The Relationship Between Building Value and Providing Great Customer Service

By Kristina Blanco, The Spectrum Services Group

We’ve all heard it before: “To be successful you must provide value and give great service…however for most of us on the ‘purchasing end’ these seem to be in short supply.

About 10 years ago I worked at Nordstrom for a period of time. They had very extensive training on their policies, and were very clear regarding the heavy importance that they placed on providing great customer service. One of their foundational principles was that they would take returns, no questions asked. You could take an item back without a receipt, have washed and worn it and they would still return it for you with a smile.

There are many valuable lessons companies can learn from policies like this. From an insider’s perspective on the inner workings of giving great customer service and success, here are a few lessons I learned as a result of some of the special policies held by Nordstrom.

Building Value: Their over-the-top return policy built value because they were the only one in the industry to do it, and they steadfastly stood by their word. Do you stand out from your competition? And, in what ways are you consistent? Do you always meet goal dates and deadlines? Do you respond in a timely manner to your clients? Consider how you might be able to expand and add to your ‘value’.

Another principle was that they purposefully over staffed each department in order to ensure that each customer was greeted upon stepping onto the carpet in their area, and that each would receive the highest degree of customer service possible.

Availability: Have you ever needed a sales person and there was none to be found? Or, have you asked the salesperson a question about a product and they responded with a blank stare? Availability and product knowledge go a long way. Be sure your clients are a priority and that your staff has the ability to answer any questions they may have.

Another element from Nordstrom that I wanted to discuss was that their sales people worked on commission, and if they were really good they could make over six figures a year. This created motivation to try to get every single person into a dressing room! The way the commission structure worked was that the salesperson would get a certain percentage of all of their sales. If that percentage was less than a base pay rate (let’s say $8) then they would instead make $8 an hour. However if customers returned merchandise, the salesperson was ‘hit’ with the return putting their earnings at a deficit.

After a period of time I began to notice a pattern. On days when I was dong well—I was going GREAT! And on days when I was in a deficit, I was drowning! The more I panicked the less likely I would be to make even a single sale. It was as if my stress was permeating around me repelling shoppers. And I realized something, which brings me to my next point:

Relationship Building: When you’re focused only on making a sale, you forget to provide value. Have you ever experienced a pushy sales person trying to get you to purchase something you neither need nor want? Focus on building a relationship based on trust. In order to be of ‘service’, focus on the needs of your customer and how you can provide value and/or a better result for them. If you are genuine they will see it. However if they sense desperation or that you ‘need’ them, they will likely go elsewhere.

Having the Right Intentions: Last but certainly not least, be intentional in both your actions and your marketing. It’s extremely important to learn what your client and prospect needs are and to communicate and market to them accordingly. Involve them in the needs analysis process so they can see the value both in your knowledge and communication, as well as in your expertise in solving their problems, or fulfilling their needs. If you can keep their interest, they will come back to you again and again.

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