Good Customer Service Starts at the Top (Conclusion)

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(Image credit: Alissa Ausmann)

“How important is customer service to a laundry/linen operation? How can managers work to better assist customers and end-users?”

Chemicals Supply: David Barbe, U.N.X. Inc., Greenville, N.C.

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David Barbe

David Barbe

Customer service is important to every business! Without customers, no business can survive. Customers will go where they are treated fairly and with respect, and even spend more money at such a business.

All of us have bought something at a fast food restaurant or a retail store where the clerk barely said a word, took our money, shoved our purchase at us and never said anything resembling a thank-you. Such experiences don’t inspire anyone to go there again.

All that being said, in a laundry/linen operation, a customer has to be happy with the cleanliness of the goods, prompt delivery, clear billing, polite employees, simple procedures, etc. There are lots of ways that customers interact with a company. All of them should be examined for improvements in customer service.

For example, I once heard an end-user complain bitterly about a linen service, not for quality or pricing, but for the complexity of its invoices! This is something that one wouldn’t normally consider a serious issue. Yet, this customer was ready to switch to someone else for this reason. When I pressed them, they admitted everything else was great, but they couldn’t get past the complicated invoices and the multiple phone calls it took to clear up problems. In a competitive market, little things can mean the difference between keeping a customer and watching them take their business to your competitor.

A manager should be mindful of every interaction with a customer, including sales calls, product delivery, customer complaints, billing and any problem resolution. Each of these interactions needs to be polite, efficient and convenient to the customer. And for the customer to notice, they need to be consistently pleasing.

When creating ordering or delivery procedures, consider your customer’s point of view: Are you only thinking of your own time and effort, or are you trying to make everything simple, easy and pleasant for your customer? One goal could be that a real person answers phone calls; automated switchboards are efficient but serve to annoy the caller most of the time! Do your customers have to fill out forms to make changes, or can they speak to someone and have their problem solved—and solved the first time it’s mentioned?

I think the hardest thing is to get all employees to share in this goal. Customer service employees probably understand that being polite and efficient is an important part of their job. But, getting all the employees to consider their actions as directly impacting the success of the business is more than sticking up posters and having nice slogans. This takes effort and diligence all throughout the business.

Spending time with individual employees, showing them by example how to deal with customers, creating an environment where everyone is treated like you want them to treat your customers, and repeating all this over and over will be required.

Uniforms/Workwear Manufacturing: Scott Delin, Fashion Seal Healthcare, Seminole, Fla.

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Scott Delin

Scott Delin

Our daughter recently phoned from Florida to inform us that she was approached by a “so-called” warranty company. This company said they were representing Volvo and that her warranty on her car was about to expire. Realizing this was a scam, and wanting to allow her to handle the situation herself, we told her to reach out to the dealership where she purchased her car (coincidently, also where we purchased our last few cars) to inquire if this call was legitimate or not.

Several days later, and without further thought, we received a phone call from the director of finance at the car dealership where our family had purchased our cars. He said he had received a call from our daughter, who had explained her dilemma to him. The purpose of his call was to inform us that he was following up on the call he received and to assure us he had taken care of our daughter’s issues.

Not only was her car still under warranty, but it also had an extended warranty that was purchased at the initial point of purchase. He continued, saying he had reached out to the car dealership in Florida where she now resides to make sure it had all the proper warranty paperwork pertaining to her car.

After the call ended, my wife turned to me and said, “Now that is customer service! Now I understand why we do business with these guys. … he did not have to go that extra step to make sure (our daughter’s) concerns were addressed.”

Customer service goes a long way these days, and sets you apart from your competitors in a price-dominated marketplace. Exceptional and consistent customer service is what makes one laundry/linen operation more successful than the other. The funny thing about this is that good customer service costs the laundry/linen operator next to nothing and brings more value and continued business relationships to the table.

Our customers today want to know that they are dealing with the best: a company that goes that extra mile to make sure their needs are not only met but exceeded, and that issues are anticipated before they become issues. Yes, a clean product delivered at a competitive price day in and day out does mean something, but the simple things like saying “Thank you” for the business, straightening up the shelves, or proactively following up goes a long way toward customer retention.

Today, we are seeing that, more often than not, exceptional customer service makes the infrequent issues not as painful as they once were. Our customers expect and deserve the best, and consistently excellent customer service helps to generate not only customer retention and renewals, but also referrals.

More and more managers are playing an active role in making sure their staff expresses and practices good customer-service actions on a daily basis. The exceptional manager will go as far as personally reaching out to the customers, as well as extending the proverbial “customer service branch” to make sure expectations are not only met but exceeded.

By training staff on the importance of going that extra mile and leading by example, many operations are able to increase sales based upon word of mouth rather than an expansion of the sales team. Remember, it costs nothing and pays well.

I can tell you that the two minutes it took that car dealership manager to call my wife and me pretty much sealed the deal. When we are ready to buy another car, we will go back to the dealer whose personnel went that extra mile to take care of our daughter’s needs.

Miss Part 1? Read it HERE now.

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