Top 5 New Year's Resolutions to Make Your Customer Service Shine

Just like a New Year's diet, any initiative in the New Year takes commitment and consistency. For business owners, it is essential that their customer service represents the business and brand properly and thoroughly. Customer service makes an impact on an untold number of patrons and when businesses choose to let bad service happen, the memory the customer has of the business is forever tarnished. On the bright side, the New Year is a great time for businesses to commit to improving their customer service in unique, consistent and memorable ways. Use these top five resolutions to make 2016 the year your service shines:

1. Create Distractions While Waiting. Waiting for service is one of the biggest issues in customer service. It has been proven that occupied time is better than unoccupied time when waiting, so it is essential that business owners create distractions for their customers as they wait for service. There are meaningful ways to engage customers that focus on the brand and represent the culture or ethos of a business. Display books or magazines that represent the organization's commitment to the environment, core values, or connection to a specific charity. Show a documentary in the waiting room about the ingredients or elements that are utilized in your products. These distractions can become a thoughtful representation of your brand that your customers will remember in a positive way.

2. Keep the Outside as Clean as the Inside. Cleanliness has an incredible impact on the customer experience. A study from 2011 (conducted by Cintas, a corporate uniform company) revealed that 99 percent of adults surveyed said cleanliness would affect their perception of the brand they were buying from, and it would affect their interest in returning. It is crucial that the outside of a business is just as clean and orderly as the inside. An unkempt lawn, bird droppings on the awning, or an overflowing outdoor cigarette receptacle can all too easily make the wrong impression. When the approach to the business is attended to regularly, this sets the stage for a great customer experience. It ensures that the first - and last - impression of the business will be positive.

3. Say Less to Your Customers. Beware of giving too much context to patrons. Phrases, such as "It's her first day on the job," or "We just got this system installed," are begging forgiveness from the customer for the wrong reason. Why would a business owner put someone so green in front of his clients or use a new system without training the staff or testing it first? Businesses should never offer excuses; they must always be proactive. Instead of "It's her first day," offer "I'm so glad Maria called me over to help you; let me see how I can assist." It's a more proactive approach and doesn't throw Maria under the bus.

4. Get Comfortable With Customer Service. Training and role-play are essential for helping team members develop their skills in problem resolution. But don't just have them come up with scenarios and solutions on their own. Use real-life situations to create scenarios that will help your team members develop skills in problem resolution. Then offer those playing the role of "customer service rep" some options for service recovery (always apologize first, ask open questions, and demonstrate sympathy - not empathy) so they can practice proven methods for successfully helping a customer in need. This will help staffers improve their skills and help them build muscles for successfully addressing the issues customers face.

5. Build Your Community Impact. Consider how you can create and encourage a community based around your business. Many businesses think of this as being a marketing initiative, and it is, but it also serves to keep the service conversation going. Hosting events or supporting a charity is a great way to be involved in a good cause and gives you a way to involve your customers. I know financial planners and lawyers who regularly host informational events about various topics. The gatherings are informative for their clients and help keep them connected to the firm. These events help keep the business in your customer's mind and memory and help them see the business as more than just a service provider.

In order to see real results from your customer service initiatives, you must train your staff daily, set a great example, and talk about staff successes. Set goals that you would like to reach by the first of each month, whether it is through tracking repeat guests, improving online reviews or reducing poor ones. And, take time to seek feedback from your customers. By engaging your guests, you are likely to turn a one-time customer into a regular. Happy 2016!