Estimated reading time: 7 mins
Having loyal customers is a very good indicator that you have a popular business that stands a very good chance of becoming a big success in the future, but before you can have a loyal following, you need to turn one-time customers into regulars. One of the most effective ways of convincing them to come back is by offering customer service which is attentive, effective and consistent. After all, there are few products and services that are completely original, so you need something to set your business apart from the rest; superior customer service is an undeniably good way to do this because who doesn’t want to be treated well when they’re handing over their hard-earned cash?
With that in mind, here are some often overlooked aspects of customer service that almost always pay off when they are implemented effectively:
Don’t Assume Anything
It’s so easy to get a customer service interaction wrong when you think you know what the customer wants without ever asking them. Even if you do know that Mr Wilson likes his tomatoes slightly on the green side or that Mrs Thompson enjoys being asked about the grandchildren as you complete her transactions, that could all change and you could end up putting your foot in it. It’s far better to let your customers take the lead. Listen to them, follow visual cues and only act when you are certain it’s the right thing to do. This will help your customers to feel far more relaxed which means they will walk away from any interactions with your business feeling good about the transaction.
Never Forget Existing Customers
One of the biggest mistakes businesses, especially new companies, make is not valuing the customers they already have highly enough. This is just plain stupid. Customers who have already worked with you, even if only once, have shown that they are interested in your business and that they are willing to spend money with you. Why would you ignore that? It will be far easier, not to mention cheaper, to keep them on board than it will be to bring in new customers (although you should always seek to do that too). So instead of giving 10 percent discounts or free delivery to new customers only, give your existing clients some love too. Make sure they know you value them and convince them that their decision to give you their custom was the right one and you’ll be well on your way to the kind of customer loyalty that most companies would kill for.
Train ALL Your Staff in Customer Service
Even if your business has its own customer service department, you should ensure that each and every member of staff, even those who are rarely likely to interact with customers, are trained in your company’s customer service experience. Why? Because you never know what is going to happen and who will be available to deal with a customer at any given moment. If they interact with the wrong person – someone who hasn’t been trained appropriately – it won’t matter how good your customer service department is because they will have already had a bad experience and they may not have any interest in dealing with your company further. If everyone understands how to handle customers, you can be certain that all customer interactions with your business will be good, come what may, and that has to be worth a little extra training, right?
Make it Person-Centred
Although many businesses are now based online and many customer service interactions are likely to be handled virtually, even in some cases by chatbots rather than humans, it is important that you do all you can to keep it human. People like to feel connected even when they are just making a complaint or querying the status of their order and if they feel they are being fobbed off or treated like a number, they will probably go elsewhere, so do what you can to make any interactions feel as real and personable as you can, even if they are being handled by a bot.
Let Customers Have Their Say
Something a lot of companies get wrong is forgetting that their customers are real people with their own preferences and opinions. If you want to get customer service right, you cannot afford to forget this. Customers really value companies who ask them what they think about the product or the service they were given, and they LOVE companies who ask for suggestions about improving the products and services PROVIDING they actually take feedback onboard. Anyway, why wouldn’t you ask for and listen to feedback when it will give you valuable information about the kind of things that customers will actually pay for. By seeking feedback, you cannot lose.
Okay, so this is so simple that it should be customer service 101; it shouldn’t even need stating, right? Wrong. Although lots of companies do teach their staff the value of smiling and being as warm as possible towards customers, there are many who don’t. We’ve all dealt with reception staff who are scowly and unhelpful, haven’t we? They tend to put us off, don’t they?
The thing about a smile is that it is contagious, it instantly warms up the customer and inclines them to like you. Not only that, but when you talk through a smile you sound perkier and more helpful, which is certainly a bonus in the customer service world. Of course, natural smiles are infinitely better than fake ones, so maybe work on keeping your staff happy and the rest will sort itself out, which brings us to…
Happy employees are going to be naturally inclined to do their best, help your customers with a smile, and generally be good ambassadors for your brand. That is why, if you want to offer excellent customer service, you need to do what you can to make them feel happy, healthy and secure at work, whether that means you hire security guards, stock the vending machines with healthy food, increase vacation time, or give more awards to your employees when they do a good job. The happier they are, the happier the customers will be, and the bigger your profits.
Know Your Stuff
Something that can really help you and your team to deliver superior customer service is being an expert in the products and services you offer. For example, if you run a cycle shop, hiring cyclists who know how to choose the right bike, how to keep a chain in good working order and what equipment can make long rides easier, is going to be of an advantage. They will know how to answer any questions the customer may have without skipping a beat, and this will make for a better overall experience.
Don’t Make Promises You Can’t Keep
Where some small businesses screw up is in offering things that they cannot possibly hope to achieve for very long at least. It’s easy to offer and fulfil expedited shipping free of charge for your first few orders, for example, but after that you’ll end up running out of money It’s even easier to claim that your product will change lives, but if that isn’t true, it’s not going to do your company any good in the long run. The cornerstone of good customer service is honestly. If you accurately tell customers what they can expect from you, and you fulfil that promise, chances are they will have no cause for complaint in the first place, and you will need to do very little more to provide excellent customer service. Of course, things can and do go wrong occasionally, but as long as, when they do, you hold your hands up and do what you can to make it right fast, they won’t hold it against you.
Make it Memorable
Finally, try to make every encounter a customer has with you as memorable as it can possibly be. You can do this by going the extra mile for your customers whether that means giving them lots of useful information on the products you’re selling or helping them carry their goods to their car. You could also give them freebies now and again, or even just money-off coupons to ensure you aren’t forgotten. What’s important is that every interaction has a marker by which they can remember you. If your company is forgettable and your customer service is merely lacklustre, there will be absolutely no incentive for the customer to keep choosing you time after time after time, and that is the ultimate aim of any business.
It can be tough to get customer service right, but if you are always polite and you always take the time to incorporate the above measures into your customer service policy, you cannot go far wrong. Your customers are the most important asset you have, so do everything you can to keep them happy and keep them coming back and you are sure to be prosperous now and in the future.