Consumers consistently cite customer service as a critical factor in choosing (or staying with) a business. Cost, value and quality are important, too. But they quickly lose significance if customer service falls short.
Be that as it may, many small business owners don’t have a well-planned customer service strategy. Nor do they teach their employees important customer service skills. The result? Customer service failures, which more often than not come at a very high cost.
So, how do you make your customer service experience as good as or better than the product or service you sell? Here are a few tips from the experts on making your customer service shine.
No 1. Arm your employees with the right skills
No one is born knowing how to work with customers. And if you’re a growing company, chances are good that many of your employees are relatively new. So teaching them how to make the customer experience positive and enjoyable is a must.
What are the most important skills for an employee engaged in customer service? (This includes almost everyone!) Here’s a quick overview of the top five:
- Empathy and patience: Customer service interactions can be trying. Train your employees to put themselves in the customer’s shoes and listen patiently to what they have to say.
- Clarity: The old adage “Mean what you say and say what you mean,” applies here. Neither you nor your employees should make empty promises or unclear representations of fact. Be honest and straightforward, even if you’re delivering bad news. It will pay off in the end.
- Expertise: It’s nearly impossible to answer a customer’s questions or solve a problem if you don’t have the knowledge you need. Make sure your employees have a clear understanding of the features, benefits, and ins and outs of your product before you let them interact with customers.
- Adaptability: Teach your employees to be prepared for anything and give them lots of opportunities to think on their feet. Customer issues come in all shapes and sizes. Expect the unexpected, and you won’t be caught off guard.
- Tenacity: It’s easy to brush off a disgruntled customer, or leave a difficult problem only half solved. Make sure your employees know that the customer service interaction isn’t over until the customer says they’re 100 % satisfied.
No. 2 Personalize the experience
One of the worst aspects of technology is that it puts us at arm’s length from our customers and depersonalizes the experience of customer support. All too often, what we as business owners see as a “streamlined process,” may feel to the customer like “passing the buck.” Some of the most common customer issues include long wait times; being shuffled from one department to the next; and dealing with employees who don’t seem to care — all of which are issues that the “personal touch” can resolve.
How can you get more personal with your customers? Here are a few things you can try:
- Follow up every inquiry with an automated email response. Then call or email the customer with a personalized reply within a reasonable time frame — 24 hours at the absolute most.
- Use social media to communicate. If you have a supply chain issue going on, you can tell a lot of customers quickly by sending out a Tweet to your followers and posting a notice on your Facebook page.
- Keep a VIP list. If you have a core group of repeat customers, make them feel special by assigning a dedicated customer service person to deal with all of their issues — big and small. And remember to update the list regularly so your best new clients don’t fall through the cracks.
No. 3. Ask for Feedback
Being proactive is essential to good customer service. Not every unhappy customer is going to come to you with their issue. In fact, according to Colin Shaw on LinkedIn, 97 percent of unhappy customers don’t complain. Most of them (91 percent) just leave and never come back. If you want to retain those disgruntled customers, you need to ask them how things went. As the saying goes, you can’t fix something if you don’t know it’s broken.
The best time to get customer feedback is generally right after you deliver a service or they buy a product from you. If the interaction is face to face, have your sales people hand the client a brief customer satisfaction survey before they leave your store. (And encourage them to fill it out on the spot!) If it’s online, send them an email or text message asking them how things went. And if the interaction was over the phone, ask them to answer a brief phone survey at the end of the call.
Social media is another a great way to elicit feedback. But there, too, being proactive is key. Post a short customer satisfaction survey on Facebook or Twitter, and offer a special discount or free delivery to customers who fill it out.
Customer service is the heart and soul of your business. Take the time to do it right and your customers will reward you by coming back again and again.
At the Carmoon Group, we work hard to help your business thrive. Each of our dedicated professionals has the expertise and experience to help you strategize solutions to your challenges, no matter how tough they may be. So give us a call today to set up an appointment to discuss your needs. Or simply reach out online and we’ll get back to you right away.