When we were looking at launching The Leather Satchel Co in Latin America we understood from the start that we had to solve a problem as well as deliver a high quality and affordable product. If you live in Colombia and have travelled abroad, I think you’ll agree that service here really has a long way to go! When I spoke to people in preparation for this article, four common messages came out; they aren’t rocket science but they’ll make all the difference to your business when looking for customers and trying to retain them.

So what are they?

Your customers are your first priority.
When your customers approach your business their first impression could very much also become their last if they don’t feel important. Before your client buys your product, first they need to buy into your brand. Many people have told me of examples where they’ve gone into stores or contacted businesses and have just been ignored. The image the business projects is that they’re too busy for their clients and that’s never great! It’s important that you stop what you’re doing and you always greet and acknowledge your clients as soon as they enter or approach you. They always come first.

It isn’t policy then client, it’s client, then policy.
Often when a customer has a specific need which isn’t easily attained, or a mistake has been made, service providers will fall back and say something unbelievable like “oh sorry; it’s company policy” which, in other words, is essentially forcing your client into a bad corner. Good companies take other people’s needs and emotions into account when making decisions or offering support. For example, let’s say you own a pizzeria and your best potential market is the people who live on your block. You know they have the highest potential to become regular customers. One day, one of them comes in and orders a pizza, but they want it delivered just a few doors away, and they don’t want to pay delivery. Your response can’t be “it’s company policy to charge you for that delivery”. It must instead be either “absolutely, I will deliver it myself” or at the very least, “right now we don’t have anybody available to take it over, but we can send you a message when it’s ready”. Client first, then policy.

Listen to them.
We all know that old saying of “the customer is always right” may not always be true, but the fact is that your customer will always feel that they’re right to feel how they feel. It’s very possible you, as an individual or as a business have done nothing wrong, and so all you need to do sometimes is listen. Listen to their concern or complaint, identify with their frustration and sincerely empathise without needing to take blame. Ask them what you can do to help and then listen again. Maybe it’s something very small, maybe it even costs your company money, but really, at the end of the day, what will cost more — saving that amount of money or losing that client and all their good will? Your conversation should go something like: “I can understand how you feel and I’m really sorry you feel that way. Tell me; what can I do to help you feel better?” Then do everything you can to do it or even meet them half way, if that is the best you can do. Always listen to them.

Under promise, over deliver.
According to many people and many more customer satisfaction surveys over the last decade, Apple has led the way in service throughout the world. You know when you go to an Apple store that you really matter, and that they’ll surprise and delight you whenever possible. I know, as my customer service education truly began as an Apple Retail employee. Something that we always spoke about and aimed for was to “under promise and over deliver”. Two key concepts are managing expectations and trying to surpass them. When my Mac needed fixing I took it in and they gave me a turn-around of 5 to 6 days. Compared to the industry standard of two weeks, that’s incredible! So, when do you think I actually got it back? Within 72 hours! Great service is a hallmark of Apple. Under promise, over deliver.

As a Colombian I ask you to join me in the movement to fix this problem and help us make Colombia a world leader in service.