At the launch of the South Wilts Business of the Year Awards last week it a new category was announced for this year - Excellence in Customer Service - which is awarded from customer nomination only.  This is a good because only customers receiving your service will know if it is good or not.  It made me think about how many different aspects there are to customer service.

Most businesses strive to give good or great customer service but what determines good service?  It will be different for different people.  Some will like to be made to feel important, some will like their phone call or email dealt with promptly, others will just like to know you are there when they need you.  All will expect a job done well.

But good customer service is not just about the customers we already have.  I think it is also about the customers we might have.  What impression do we give to customers who contact us by phone or email?  Is the person who answers the phone helpful and knowledgeable or are they very obviously a telephone answering service who has to check if the person you want to talk to is in?  

I have been trying to outsource some work recently and have contacted two local companies.  I left a message on an answerphone with one and a message with a telephone answering service with the other.  Neither have contacted me.  Presumably neither of these companies needs any more work.  But what impression have they left me with that they couldn't make a call to say they aren't able to take on any more work?  How many of my contacts when they ask if I can recommend someone, which they do frequently, will now be told which companies not to bother to contact?  Word of mouth is how most work is gained.

I believe good customer service is crucial for small businesses.  If you don't treat people well from the first contact they will not choose you to do business with whatever your price.  I always get back to new enquiries even if they can't help them as they may return with something I can help with or they may recommend someone else contact us.

What is important for you as a customer and makes you feel like you have received a good or great service?