The road to effective customer service

Card Connection Andrew

Cheering, laughing, running, sawing, sticking, building and general mayhem broke out at the Card Connection Conference held in Stratford-Upon-Avon recently as over 100 delegates took part in a game of ‘customer service’. 

Spirits were high as two competing teams raced to build their transporters, roadways to travel down, crossed bridges of good understanding, travelled through tunnels of communication and negotiated a rival’s crossroads on their way to their customer’s premises. 

The whole game was a metaphor for the real-life business of running a franchise. 

As in real life, success lay in not seeing yourself as working alone, but as being an integral and vital part of the whole operation, applying the ‘winning moves’, understanding the implications of the whole chain working well, getting close to the customer and helping the customer to maximise sales by stocking their shelves in the most effective and well researched ways.

To complete the course, it was necessary to communicate well with all the other parts of the supply chain, to meet and work with colleagues, to complete each assigned task effectively while helping each other, taking others’ needs into account, and serving the customer well.

Team work

Scores were awarded for quality and creativity, good communication up and down the whole chain, speed, enthusiastic engagement with customers at a very personal level, the quality of displays and coordinated team work.

There were some great highlights en route, one team lost the tyre off their vehicle at the start of the race and it was all hands on deck to get back on the road. There was also great debate and rivalry at the crossroads about how the barriers could be lifted. 

Treat customers with great attitude, care, professionalism, understanding and helpfulness

One team arrived at their customer’s premises before the shop was opened, and both teams went to great lengths in stocking their displays and to talk the customers through their plans and how this would help sales. The customers were keen to understand these aspects and it was great to see the patience, helpfulness and personal interest they received from their suppliers.

In the end, both teams were indeed true winners. So what was the takeaway message, what can you do back in the real world in your franchise? 

First, remember the basics: treat customers with great attitude, care, professionalism, understanding and helpfulness. Listen to them to understand their needs and show them how to maximise sales and profitability (and of course yours too!) by providing carefully planned product and service offerings.

Next, couple this with using all the resources and advice available from your franchisor, while all working as a team to provide exemplary customer service, throughout the whole supply chain. Remember, you are not alone.

Apply the 12 winning moves – it’s what customers say they look for: customers, like suppliers who…

  1. Keep promises
  2. Are friendly
  3. Are real people – open, honest and sincere
  4. Listen and understand their needs
  5. Consult with them and keep them informed
  6. Keep in touch on a regular basis
  7. Offer honest advice that helps boost sales
  8. Make them feel valued and don’t waste their time
  9. Are knowledgeable about their company and products
  10. Check in with them to see if they are happy and satisfied
  11. Respond quickly
  12. Take personal responsibility and ownership

In today’s marketplace the supplier who does these things will survive and prosper.

About The Author

Andrew Cutler 
Andrew Cutler is franchise director for Card Connection, the UK's leading greeting card franchise.