If a lifetime in the retail industry has taught me one thing, it's that you must go above and beyond the customer's expectations if you are to excel.
If the product or service you offer is a special and rare purchase for most, it’s only right that your customer receives exceptional attention.
Over the course of nearly five decades in the trade, I’ve stuck to five golden rules for keeping customers happy. These rules were true when I started out, and I’m still abiding by them today as head jeweller at Nightingale. I’m sure you’ll be able to apply these to your business, no matter what size or industry.
1. Achieve exceptional quality
This first rule is the bedrock of sustained success in any industry. It’s so important that I’ve broken it down into its three key aspects.
You cannot provide the best service without stocking the very best products You must always be critical; never be afraid to have difficult conversations with supply chain partners when that is what’s required to maintain your standards.
This really equates to ‘value for money’. Undercutting high street prices can be a fast route to growth, but this only works in the long run if you are offering a product of comparable or better quality.
Transitioning from a career as a high street jeweller to running my new online-focused business has encouraged me to think deeply about the essential foundations of customer service. In my experience, the cornerstones of good service are information, contact, reliability, honesty and accountability.
2. Be honest and ethical
The same virtues that make good people make good businesses. Misleading the customer just to make a sale has never been a good option, whereas honesty at all times instils confidence in the customer, greatly benefiting your business and its reputation. Consumers’ sensitivity to ethical considerations has markedly increased since I started my working life, which has brought deferred rewards for businesses that have always held to strong moral principles.
3. Clear pricing and no hidden surprises
Nothing irritates customers more than hidden costs. Whether you’re running your shop online or on the high street, make sure the price you display is the price they pay. It’s natural to feel compelled to advertise the lowest price possible, but it’s far better to present a true price to the customer than to risk the reputational damage associated with hidden fees. Customers are smart and often business savvy – you need your profit margin, and they understand that.
4. Protect the customer’s interests
It’s important not to be afraid to challenge customers’ preconceptions and even take a hit on prospective profits when you think there is a better way to achieve the perfect item for the client.
An example of this is when one of my customers once came to me seeking a full diamond-set eternity ring to wear as a wedding ring. She was a hairdresser by trade and left handed. It was obvious that the constant wear and tear from her scissors would have damaged a full eternity ring’s setting, loosening the stones. Instead, we recommended a half eternity ring to avert the problem and the customer was delighted with our honesty in suggesting a less expensive ring to protect her interests.
5. Be flexible
Every business needs a plan, and the processes entailed must be maintained quite rigidly to achieve success. But when you’re dealing in high-end products, it’s crucial to understand that one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. There are times when you’ll have to go to great lengths to ensure you don’t let a customer down, helping protect your business’ reputation.
Providing exemplary service is so much easier if you’re flexible.