CHICAGO — Some dry cleaners make a hire, give that person a quick overview of how the store works, and then put them behind the counter to deal with customers.
From a customer satisfaction standpoint, this is often a recipe for disaster.
Expecting your staff — and especially your consumer-facing personnel behind the front counter — to instinctively know how to deal with customers is unfair to everyone: the customer, your employee and your business, says Trudy Adams, principal of Blue Egg Consulting. Adams was a speaker at the Fall Fest Expo, a virtual event held in November that was co-sponsored by the Northeast Fabricare Association (NEFA), the South Eastern Fabricare Association (SEFA), and the Pennsylvania and Delaware Cleaners Association (PDCA).
In Part 1 of this series, we looked at how creating scripts for predictable situations can give employees confidence and competence when dealing with the public. Here, we’ll look at ways your staff can communicate more effectively to increase your company’s customer satisfaction.
Make a Test Run
Sometimes, employees save their best behavior for the moments when their employer or manager is present, Adams says. What you need to know, however, is how they act when you’re not there. Making a test run, both on the telephone and in person, can reveal potential areas of improvement.
“Get someone to go in and just record the experience that a customer will get,” Adams says. “Maybe send somebody in who you know and record it, because nine times out of 10, what you think is going on, and what is actually going on, are two totally different things.”
Adams said that her team has conducted “secret shopper” sessions in the past, and the results were often enlightening. During these sessions, she would secretly videotape the experience but was careful about how this footage was used. “I would only share these recordings with the owner and the executive team,” she says, “because I didn't want anyone to be embarrassed. It wasn't about telling anybody they did something wrong. If they did it, it was because they weren’t trained correctly.”
While it might be uncomfortable for an owner to see his or her employees not treat customers in a way that ensures they’ll come back, it’s an educational experience. It’s a tool for correcting shortcomings in this area.
“It's about creating what it is that each owner wants for their business,” Adams says. “We would go in, and we would do a ‘customer drop off’ and then a ‘new customer’ encounter. We would watch it and then watch it again with the management team. From that, we would create from a template what they wanted the script to be.”
By providing training based on real-world examples, cleaners can make sure that the customer’s experience at their store is consistent, welcoming and helpful — traits that keep customers coming back.
Watch Your (Body) Language
Customers will provide constant feedback about how their experience is going — but only if your staff knows what to look for.
“Never underestimate body language,” Adams says. “Watch your counter representative’s body language,” she says. “Are they happy? Are they upbeat? Or are they tired? Do they smile, or are they grumpy? Your customers pick up on that. Do you want your customers to remember your store by the tired, overworked employee behind the counter or somebody who is bright and vibrant and wanted to help them? Body language is huge.”
Body language also provides clues for your staff about the customer's state of mind. Common signs that the customer is not in a good mood include:
- Raised eyebrows
- Looking at their watch
- Tense shoulders
- Hands on hips
- Eye contact (either intense contact or no contact)
- Not smiling
- Arms crossed
While the customer might not be aware of the messages he or she is sending, the person behind the counter should be. Their tone of voice is also often an unconscious method of conveying their state of mind.
“If you start to see these signs, it’s something you’re going to have to be prepared for,” Adams says.
The Choice is Theirs
By improving each customer's service at your store, you are giving yourself the best chance of success. “You want to make sure our customers choose you over somebody else,” Adams says. “It's all about choices. It's not always about price. We talk a lot about price in this industry — how much you charge for this or that — but it isn't always the answer. It's the proven quality. It's the unique process. It's the location, it's the ambiance, but most importantly, it's the service attitude. It's how are they being addressed at that counter.”
Click HERE for Part 1 of this series!