Speaker Sees Customer Service as Key to Building Referral Base

Speaker Sees Customer Service as Key to Building Referral Base

Knoxville, TN When it comes to building a referral base, the trick is keeping existing customers happy. Fortunately, "It's easy to improve your customer service," claims David Newton, CKD, CBD, David Newton & Associates, based here. "All it requires is a little thought and some effort."
Newton advises kitchen and bath dealers looking to build future business "to become famous for your service," which will keep customers happy, keep them coming back for more and encourage them to refer friends to your business.

Newton believes that referrals come when customers recognize and appreciate the extra effort put forth by dealers. And the more creative the effort, the more customers will remember your firm in a sea of dealers. "Deliver the unexpected, since everybody expects service," advises Newton. "Go the extra mile for your customers, and meet their needs." Make them feel like family, adds Newton.

But what, exactly, are your customers' needs? Newton suggests creating focus groups to gain perspective, and find out what your customers really want. Include former, present and potential clients, as well as suppliers, vendors and those from NKBA chapter programs and other related businesses. "Focus groups will keep your company on track with up-to-date feedback," says Newton. 

Once dealers identify customer needs, Newton suggests they come up with a plan of action and stick to it. Make sure your employees follow it, as well. Here, Newton offers some ways to improve your customer service:

  • Solve customer complaints A.S.A.P. "People do not like to wait; rather, they should be kept informed," Newton advises. Newton offers this complaint-solving formula: Greet and develop a rapport; gather information; make suggestions; and solve the problem and (hopefully) close the sale.
  • Initiate employee empowerment. Give employees the power to make decisions and solve problems. This way, says Newton, customers can feel they can trust employees, and are not kept waiting for answers/solutions to their questions or problems.
  • Keep staff and reduce turnover. Make employees feel part of the family, says Newton, and treat them well. This will make them want to stay, and it will also build trust among your customers, because they will see the same familiar faces they are used to dealing with, says Newton.
  • Keep training up-to-date. Make sure your employees are educated about the latest product knowledge and sales and customer service techniques so that they can offer the best knowledge and service to your customers, notes Newton.
  • Better communication makes better customers and employees. This where a mission statement that reflects your company and your position in the industry comes in, says Newton. It should be fairly simple, since "too many rules will put you out of business," notes Newton. 
  • Make your customers know about it, and make sure employees are aware of it, understand it and stick to it, to effect better customer service, adds Newton. Be sure your mission statement also stresses the importance of communication with customers, clients and employees, Newton further suggests.
  • Serve the internal customer first. While it's important to deliver the best customer service possible to both customers in the showroom and the end-user, you need to put customers in the showroom first, according to Newton. Thoser are the customers who are right there waiting for you, and again, people don't like to wait, stresses Newton.
  • Establish employee Kazian teams. Set up teams of employees that meet regularly for problem-solving and brainstorming, suggests Newton.
  • Determine the "root cause" of service-related problems. Problems need to be addressed, of course, but one must look not just at the immediat problem, but at the root cause, as well. To effectively define the "root cause" of such problems, Newton advises dealers ask employees why at least five times. Question each answer to get to the bottom of the problem, says Newton, since the problem may not be easily discernible at first glance.
  • Implement an open-door policy. Make yourself accessible and open to the needs of customers, associates and suppliers, says Newton. Making those around feel that they can come to you with suggestions or problems will allow you to deliver better customer service.
  • Encourage customer follow-up. Finally, make sure you and your employees practice the art of following up, says Newton. This includes phone calls, thank-you letters/cards, survey and small gifts of appreciation. Little things like that will get you positive feedback, as well as give your customers a good feeling such a good feeling that they will come back, and recommend you to others.