Customer service means you need to respect your customers’ time

By Harold L Taylor

One of the topics discussed at our monthly Lunch ‘N Learn sessions at the Sussex & District Chamber of Commerce monthly members’ meetings was customer service and how to respect your customers’ time.  A study conducted by the Research Institute of America found that 90% of customers who are dissatisfied with the service they receive will not come back again. They also found that only 4% of unhappy customers ever bother to complain, yet each unhappy customer tells his or her story to an average of nine other people.

According to eMarketer, it costs five to ten times as much to find a new customer as it does to retain an existing one. Loyal customers are more profitable to your business because they usually buy more of your products and services, are less sensitive to price, and often refer other clients to you.

It is important to keep in contact with past clients, offer guarantees, and provide fast service. Building loyal clients is an important part of any marketing strategy.

When you get customers or clients, convert them into missionaries so they will spread the good word about your products and services. You do this by earning their respect and demonstrating a sincere concern for their well-being. Deliver more than you promise. This requires that you respect their time.

If you are a professional or operate a business where the customer comes to you, don’t keep them waiting. A certain amount of waiting can’t be avoided – especially in the case of doctors, lawyers, accountants and so on. But research shows that customers perceive waiting time to be less if there are signs to read in your waiting room – or anything else that will keep them occupied. Always have something to read such as current magazines and signs as well as Wi-Fi. If appropriate, TV and a play area with toys for kids would also be a plus.

Waiting time also seems shorter if customers have someone to talk to. Paco Underhill, in his book “Why we buy,” recommends taking care of the customer within two minutes. This is not always possible; but any waiting without contact over a minute and a half creates time distortion in the minds of the customers.

Time waiting after initial contact seems to go faster than the same amount of time spent waiting before the interaction. So acknowledging that the customer is waiting tends to relieve time anxiety. It is a good idea to acknowledge the customer when they first arrive and at least every five minutes thereafter.

Even giving the customer an estimate of the waiting time is better than nothing. Underhill claims that being told the wait would be about two minutes makes the actual four or five minute wait go faster.

In a supermarket or in some retail store situations, a single line leading to the cashiers ensures that people are served in turn. And impulse items placed where the line forms, not only distracts from the wait, but is also smart merchandising.

Customers hate waiting in line, and stores with long line-ups at the check-outs frequently encounter abandoned carts containing merchandise.

This “want it now” syndrome was evident in the studies described in Martin Lindstrom’s Buyology book. Students were offered either a $15 Amazon gift certificate right away or a $20 gift certificate in two weeks. They chose the $15 certificate. The students’ brains were scanned as they were made the offers, and the “$15 right now” offer caused an unusual flurry of stimulation in those areas of the brain responsible for our emotional life.

This could explain the popularity of such services as overnight delivery, instant Kindle book downloads, and express checkouts. So keep in mind that it might pay you to use priority mail for shipping, for example – or even courier, although it’s more expensive to do so. You might build the shipping cost into the price of the product. Speed does make a difference.

For information on future luncheon meeting topics, call the Chamber office at 506-433-1845. Or contact us here

Harold L Taylor, owner of, is a member of the Sussex & District Chamber of Commerce and a columnist with the Kings County Record,

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