3 Ways To Win Loyalty and Build A Reputation for Customer Service

You'll never know exactly how much business you lose due to so-so customer service. But I guarantee that if your business is in trouble, a lack of customer service is one root cause of your situation. To turn your business around, try sharply redefining what acceptable customer service is for you.

Let's look at a common example. Someone comes into your brick and mortar shop, or into your online store. She is looking for a particular size of battery for her watch. Since your store long ago went to self-service for customers in order to save labor costs, she spends 5 to 10 minutes sorting through your battery display. She doesn't see what she needs. She leaves to go try another store. She doesn't speak to anyone, and none of your employees speak to her. This scenario happens thousands and thousands of times every single day.

Too many business owners, there is nothing wrong with this scene. They fully expect their customers to find what they are looking for, go stand in line, buy it, and leave. It is acceptable customer service.

Let's expand this scenario a little bit. Let's say that the woman looks around and locates an employee, or, if she is shopping online she goes to "chat." She asks "do you carry this size battery; I don't see it on your shelf." The employee says either of these:

1. "If it's not on the shelf, we don't have any."

2. "Let me check our inventory list. Sorry, we don't carry that sized battery."

Many business owners consider either of those answers to be acceptable. If you want to build customer loyalty and reputation for great customer service, those answers are not acceptable. If you want more sales, those answers are not going to get you what you want.

Here are three things that drive money your way and build customer loyalty that is fierce and unwavering.

1. Carrying inventory in stock. If you are going to sell batteries, sell them fully. Don't carry the 6 most commonly used sizes. Carry 20 sizes and put up a big sign "don't see what you need? We can special order it for you at no extra charge." Over time, customers won't even go anywhere else to look, they will come to know, like, and trust you for having what they need, and they will mention it to their friends. You can also advertise your breath of inventory, making your business a specialist in selling hard-to-find batteries.

2. Shorten the time it takes to make a purchase. Frankly, online stores have most brick and mortar stores beat on ease of purchase. It's possible to do a search, for instance, on Amazon, find an odd-sized battery, hit your "one click" button and have the item in two days on your doorstep. The buying experience takes less than 30 seconds. Meanwhile, the in-person shopper is more than likely going to stand in line to purchase even if they find their item quickly. While they are standing there, they will probably wonder yet again why you have 4 check-out stands but only one is ever staffed. Right there, you have a chance to build customer loyalty by making it possible to do a one-item checkout in less than a minute. That is so rare in stores that you can gain a reputation for "no or very short check-out lines."

The only edge a brick and mortar store has over online is for an urgent, emergency purchase. However, most purchases don't fall into this category. And even if they did, if you carry slim inventory your chances of meeting the emergency are low.

3. Make your item extremely easy to find. An online search gives a potential buyer the exact item within 10 seconds or less, with a picture, a price, in-stock information, and a full description of the item. In a real store, make sure your inventory is sorted, clean, has great signage, is well-stocked, and it's quick and easy to get a human to help a customer with questions - a human who can answer the question, not say "I'm so sorry, I don't know" and then walk way.

These things may seem like the most basic things on earth for a shop owner. But in today's retail environment they all are often lacking. Keep this rule in your mind. "A frustrated customer is not a paying customer." Do everything you can, both online and offline, to grease your skids.

Customers today want quick, easy, done-for-you solutions. These attributes play well to dual-working couples, busy parents, older customers who can no longer tolerate spending a half hour standing on concrete, stooping and bending to find the battery that fell to the floor two weeks ago and was never picked up and restocked.

Lack of inventory, long lines, and hard to find items are all barriers to purchase. If you want to increase your sales and build customer loyalty, remove anything, large or small, that is a barrier to purchase. Both sales and customer loyalty increase when there are no barriers to purchase, and removing the barriers requires extreme customer service.

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