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Creating a Customer-Service Business

(June 2006) posted on Mon Jul 17, 2006

Learn how borrowing some customer-service philosophies from Starbucks can set your shop apart from the competition.

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By Gordon Roberts

Starbucks never set out to be the cheapest; they succeeded by being the best. The biggest advertisement for this business model can be seen in the incredible proliferation of Starbucks on every main street and in every shopping center in America. Chances are that many of you settled down to read this column with that familiar green and white cup in hand and perhaps biscotti on the side. Whether you drink Starbucks coffee or not, you can't help but admire the company's marketing abilities and incredible level of market penetration.

Applying the Starbucks model to your shop

Look around your facility and see it from your customers' point of view. Is it a welcoming environment? Will they immediately feel confident that this is the facility to take their business to? If you conduct most of your business on the phone, do your customers have to wait while someone finds an available order taker? Does your staff answer the phone in a professional manner? Is the employee who greets customers at the door competent and well trained? Does he or she inspire confidence? Do you have the customer-service skills that make you stand out from the crowd?

The fundamental question behind all these others is this: Are you giving customers a good reason to spend a little more money with you rather than settle for your competitors' bargain pricing? You must be able to look your customer in the eye and explain exactly why your product is just a little pricier. And you must have the confidence to let the bargain hunter go elsewhere if necessary.

If the deal will be bad for your business, then let it go. Let it become a bad deal for your competitor. Remember, you aren't in the screen-printing business. You are in the customer-service business, and most importantly, you are ultimately in business to make a profit. Never lose sight of that.

Take time to educate your customers about what makes you better than the rest of the competition. Start with a tour of your shop, and stress your attention to detail and the quality of your workforce. Show them why quality is not necessarily cheap, and give them good reasons to bring their business to your door. It may be necessary to let them go and get burned by one of your competitors. If you do your job correctly, though, your customers will come back. Build your business relationships over time and you will reap the rewards. It's always possible to beat someone else's price, but if pricing becomes the focus of your business, you set off on a long, hard road to the bottom.

Turn your screen-printing business into a customer-service business. Charge an honest price for a high-quality product. Be ready to demonstrate why your products are superior to those printed by your competitors. Look your customers in the eye and tell them why they should pay you more for a job done well. It's a simple formula, but it makes perfect business sense. Now, head down to your local Starbucks and load up on the caffeine that you will need to take care of all the profitable orders you'll be receiving.


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