1. Service Experience
This subject matter remains a bugbear of mine; maybe because the general sentiment among consumers in South Africa is that this is an area which is lacking in most businesses.
Here are a couple of pointers to use in benchmarking the service experience of our businesses:
Obtain an external point of view
This can inter alia be done by appointing the services of a mystery shopper to evaluate the level of service and support provided by your staff.
A point of sale customer feedback facility could also be considered. Compile a short questionnaire (3 or 4 questions), make copies and place these at your service points. Ask your counter assistants to ask every customer they serve to complete the form and to place the completed form in a sealed container. Another possibility is to obtain telephonic feedback similar to the above from customers that make purchases above a certain amount and whose contact information you have.
There is something to be said about tracking your main competitors – use information in the public domain (website, brochures, events, sales people, articles in the press). Learn from them and also prepare to counter their value proposition in the market place.
The last pointer is simple to do, but difficult for some business owners to implement – engage directly with your customers on your business premises, or telephonically, to receive their feedback on and experience of the service levels in your business.
What are the minimum expectations you have for:
- The number of times the phones ring before it is answered?
- Greeting your customers (in person and telephonically)?
- The dress code of your staff?
- The discretion allowed for decision making at the point of sale (to compensate for an inferior customer experience, for example)?
- Service output w.r.t. contracting the service levels with staff, rewarding them accordingly and also addressing sub-standard service levels?
How do you ensure that the service standards and SLAs are met with regards to all the contact points of the business (phone, website, fax, e-mail and social media)?
Use the valuable insights from your customers to improve the overall customer experience of your business.
2. Take a hard look at your business premises
What is the current ownership status with regards to your business premises? Weigh up the sensibility of owning the premises versus a rental arrangement.
Is the locality of the business supporting the requirement for consumer traffic (“feet at the door”)?
Also look at the possible need to revamp your business premises, reconsider the lay-out of the business, consider if you have sufficient room to expand the business, as well as the state of the business signage. Staff feedback can be used as gauge and also as a morale booster if you can accommodate their proposed changes
3. Our People
Consider evaluating the following elements:
- Is my payment practices aligned to market trends? Am I paying my staff what they are really worth?
- Do I have the right people appointed for each job (management and operational staff) I have in the business? Are they fully skilled?
- Do I have written appointment and SL contracts with all staff in place?
- What is my staff turnover? If it is not aligned to industry trends, I need to find out why and address it accordingly.
- Are there “bad apples” in my business and how do I address this in an efficient and a fair way?
4. The Image of my Business
There are certain “hygiene” elements in our businesses which sometimes speak louder that our physical presence. Make sure these elements are in place and maintained very well.
- What is the “look and “feel” of our businesses exterior with regards to the paint, the neatness of our parking lot, the cleanliness of our premises, the lighting of the building and surrounds, how well the entrance is marked and how welcoming the reception area is to guests and customers?
- If I have vehicles, how neat and clear is the signwriting on the vehicles and how clean are the vehicles?
- Do I have branded stationary and is it up to date and in pace with current trends?
Excellent firms don't believe in excellence – only in constant improvement and constant change. (Tom Peters)
To support business owners with the important task of business planning, Sanlam gives you free access to the book Your Annual Business Game Plan for Success, which provides an easy and straightforward framework needed to draft a well-crafted game plan that will create the positive change and growth necessary for business success. Go to www.sanlam.co.za/gameplan to download your free copy.
The content in this article was provided by Jannie Rossouw, Head: Sanlam Business Market. Sanlam is a diversified financial services group, headquartered in South Africa, operating across a number of selected global markets.
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