November 28, 2019 By SmartBiz Team

Many businesses have similar products or services. How can yours rise to the top? One of the best ways to build a loyal customer base is to provide blue ribbon customer service. After all, retaining existing customers costs less than attracting new ones.

Here are tips to ensure that your customers will experience quality service every time they engage with your business.

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1. Understand customer needs

You can’t meet consumer needs and provide a high level of service if you don’t know who your customers are. Research your customers from both a demographic view and a lifestyle perspective. Demographics include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Race
  • Marital status
  • Children (if any)
  • Occupation
  • Annual income
  • Education level

Lifestyle encompasses:

  • How customers live
  • What they do for living
  • Interests
  • Opinions

Don’t just collect data. Consistently check in with customers about your processes for purchasing, ordering, and delivery. In addition to actively listening, you can also pay attention to online reviews or have customers fill out a satisfaction survey.

Once you collect information, use it to help shape your customer service strategy. Review feedback regularly, recognize areas where you can improve and make specific changes to implement improvements.

2. Provide consistent customer service

Customers expect consistency. It’s crucial to not only deliver good customer service initially, but to keep on delivering service at the same or higher level every time.

A lot of customer service training is focused on processes like how to use the computer software, what forms to fill out, how to enter orders, etc. But employees also need training to deal consistently with tough situations and difficult customers.

Consistency can be the most challenging aspect of handling customer issues. Your employees have different personalities, might have been hired at different times, and may work in different departments. Consistency of training will help them all get on the same page. Focus on providing each member of your team with a clear roadmap on how to create great customer experiences and resolve difficult situations. You also need to empower employees to go off the map if needed. When they do, the responses and solutions need to be consistent across the board.

3. Treat employees well

Employee management can be the most difficult part of small business ownership. Dealing with a variety of temperaments and varied skill sets, on top of your other responsibilities, requires a delicate balancing act. Set yourself up for success by creating a positive and supportive company culture. Here are guidelines from our blog post 5 Simple Things to Make Your Small Business Employee Happy.

  • Show employees that you care
    Get to know your customer service team. Ask them about their life outside of the office as well as how they like their job. Showing an interest in your employees makes them feel valued.
  • Practice transparency
    Transparency builds trust and supports a team atmosphere. Your employees can probably sense when things behind the scenes aren’t going well. Share an appropriate amount of company information-good or not so good-to help your team feel included.
  • Recognize employees performing well
    You don’t have to break the bank here. A gift card, free lunch, or even a day off can go a long way. One low-cost and creative recognition idea is to have a traveling trophy to recognize top performers. Think fun and meaningful.
  • Be approachable
    Being approachable leads to stronger employee relationships and gives you an opportunity to hear new ideas. An approachable boss is available at meetings, for private conversations, and even when strolling through the office.

If you have a customer service employee that’s not performing well, check out our article about how to turn it around. You’ll learn how to listen, take action, and reward victories: 4 Ways to Improve the Performance of Underperforming Employees.

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4. Provide a variety of communication channels

The old “800 number” only isn’t going to cut it in this digital age. Make sure all of your channels have contact information prominently displayed. Customers don’t want to hunt for a way to contact your business for orders or issues.

Don’t forget to look over contact information appearing on review sites like Yelp or Google reviews as well as on receipts, your blog, promotional items, and social media channels. If you have a bricks and mortar location, have a knowledgeable employee on site. They need to be trained in customer service practices to handle face-to-face customer interaction.

You don’t have to respond via just one channel. Here’s an example of how to use multiple methods to resolve a customer service issue:

  1. The customer calls your 800 number to report an issue.
  2. Your employee records the problem and sends an email with a tracking number to the customer
  3. Once the problem is resolved, the customer receives a text with next steps.

5. Respond quickly

A recent customer satisfaction study showed that 41% of consumers surveyed listed being put on hold as their biggest frustration. Don’t leave customers waiting. Have systems in place to answer phone calls, return emails, and manage online chats. Responding quickly can lead to a long term relationship.

If you can’t resolve the issue, acknowledge it swiftly. The customer can move on and you won’t waste valuable time.

6. Fix mistakes

Once you have a grasp of the customer service issue, come up with a reasonable solution. Does the customer want a refund? A new or different product? A discount or freebie?

If you're not sure what the customer wants from you or if they push back on your suggested solution, help them identify what would make them satisfied. For instance, you could say, "If my solution doesn't work for you, I'd love to hear how we can resolve the problem and make you happy. If it's in my power I'll get it done. If it’s not possible, we can work on a solution together."

Our article, How to Handle Customer Complaints in 7 Steps, gives additional guidelines to help you resolve the situation like making a quick follow-up phone call or offering a simple apology. The cost of making things right can be minimal and could result in future sales, a referral, or a positive word-of-mouth recommendation.

Additional Resources

Here’s an article with examples of great customer service from Zappos, Starbucks, Southwest Airlines, and other corporations. You’ll learn how these big brands can turn problems into positives: 6 Best Examples of Good Customer Service. This blog post goes into more detail about why top-notch customer service is a must: 9 Reasons Why Customer Service is So Important.

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