I am generally intrigued by entrepreneurship and have dialogue with my clients who are business owners on the state of business. They often lament that they are operating at breakeven or at a loss and the reason given, particularly since 2010 is the global economic crisis, rarely is quality of service cited. Whilst discussing these issues, I would observe and assess the service delivery environment, of the said businesses. I observe and keenly listen to the conversations between staff and other customers. I also assess the level of customer service training of staff. In my on-the-spot assessment of these business environments, I use five key indices that that form the basis of my analysis:

1. Is the company ready for business each day as the first customer walk in?
2. Is each customer greeted warmly and genuinely on entry to that business place?
3. Do employees preempt the needs of customers?
4. Do customers feel important at that place of business?
5. Do employees exude effective communication skills?

I will expand a little further on my analysis: – Are you show ready – is the company ready for business each day as the first customer walk in, or are staff members cleaning, turning on computers or trouble shooting whilst customer are waiting. A place of business can be likened to a stage, and customers are in the audience and we all know what happens when the show does not begin on time.

Is each customer greeted warmly and genuinely on entry to that business place, or are they ignored, closely watched and promptly told what they cannot do. TM and Guest, I entered a particular store with the intention to purchase an large household item. The first thing I was told by the sales persons is “Your bag”, I looked around startled, is something wrong with my bag, I asked – the response was even more bewildering “put it over there”, she said pointing to the bag bay. She obviously meant my shopping bag and was not able to communicate this effective to me. I promptly left the store, and have never been back. Customers, who are warmly welcomed on entry would stay longer, purchase more, return and most importantly tell other about their experience. What if that experience was bad, we all know what is said about bad news!

The third point of my assessment is – do your customers feel important? Maslow (1954) hypothesized that “a hierarchy of needs motivate people. Status/Ego need is a step higher in Maslow’s hierarchy. In addition to being merely accepted and to belong, we want to be heard, to be appreciated, to feel important and in this regard we yearn for status. This should be understood by businesses and this understanding will simplify the task of making your customers feel important.

It is the simple things that are done as service providers that remain with the customer. Preempting the customer’s needs is a skill and a pillar for building customer loyalty. Within the hospitality industry many persons do this well, a customer may order a meal at a restaurant and that meal requires a side plate, do you wait to be asked for that plate, or do you think ahead and include it in the service? This simple gesture will make your customers sees that you do not care only about his money but about his comfort.

The last point in my analysis is effective communication skills and I would like to tie this in to product knowledge. If you are being paid to sell a product(s), how well do you know that product, can you easily discuss or highlight the most effect use of the product, or are you conveniently responding “I won’t be able to say”! Product knowledge is key in selling goods and services and if a sales persons is NOT able to articulate effectively about that product, then that product better be a utility so customers have little or no choice!

As a customer, if I am in the market for a pair of shoes, and the store is ready for business; the greeting is warm and genuine; I feel important because the sales person asked about the colour of the dress to be worn with the shoes; as well I can clearly see that the sales persons understands her product, to the extent that she has informed me of the latest trends in leather purses that would complete my outfit. My love for shoes, added to this great service quality experience, would definitely mean the purchase of three pairs!

A CALL TO ACTION

Managers, Supervisors, we need to work assiduously toward development a service culture, because service quality is a winning strategy, it’s a profit strategy and for the public sector it’s a budgetary allocation strategy.