Customer service can make or break any small business. With information about businesses available lightning fast on various review platforms, word-of-mouth is more important than ever. Here are reasons why customer service should be a priority for every small business.
Reasons to offer great customer service
Increases trust and customer loyalty
There’s no better way to crush customer loyalty than providing sub-par service. A customer who has a swift and satisfying interaction with your business is much more inclined to return and spend their dollars with you again.
Customer retention is cheaper than acquisition
It costs five times as much to attract a new customer then to keep a current one. If you don’t retain your customer base, your business costs can rise and you’ll have to outlay more money to attract and convert new customers.
Customer spending is impacted
A study by American Express found that 58% of consumers are willing to spend more on companies that provide excellent customer service. That means your prices don’t have to compete with giant corporations. You can offer your shoppers a personalized customer service. experience.
Customers return more often
There are very few businesses that don’t rely on repeat customers. Once you’ve spent the time, energy, and resources required to get a customer, you want to keep them around. Shoppers remember positive customer service experiences and will want to give you their business again.
Generates positive word-of-mouth referrals
We’ve all been told stories about bad customer service. But good customer service stories get shared as well. In fact, 88% of consumers placed the highest level of trust in word-of-mouth recommendations from people they know.
Give your customers the opportunity to easily share their good experience with your company. Provide a way for happy customers to share reviews on Yelp or your Google Reviews page. If you do get an unfavorable review, check out this article from the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: How to Respond to Customer Reviews the Smart Way.
Offer customers who write a positive review a small token of your appreciation. That could be anything from a discount on a future purchase or even a gift card for $5.00 to a nearby coffee shop.
Increases brand awareness
When consumers consider a purchase of products or services you offer, you want your company to be top of mind. The reputation and awareness of your brand can impact marketing efforts, consumer perception, and ultimately your bottom line. One of the easiest ways to build brand awareness is by offering excellent customer service.
Customers will be more willing to give you a break if they are unhappy with your product or service. If they know complaints are handled swiftly and effectively, they won’t be hesitant to give your business another try.
Once you understand the importance of offering great customer service, it’s time to train those on your team that communicate directly with your customers. Here are elements to incorporate into your customer service program.
Steps to implement great customer service
1. Clear communication
Communicating clearly can increase sales, repeat business, and customer referrals. Your website should have an easily accessible page where customers can address any issues and get answers. Here are 4 ways you or your team should communicate with customers.
- Make a good first impression with a friendly greeting and introduction. As an example: “Hello! My name is _____. How can I help you today?” Answering with just the name of the company like “XYZ Plumbing” can sound cold and distant.
- Stay staffed adequately so customers know they are valued and issues can be addressed promptly.
- Prioritize calls. Busy small businesses get lots of calls and email every day. Take a look at the types of communication you receive and put customer service calls at the top of the list.
- Don’t be a robot! Treat customers like real people. Toss the scrips and work with your team to adopt a friendly tone and communication style you’d use in your personal life.
2. Use positive language and convey a positive attitude
There are customer service responses that no consumer spending their hard-earned money wants to hear. These include:
- I don’t know...
- We can’t…
- You can’t…
- Calm down…
Replace these negative responses with language that assures customers. Incorporate positive works like:
You’ve probably spoken to harried or rude customer service reps and you probably didn’t shop with that company again. As the old adage goes, “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”
- Negative language: "That product won’t be on hand until late next month. We have many back orders and it’s unavailable at this time."
- Positive language: "That product will be available next month. I’ll place the order for you right now and sent to you as soon as it reaches our warehouse!"
3. CARP Method for Angry Customers
Hopefully, you never have a customer contact you out of anger. But it happens. The CARP method was developed by best-selling business author Robert Bacal to help customer service teams appropriately sequence and address hostile customers. The steps are outlined below are from Bacal’s book Diffusing Hostile Customers Workbook: A Self-Instructional Workbook For Public Sector Employees.
- Control – This is a subtle technique to send a message that bullying is simply not going to work. Be firm, be professional, and stay calm.
