Increased sales are one of the key ways to tell how well the company is doing. Excellent customer service means customers will buy more and recommend more products and services other people, which will add to the increase in sales.
While sales are very important to leisure and recreation organisations, another way to measure the success is in terms of customer numbers, which is particularly true for non-profit making organisations.
Customer service plays a major role in attracting new customers and the main source of this is the powerful influence of word of mouth. Existing customers who are impressed by the customer service at an organisation will tell other people about it. This means that an organisation keeps its existing customers as well as gaining new ones.
An effective customer service policy is that customers will view the organisation in a positive way. This means the image of the organisation will be enhanced by the standard of customer service.
Having a good public image is very important for:
* Attracting new customers
* Retaining existing customers
* Reinforcing customer satisfaction
* Securing repeat business
* Gaining an edge over the competition
An organisations public image is the mental picture that we have of the organisation. This can be based on our own experience, what others have told us about it or on what the organisation itself has told us about via its marketing activities such as advertising and public relations.
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Television programmes such as Watchdog also help us for an image in our heads, especially when they start reporting viewers complaints. This could have a very bad effect on the organisation.
Good customer service can also enhance the image of an organisations individual products or services. For example, customers may have a positive image of a sports centre, but also have a positive image of the individual products and services such as the reservations system and changing facilities.
Good customer service gives an organisation a competitive advantage. If you sell a similar product or service, you gain an edge by offering a better quality service and this gives a greater chance of attracting customers.
A pleasant working environment is another benefit of good customer service. If customers receive good customer service, they will respond in a friendly and appreciative manner. Customer satisfaction is extremely important in a business and this means the organisation must meet the needs and expectations of the customers.
Customer loyalty is very important in a business and good customer service helps reinforce customers loyalty to the organisation with every visit they make. If customers are loyal, they are likely to return and these people are known as repeat customers. This means the customers of the past become the customers of the future.
If an organisation has poor customer service, they will suffer from:
* Decreased sales
* Fewer customers
* A poor public image
* An absence of competitive edge
* An unhappy and less efficient workforce
* Dissatisfied customers
* Lack of customer loyalty and repeat business
The first impression the customer gets of personal presentation is very important as it is one they will never forget. It directly influences customers satisfaction and the image they have of the organisation.
Personal presentation includes appearance, personal hygiene, personality and attitude.
Appearance covers everything from clothes and footwear, to hair, make-up and jewellery. The reasons for providing staff with a uniform are:
* It helps create a positive first impression
* Staff are recognised instantly as working for a
* It is easy to identify a member of staff when a
customer needs advice or assistance
* It can indicate the department in which a member
of staff works
* It helps to create a professional corporate image
A lot of organisations now provide their employees with a uniform. Organisations rely on their employees judgement for deciding what is and is not acceptable in terms of appearance. Some organisations set ground rules and to a large extent, this reflects the nature of the organisation and the type of customer it serves.
For example, a five star hotel will be very strict with the dress code of the employees who work at the front-of-house. They will be required to wear a uniform and it may also include rules on footwear, hairstyling and make-up.
The most important point is to make sure that dress and general appearance suit the job, the organisation and the customers expectations. On the other hand, the organisation should make sure that the uniform is comfortable, easy to maintain and look appropriate for staff of all builds.
Anyone serving customers should have excellent standards of personal hygiene. Different types of organisations will have different standards of personal hygiene, for example, anyone who works in the food industry will be expected to wash their hands at least a dozen times a day.
First impressions also come from the employees own personality. Again, different jobs require different personalities. A childrens sport coach will require a different personality to a personal fitness instructor because they are working with different types of people. From the personality of the employee, people can tell a lot about the organisation itself.
The employees attitude towards the customer is critical. The customers feel that they want as much attention as possible when they go into a workplace and if an employees attitude is poor, they may feel neglected and not wanted.
Types of Customers
Customers have different needs depending on who they are and the circumstances. There is a difference between internal and external customers. Internal customers are members of staff or outside suppliers who contribute towards the service provided for the external customers. External customers are the people who actually buy or use the organisations products and services. External customers are then categorised into individual, group, age, culture, language spoken and specific needs.
Many leisure and recreation providers serve groups and the individuals who compromise them in ways that enhance and promote customer service.
Customer age groups are classified as children and adults. Although the companies feel the age of the customers is important, they also feel it is important not to make assumptions about customers needs based solely on age.
Cultural background influences peoples traditions, tastes, preferences and opinions and it will therefore influence the type of service they need and expect. It is also important not to make assumptions on the culture of the customer.
Foreign visitors are an increasingly important part of the UK tourism market. People still want to feel that they can be dealt with even though there is a language barrier. Large organisations often employ multi-lingual staff to communicate with non-English speaking customers.
Some customers have specific needs that may require special customer service in addition to that provided to meet the general needs of everybody. These include sensory disabilities, mobility problems, literacy, dietary requirements and people with young children.
Dealing with Customers
Almost everyone working in the leisure and recreation industry has to deal with customers, whether be face-to-face, on the phone or in writing.
Face-to-face communication has many advantages but only the staff use it well. For example, your presentation can help create a positive image. You can also use facial expressions and gestures to help communicate more effectively.
Telephone communication is used in most leisure centres and it provides an essential part of customer service. Some organisations even use the telephone as the main method of dealing with the customers.
For some organisations, written communication is the main way of keeping in touch with customers. Menus, tariffs or price lists and letters are all forms of written communication, along with bills, advertisements, notice boards, tickets, e-mails and timetables.
Non-verbal communication comprises all forms of communication that are spoken or written down. 80% of communication is non-verbal, so it is clearly very important in customer service. Body language is the main form of non-verbal communication and people can tell how interested the staff are just by looking at them.
Selling skills are an important part of customer service. Every time somebody asks for help, advice or information, it is probably a selling situation. As a member of staff, you should be helping customers a lot and to be able to do this effectively, you should have good knowledge of the products and services you are trying to sell.
Customers can only buy products and services from an organisation if they know they exist, therefore raising customer awareness is a key part of selling skills
Establishing rapport with the customer means encouraging a conservation in which the staff and the customer are both communicating on the same level. Within this category, you must also make the customer feel they have your undivided attention without being too over the top.
The easiest way for staff to identify the customers needs is to ask if they need any help. From the reply, the staff will be able to decide what further questions to ask to identify the customers specific needs.
Presenting the product or service to the customer in an appropriate way is important. For example, is someone wants to buy something but cannot afford it, then the staff should suggest something of a similar range but at a less expensive price.
Closing the sale means actually getting the customer to buy the product or service you are offering. Some people may wish to go away and think about the offer that has just been made and in this case, it is probably a good idea to reserve the product or service. Taking a customers payment is also included in closing a sale. This should be done cheerfully, politely, friendly and gratefully to make the customer feel that they have made the correct choice by buying this product or service from this store or centre.
Customer service does not end when the customer hands over their money. This is known as after-sales service and sometimes this will be immediate such as asking the customer of they have enjoyed their visit. Sometimes, if people subscribe to a gym for a year, they may need help in using the service after a couple of months. This is where after-sale service comes in useful.
A technique known as AIDA is used in the design of advertising and promotional material and when considering effective selling skills. A stands for attention, I stands for interest, D stands for desire and A stands for action. If you use this technique, it will result in the customer desiring the product and therefore taking action by buying it.