Taking the opportunity to get away on the recent long weekend, my husband and I embarked on a few days camping on the Yorke Peninsula. We are frequent travellers who are eager to support small businesses when passing through towns by purchasing a drink, lunch or supplies and this trip was no different, especially at a time when local communities are encouraging people to travel with the recent bushfires and now Coronavirus.
Unfortunately, we were surprised and disappointed to experience some very average customer service in several of the towns we stopped at. The staff in general stores, cafés and even the National Parks Office were generally unfriendly, grumpy and at times border lining on rude.
We came across a healthy mix of travellers over the weekend, from overseas visitors to city folk like us enjoying a weekend getaway. There were plenty of opportunities to leave a positive impression with these visitors, promoting the local towns and businesses.
Every interaction each of these small businesses have with a traveller is a huge opportunity. Providing friendly, helpful service can be the difference of a traveller telling others “Don’t stop at that the general store as the guy behind the counter is a grumpy old man” or, “You must stop at the general store as the owner is friendly and helpful”.
While I understand, many of these small business owners have been operating for years, dealing with the sometimes frustrating behaviours of tourists, they cannot afford to let their level of service slip for even a second.
Vehicles today can go a lot further without having to refuel and people own portable fridge/freezers to carry their own supplies, they no longer have to stop at towns along the way. Give them a reason not to and they will drive straight through town without spending a cent.
Travellers don’t necessarily expect 5-star service in these types of businesses but a smile with a pleasant, helpful manner is a must. Businesses reputations have been built and destroyed based on such factors.
A holiday be it a weekend getaway or lengthy road trip, is meant to be upbeat, easy and pleasant. Whether it be while dining in a local restaurant or café, having a drink at a local pub, buying snacks from a deli or supplies from a general store, visitors are forming an opinion of not only the business but the town and even the wider area. This can very well determine if they visit again or recommend the place to other travellers.
Being known as a place of great service and great experiences is certainly the image we want to portray at all times.
There is a great deal of focus placed on the level of service provided to customers when they visit a store, showroom or office. However, it isn’t uncommon to call a business and receive an unprofessional greeting, the person obviously not trained in how to answer a phone call, let alone how to take a message or handle an enquiry.
Professionalism and quality customer service must be provided at each and every touchpoint with a customer, whether it’s in person or on the phone. Just as a business may have customer service standards or processes for the way in which customers are served in person, there can also be guidelines on how to maintain this quality of service on the phone.
Every phone call should be answered with a professional scripted greeting. For example, “Good morning/good afternoon, welcome to (business name), this is (your name), how may I help you?”
This greeting works three-fold. First, it makes the customer feel their call is welcome. Second, by mentioning the business name, you confirm they’ve called the right number. Third, by offering your name, it adds a personal touch showing friendliness.
By implementing and adhering to the use of a scripted greeting, it can ensure consistency and contribute to a professional image.
Taking a Message
When a caller asks to speak with a person who is unavailable, a message must be taken carefully and correctly. All relevant details including the caller’s name, phone number and reason for the call where appropriate.
It is also a good idea to note the time of call. This can aid in prompt follow up, which must always occur as a continuation of good service.
Before ending the call, confirm all details with the caller to ensure you have understood and documented them correctly.
Finishing a Call
Finish a call by asking the caller “Is there anything else I can help you with?” This not only is polite but shows concern that all of the callers’ requirements have been addressed. They also feel the business has time for them.
Another key point when answering the phone is, remember to smile! Smiling puts a friendly and positive inflection in your voice. There is nothing worse than someone sounding lacklustre or unenthusiastic on the phone. It certainly doesn’t paint a very good picture about the company or their customer service ethic.
In many cases, a customer’s call may be the very first or only contact they have with a business. A customer is going to be much less inclined to want to do business with a company if this first impression isn’t a positive one.