- Acknowledge – An angry person wants to be understood. Use empathy and active listening to diffuse the situation.
- Refocus – Once you’ve dealt with the emotions, refocus so you can address the actual problem.
- Problem Solve – Problem-solving involves gathering all pertinent information, offering a solution, being helpful and following through on action items.
4. Close a conversation
A quote from a Latin writer born in 25 B.C. expresses why an appropriate conversation close is so important:
“You can accomplish by kindness what you cannot by force.”
– Pubilius Syrus
It’s important to meet your goals and close a conversation appropriately to get the best customer service results. Here are some examples of polite email closing that will show the customer you appreciate your business and were happy to help:
- Please let us know if you need further assistance.
- Should you have any questions, please me know.
- We hope you will find our recommendations useful.
- Thank you for cooperation on this matter.
- Thank you for your assistance.
Phone call sign offs are important as well. Here are guidelines:
- Thank the caller summarize what you did for the customer.
- Tell the caller you appreciate their business.
- Offer future help and willingness to assist in the future.
- Say goodbye but always let the caller hang up first. (You don’t want the caller to feel brushed off or unimportant)
5. Offer a timely response
The business world moves fast these days thanks in part to email and effective customer service systems. Don’t let your business fall behind. A lag in addressing an issue or answering a question can result in losing a customer and/or poor word-of-mouth recommendations.
According research from Superoffice of 1,000 companies, the average response time to respond to customer service requests is 12 hours and 10 minutes. These days, that's too long.
6. Help customers help themselves
Most small businesses can’t afford to have 24/7 customer service. Help should always be available, even when you aren’t. Screenshots, videos, in depth FAQs, and more convey to your customers that you care - even when you’re not available. Don’t forget about your social media channels. They should include clear contact information and a link to your website.
7. Use strategic automation
Automated customer service is a type of support provided by artificial intelligence. Examples of an automated system are a website help center or a chatbot. The benefits include being able to connect with customers 24/7 and reducing your human support costs. Compare product features and ratings for a selection of Customer Service Software on the Capterra review website.
Customer Service Software can include:
- Live chat - This option is a flexible tool you can implement for use on your website. It helps you directly support customers when they need it. In addition to customer service, you can answer questions and engage with customers ready to buy. Increase your sales and generate new leads.
- Help desk tool - A helpdesk is a tool that helps your business respond to customer more quickly and effectively. A helpdesk helps your customer service team offer the best and swiftest possible experience to your customers.
- CRM tool - CRM stands for Customer Relationship Management. This tool helps manage a company's contact with current and potential customers. It uses data analysis about customers' history with a company to improve relationships with customers. CRM focuses on customer retention and sales growth.
8. Use data
Customer service programs have become more and more complicated as internet-based interactions that frequently don’t involve any human-to-human interaction become popular.
Your business is now able to collect and analyze data from information collected in each transaction. Data can improve your customer service by helping to figure out your customer base, understand the entire customer journey, know customer needs before they ask, and improve internal processes. Gathering and analyzing data can help you perfect your customer interactions and give your business an edge over the competition.
9. Company website
Research-based user experience firm NN/g recently conducted user studies to understand how people approach customer service activities on the web and how websites provide support. They found that users were generally successful at finding customer service information on websites although the path was not always straightforward. Study participants had to work hard to find information they needed and the process often included a lot of trial and error with users unnecessarily visiting many different pages on the site.
Consumers are likely to make your website a first stop if they have a customer service issue. Make sure your contact information, including email, phone number, and hours available are displayed prominently.
No matter how great your products or services, no matter how on point your customer relationships are, there will come a time when you have to deal with an unhappy customer. The Carey School of Business found that only 37% of upset customers were satisfied when offered something in return. However, if the business apologized in addition to providing compensation, satisfaction increased to 74%.
11. Provide rewards
After offering a sincere apology, ask the customer what you can do to make it right. That might be a replacement product, a discount on a future purchase, free shipping, etc. Although compensating a customer can cut into your profits, it’s worth it. This strategy can help you retain the customer and garner positive word-of-mouth recommendations.