Customer Service As A Niche?


Yes, I’m committed! I’ve been pondering the whole “what’s your niche?” and “become an expert in your niche” that the the experts and gurus talk about in their training. Well, my hesitation was because, with an online store that sells a little bit of everything, what would the niche be? I haven’t been in retail for very long, although I’ve been in sales for years. I have never conducted business online through the social media channels, but I’ve built strong, lasting relationships with many of the people we’ve dealt with in our offline business. While talking to my mom yesterday, I ran the thought of customer service as a niche, across her. She said that, with all the experience I have, the different job positions and endeavors I’ve been through, that I would be the perfect person to help others learn how to, and not to, interact with their customers. Also, my message would be helpful in letting people know what they should expect as a customer.

So, it’s settled. I will be focusing on customer service as my “niche”. I will be sharing the good and bad experiences I have as a customer, and with my own customers. That leads me to why I even considered customer service as a niche to begin with. A very poor interaction with me as the customer. On Wednesday, 4/2, we had to get some fuel. We pull into a travel center (I won’t say the name) that we use on a daily basis. My husband, Mike, hands the clerk his Visa and loyalty cards, tells the clerk the pump number and says, “hold on and let me figure out how much I’m going to get.” Before Mike could tell the clerk to set the pump for $800, she took it upon herself to authorize the pump for $1999.90! Yes, this ‘Lead Clerk’ authorized his Visa for almost two-thousand dollars!! She told Mike that as soon as he hangs up the pump, only the amount he used will be charged… FALSE! Mike told her that it didn’t work that way… TRUE! She said she was told by the store manager to explain it that way. Livid is putting our emotional state mildly! Oh, and by the way, it literally just cleared up in our account this morning.

The best customer service practice in any field, is honesty. This means that, even if you don’t know the answer, don’t tell the customer just anything. Always stick to the truth. Trust me, you’ll last a long time in any industry. What needs to be stated here, though, is that what you say is not nearly as important as how you say it. A customer may walk into a frozen yogurt shop and ask for a Snickers yogurt cup. Well, there may not be a Snickers yogurt option. You wouldn’t just come out and say, “We don’t have that.” would you? I hope not. The more appropriate response would be along the lines of, “My apologies, but we don’t offer that at this time. However, we do have many mix-ins and toppings to choose from. Could I interest you in… or would you like to try a sample of…” The most valuable lesson here is that, the customer is NOT always right in what they ask for. However, the customer is always right in the regard that they deserve a certain level of respect, at all times, no matter what they’re asking for. 

Now, that was an in-person interaction that wasn’t handled too well, this week. Unfortunately, I have an online experience that did not go well, either. This actually involved my husband, Mike. When ordering anything online, Mike will ask me a million questions like, “Have you ever heard of this company?” or “Does this site look legit to you?” After I give it a good look-over (to ease his mind), I give it my approval. Now, although the website looked good, with nice images, product reviews, etc., nothing referred to the overall customer experience, good or bad. Mike placed his order on 3/23. He received his order status update on 3/25 (you can only imagine what I had to hear for those two days). The status update only stated “order in process” up to, and including, today. The reason being is, although his initial package (finally) arrived on 4/2, the note inside kindly stated that part of the order was not available, but would be shipped asap. Do you think this could/ should have been handled a little bit differently?

Well, in this situation, in my opinion, customer service was on point until the point of shipping the order. At the point that the store realized they did not have the complete order in stock, a call or email should have been sent. Either Mike should have been given the option to replace that part of the order with another color (t-shirts), or to cancel that part altogether. The customer should not find out at the time of delivery, what… two weeks later, that the entire order was not available and shipped. I speak from experience as both, the shipper and as the customer in earlier work positions.. 

Although I thought providing good customer service was a no-brainer for most, I see that there is a lot of room for vast improvement. On the service side, communication needs to be stepped up by a long shot. As the customer, I almost think some people have been programmed to accept just any level of service they receive. That, of course, should never be the case. There’s always someone else offering what you’re looking for. Both sides of the counter should keep their standards high, and their options open. You’d be surprised how much better you’ll feel, after each transaction, when you’re dealt with on your new playing field.






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