.

Next, ask your sales associates what they think. They get feedback from customers every day, so their input is valuable. Listen respectfully and openly, thank them for their input and encourage them to offer more when they feel the need.

Hire the Right People

Once you’ve decided on your vision of customer service, it’s time to get your employees on board. The vision will never become reality if your salespeople are unhappy, angry, unskilled or indifferent. The key is to hire people capable of understanding and appreciating your customer service vision. Blanchard suggests if you have to choose between hiring an experienced person or a newcomer with character, go with the latter. A great person can always learn the nuts and bolts. The graciousness and skill needed for higher level service is much harder to teach.

Train associates thoroughly to carry out your service standards. People who are good at their jobs tend to feel good about themselves. Nothing creates great customer service faster than helping your associates feel like winners.

Ongoing performance management is the best way to keep customer service standards high. Blanchard stresses the importance of giving praise and redirecting behavior. The goal in performance management is to inspire your associates to progress.

You can do this best by creating a culture of recognition. For many people, recognition is more important than income when they rate job satisfaction. Praise good performance any time you notice it and give long-term recognition such as awards, raises, bonuses, increased responsibility or job advancement.

If you have an employee who doesn’t improve or about whom you can’t find anything to praise at least once a day, you need to consider getting rid of that employee. Remember that customer service is only as good as its weakest link.

Customer Mania! by Ken Blanchard, Jim Ballard and Fred Finch is published by Free Press, a division of Simon & Schuster Inc., New York City. Copyright 2004 by Blanchard Family Partnership, Fred Finch and Jim Ballard. The 195-page book costs $19.95.

Copyright © 2005 by Bond Communications