Try six tips to improve your customer service skills

Customer service may be the ultimate key to business longevity in the rural, close-knit cities of La Plata County.

“Durango is a small town. You can’t get away with anything,” said Don Piccoli, general manager of the 61-year-old Eagle Block Company. “Everybody knows everything. You can’t treat people poorly.”

When the economy is sour and people want the most for their money, one of the best things a business can do is take steps to improve their customer service.

Kindness goes a long way, according to Durango resident Darrah Westrup. She tells of a dinner out at Ken and Sue’s restaurant with her husband and their fussy 3-year-old. The manager greeted the family and asked how they were doing. The child declared: “I’m a little bit grumpy.” The manager invited the girl to help him by carrying menus around while he seated people.

“She loved it, the customers loved it, and we got to a have a meal in peace,” said Westrup. “It was just a simple act, but it went a long way with us.”

Here are a few tips from the Better Business Bureau for improving customer service skills.

1. Know who is boss. You are in business to service customer needs, and you can only do that if you know what it is your customers want. When you truly listen to your customers, they let you know what they want and how you can provide good service. Never forget that the customer pays your salary and makes your job possible.

2. Identify and anticipate needs. Customers don’t buy products or services. They buy good feelings and solutions to problems. Most customer needs are emotional rather than logical. The more you know your customers, the better you become at anticipating their needs.

3. Make customers feel appreciated. Treat them as individuals. Always use their name and find ways to compliment them, but be sincere. Think about ways to generate good feelings about doing business with you. Customers are very sensitive and know whether or not you really care about them. Thank them every time you get a chance.

4. Know how to apologize. When something goes wrong, apologize. The customer may not always be right, but the customer must always win. Deal with problems immediately, and let customers know what you have done. Make it simple for customers to complain. Value their complaints. As much as you may dislike it, it gives you an opportunity to improve.

5. Give more than expected. Since the future of all companies lies in keeping customers happy, think of ways to elevate yourself above the competition. Consider the following: What can you give customers that they cannot get elsewhere? What can you do to follow-up and thank people even when they don’t buy? What can you give customers that is totally unexpected?

6. Get regular feedback. Encourage and welcome suggestions about how you could improve. There are several ways in which you can find out what customers think and feel about your services. Listen carefully to what they say. Check back regularly to see how things are going.