Providing excellent customer service is one of the best ways for small businesses to retain clients and get customers coming back again and again. Good customer service can also be a powerful way to differentiate your business from the competition and encourage your target audience to choose your business over the rest.
The principles behind good customer service are fairly simple, but many businesses fail to incorporate these simple actions into their customer relationships and fall short when it comes to providing excellent and memorable customer service. Here are some ways to become known for being a business owner who cares about his/her customers and their satisfaction.
Provide Multiple Lines of Communication
Part of good customer service is being accessible, in all of the ways your customers may want to reach you. This is important whether you run a physical brick-and-mortar store or an online business.
At a minimum you should provide a telephone number, email address and mailing address that is regularly monitored. It may also make sense in your industry to provide a live online support desk, instant message contact information, or links to your company's social media accounts.
Once you have set up your methods of communication, you should make them easily accessible to your customers by including them on your website, in your email signature, and on all of your online and printed marketing materials.
Respond Quickly and Thoroughly
It's not enough to have multiple ways for your customers to contact you; you also need to be responsive to their questions, comments, feedback and complaints. Perhaps one of the easiest ways to fail at customer service is by ignoring customer requests or waiting too long to resolve problems.
Whether the feedback you receive is positive or negative, you should have a standard response process that addresses every customer individually in a timely manner. The perfect turnaround time for responding will depend on your business, your clients and your products and services. A good rule of thumb is to provide some kind of response within two business days, even if it is a statement telling the customer that you received their request and will be back in touch with more information soon.
Walk a Mile In Your Customer's Shoes
You know the saying, "The customer is always right?" Well, that may not be entirely true in every situation, but at a minimum, the customer always thinks he or she is right. If you understand this and try to put yourself in your customer's shoes, you are better positioned to listen and hear what an angry or disappointed customer is really saying without automatically becoming defensive.
Then, once you get to the heart of the problem, you can be accountable for what went wrong, and work with the customer to devise an acceptable resolution.
Ask for Feedback
It's important to find out what your customers think of your products and services, how they think you can improve, and whether or not they would recommend your company to others.
There are many options for asking your customers for feedback. You can ask for feedback informally during one-on-one conversations, create a structured survey, or even ask on a larger scale such as through a focus group. The key is to use any feedback you receive to improve your business, enhance the customers' experience, and minimize the potential for future dissatisfaction.
It's also a good idea to always thank your customers for providing their input, and share the results to your staff or team so everyone has the same information when identifying areas of improvement.
Focus on the Relationship, Not the Sale
One of your business goals may be to generate an impressive revenue stream, but you can't do that without your customers. This is why it's so important to put the focus of your day-to-day activities on your current and prospective customers and not solely on closing the sale. Happy customers are repeat customers, and if you show them how important they are to you -- before, during and after the sale -- they are more likely to come back to your business again and again.
It takes time and consistency to develop a reputation for providing excellent customer service, but with the right foundation of customer service excellence you can position your business for repeat clients and long-term relationships.