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Best Practices

Customer Service or Else

Put your clients first in 2021.

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WE TEND TO focus on impressive sign projects in Signs of the Times, and rightly so. Readers love pictures of cool, unique or otherwise interesting signage for inspiration and a bit of instruction. But we all know that much, much more goes into a sign than is shown off here and posted to shop social media and website portfolios.

Years ago, I headed the book division of Signs of the Times and its sister publications, including VMSD, which featured a column by Peter Glen, a shrewd retail analyst and powerful motivational speaker. We published two books of his, but what I remember more were the videos – from another company … on VHS tapes, yikes! – of his hugely colorful and highly energetic presentations to client companies (search “Peter Glen customer service” on YouTube). One anecdote involved a rich senior citizen whose dress did not reflect success, and his bank had blundered on their mistaken assumption.

“’You gave me poor customer service because I look shabby and old,’ Peter Glen said, narrating for the man. ‘Give me the million dollars I have on account. I’m taking it out of here. I’m taking it across the street. You lose!’” At the time I found myself imitating that quote around my house so many times that my two young daughters memorized it, as well. (To this day, they can quote not only the words, but also the inflections.)

“Customer service or else or else or else,” Glen said in another video, and he’s right. Your shop might feature the finest craftsmanship for 100 miles in every direction, but if your customer service, um, sucks, then you won’t be crafting too many signs.

Customer service is cropping up in more and more interviews we’re doing, such as November’s “Sign Face” starring Joe Tindall, owner of GrandMark Signs in Lenexa, KS, and again this month with Mike Shin, project manager for NeonArt Sign Co. in Chicago (see ST January 2021, page 32). Both highlighted not only their own focus on first-rate customer service and, especially, continual communication with clients, but also their customers’ feedback as to just how rare good service in the sign industry is.

Meanwhile, our brand-new Brain Squad (signsofthetimes.com/brainsquad – join us!) is also swelling with members citing their non-design, non-fabrication and non-installation skills as highly as those that make the Instagram moments. Customer service, communication, relationship-development – all are necessary to achieve 20-year clients.

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So put down the hammer when the phone rings. Tab out of your design program to check and promptly reply to emails. Try to be the first to visit a potential client on-site. If what we’re hearing about these shortcomings within the sign industry is both widespread and true, you’ll soon be scheduled out through 2021.

Mark Kissling is ST’s Editor-in-Chief. Contact him at [email protected]

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