One of our virtual office clients was picking up his mail the other day and noticed how our receptionist was providing customer service to the client of one of our tenants who was not in the office when the client showed up at reception. The person who noticed this was so impressed that he sent us a note saying it.
Providing good customer service is a key factor in customer retention. Building a reputation of quality service and good customer relations is very more important for small business owners and entrepreneurs. The reason is that bigger or more established players in your industry may have the customers you want. You have to show your potential customers and the ones you have already retained, that you can deliver better for the same product or service they are looking for.
Having a knowledge of customer service and how it is currently delivered in your industry is very important. As you develop your customer-care plans (not just your official policies), you need to know what customers in your industry expect and may be getting from your competition. But your research should not stop there – you also need to know the strategies that other companies (who are known for their top quality customer service) utilize. Performing customer service “on the fly” without a plan could be a factor in not retaining a customer, even one that is usually loyal to you.
Trying to surpass your competition in your written policy will probably not be enough. You have to also have the right approach and attitude towards your potential customer. Being prepared is the first step in providing quality customer service and maximum client retention.
Let us first discuss some pillars of customer service.
Quality customer service starts with a quality product or service. Customer service does not begin with complaints or problems; it begins when you first deliver to customers the product or service they need for their businesses. They have trusted you to deliver them what you sold them to do the job they need it to do. If you don’t deliver that what they expected, they may be an unhappy one-time customer that still wants you to fix the shortfalls. Even if your product is the best in the industry, if you do not deliver the product or service in the way your customers or clients expect, they may seek out the second best.
Being timely in delivering your product or service is one of the most important things to consider. To the ‘just in time’ digital generation, they want to know that you can deliver when you say you can – otherwise they will move to a competitor. One of the best ways to ensure that you keep your word and get them what they need can be be summed up in an old marketing saying “under promise and over deliver.” This strategy can go a long way.
Having a plan and being prepared before things go wrong will go a long way with a customer. If foreseeable or even unforeseeable problems occur, keep customers in the loop and let them know your back-up plans before they need to call you with the problem. Being proactive by acknowledging the problem before they find it will assure them that you are on top of matters and can resolve the problems.
Don’t just promote yourself on social media; keep an eye out on social media regarding how your product or service is received. Your customers are everywhere and not just following you on social media. They have their own uses for social media. Most businesses who are your customers or potential clients are on social media, so you have to make sure that you’re listening to their demands not only about your product or service, but what they are delivering to their own customers. Listen on Twitter. Listen on Google Plus. Listen on Facebook. Listen on forums and online communities they are typically on. Keeping up with what your customers are saying and doing will put you ahead of the game.
Don’t forget that customers are also humans. While many of today’s start-ups depend heavily on technology for communications and promotions, they forget that building a strong business and business relationship also requires the human touch. It is great that you take advantage of what social media technologies can offer you, but remember that they are not substitutes for picking up the phone or talking face-to-face with clients or customers. This is especially true when things are on plan and on schedule. The customer will appreciate that you are looking out for them.
Update, update, update your customers. Keeping your customers “In the Know” about what is changing in your industry and how you deliver the products and services you do. Most business websites have a FAQ section, but never bother to update it and allow it to go stale. Updating your social media is fine, but take what you learn from the questions and comments on your social media channels to update your FAQ’s and policies. Your knowledge bases or self-service systems need to reflect the needs of your future customers based on the experience of your current customers. If they are not relevant with current changes, you will not be perceived as being knowledgeable.
Have a system in place to keep track of customer issues and how they were resolved. That includes all the steps in getting back to that customer to help you improve how you deliver service. Finding out that a customer had a bad experience and that they contacted your business is one thing. But not replying in a timely fashion could be detrimental to retaining that customer. If you don’t have a system to track it, you will find that the customer has gone elsewhere and may have even posted online about their experience.
Be on top of complaint boards and review sites. Set aside some time each month to Google yourself using your business name and complaints. Most complaint or customer review sites allow business owners or representatives to publicly reply to a comment or complaint. Addressing the problem early with the right response shows that you care – and take immediate action to respond to customer problems. It shows you are a business that is willing to accept a problem and deal with it quickly and professionally.
These are some of many tips and techniques we have experienced, but there is a plethora of information on the Internet that can help you better your customer service needs. You just need to find the best advice that serves the needs of your small business.