A strategic plan involves the overall approach to how you`re going to run your business, year after year. That strategy can certainly change, but only if it exists in the first place.
One of the fundamental issues each entrepreneur has to face is what will be the "personality" of the business. How will the public come to know this business? Will it have a "face" or will it be just a name and logo on a Web page or billboard or invoice?
Whether you want it or not, you`re going to be perceived by the public in some fashion. Without a strategy, you won`t even know what you look like. It`s like going through life without caring what you look like, how you dress, or how anyone sees you. One way or another, everyone you pass by will make a judgement about you, whether or not you want that to happen.
Customer service is a process. It`s also your most basic way to create a business personality. Selling something is much less personable, if you think about it. You put up a shopping cart, someone clicks something, they send you money, and you send them a box. But that`s not at all the case with customer service!
Lots of people think of customer service as solving problems. A few people think of it as follow-up, and even fewer know that you can use customer service as a way to generate repeat business. How come?
When someone emails you, calls you, writes you, or comes into your brick-and-mortar location, they`re being specific. They want to talk with a real person about something that matters to them! They may have a simple question about procedure, or it may be a complex request for unusual shipping. There might be a question about customization, or perhaps asking for professional discounting.
Whatever the case may be, you can handle these situations in a spontaneous way, depending on your mood at the time. Or, you can have in place a specific approach---your goal in customer service. It`s no different than how you`ll meet people in a crowd. You can say nothing unless someone "bothers you," or you can learn how to introduce yourself, start a conversation, and be friendly.
Good customer service means not only solving problems. It also means creating a friendly and fun shopping experience! That includes how you design your Web site, your store, and the checkout procedures. You can come across grumpy, making your customers work as if you`re doing THEM a favor. Or, you can understand that the customer is doing YOU a favor by spending money on you!
Developing a customer service policy---an overall strategy---is as simple as choosing between two main options. Either you deal with customers as an afterthought, keeping your mind always on how much more money can you squeeze out of them; or, you can focus on building a great reputation.
"Go Big, or Go Home!" That`s an example of focusing on money, operations, expansion, and the financial bottom line. It assumes that customers fall out of the sky like rain from the clouds, for the most part. But is that the way you, personally, want to be seen?
On the other hand, all that operational sweat will cost you money in marketing, returns, mediocre ratings, and poor word of mouth. Instead, if you focus on building a personality, maybe something like Ben & Jerry`s, you`ll likely grow just as much without all that money to "overcome" public relations problems.