Small business promotion with retail speaker Tom Shay
SBA_Menu Home Contact Us

What You're Doing Speaks so Loud

"Walking the walk" with customer service

Just last week, I was driving through town. I approached an intersection for which the cross traffic had a stop sign. On the street to my right was a truck that did one of those "slow roll-through" types of stops. In addition to his failure to stop, he turned into the lane I was in, forcing me to hit the brakes. From there, he sped off
well in excess of the speed limit.

The magnetic sign on the side of the truck told me the name, address, and phone number of the store. Now, I know exactly whose driving I am unhappy with. How odd that this same business advertises how it takes care of its customers. Now I am thinking, "What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say," instead of hearing their ads.

Customers don't really need to be told a business offers great customer service or that they are glad to special order something for them. What they need is to experience it. If a business makes sure a customer has that type of experience, customers will spend an unbelievable amount of time telling other potential customers how wonderful his or her favorite store really is.

I watched as one store owner explained the sign posted on his cash register. It stated that he would not take any checks from a certain regional bank. "We took a check from them, and they wouldn't cash it. THEY gave over $350 worth of merchandise to that customer."

What actually happened was that the store became concerned about a check it had taken. So, the owner drove to the bank and asked the bank to cash it. As the check was made out to a business, the bank refused to cash it. As the store processed the check through its own bank, the check failed to clear and was returned. Now the store owner was mad at the bank and decided all of the customers who use that bank should pay for his failure to use a check-clearing service.

Where else do businesses often fail to take care of customers? How about merchandise that is being returned? Realistically, what percentage of customers do you think are actually out to beat a store out of some merchandise or service? Maybe 1 percent? For every 100 sales made, there would be only one person who has an intent of dishonesty. There is no way any merchant could determine ahead of time who that one person is. Yet, when something is returned, the customer is often required to go through numerous "hoops and forms" before the situation is resolved with an exchange or refund.

How about special orders? Do you see a special order as a labor-intensive problem? Or is the customer saying, "I would rather do business with you than go looking for the merchandise elsewhere? Can you help keep me out of your competitor's store?"

When you advertise in the newspaper or on radio or TV, you are speaking to the general public; including those who have no use for the products or services you sell. If you are one of the progressive businesses that has a database of it's customers, every name and address in that list represents another potential sale. One store we spoke to has a policy of assigning new employees to make phone calls to names in its database.

After introducing himself or herself, the employee explains that he or she has noticed this customer has not purchased anything in the past few months. He or she asks how the products the customer previously purchased have worked for them, and if there is anything they can do to help them. Of 100 calls made, this retailer reports that 2% of the customers will identify themselves as unhappy, refusing to again shop with them. At least this identification allows the retailer the opportunity to mend a broken fence.

Of the remaining 98 customers, 16 will show up in the store within the next two weeks. The retailer reports their usual statement is, "I just haven't needed anything lately." Of course we know that is not likely the situation. What has happened is that the customer has forgotten the retailer, but has responded to the invitation to return. The saying is, "Never forget a customer. Never let a customer forget you." For you see, what you do speaks so loudly; I cannot hear what you say.

Tom Shay is a fourth generation small business owner providing proven management and business building ideas through his Profits Plus Seminars, Profits Plus Solutions coaching, books authored, and articles written. Tom can be reached at 727-464-2182 or through his web site:

Profits Plus Solutions, Inc.
PO Box 1577
St. Petersburg, Fl 33731
(727) 464-2182
Fax: (727) 898-3179