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Oct 15, 2013 | 4 comments
How many rules out of ten does your business follow? It’s not a new or novel concept, but customer service always matters in any size business and yours is no exception. Remember that even mammoth companies like Apple, Amazon and FedEx take customer service very seriously, making it even more essential for small businesses to offer the same piece of mind for their customers.
Lessons learned from the big players can easily be adapted and implemented in your business. Customers are all looking for a few essential elements that make their experience pleasant and evoke their loyalties.
Customers don’t want to wait around for answers and your first response should be the answer they need. Being available 24/7 online is a great way to offer service that’s on par with bigger companies. Giving customers the ability to text you sets you apart from the competition. Even if you simply provide a frequently asked questions section on your website, you offer timely answers in a world where minutes matter. Offering virtual help through chat on your website or a knowledge base of informative articles can set you high above the competition.
Most customers aren’t looking for more than a listening ear. It’s just like in any relationship, the person on the other end of the line just wants to know that they were heard, understood and that the company can identify with their situation. Even when outcomes don’t necessarily meet the initial expectation of the customer, showing empathy can create a satisfied customer and maintain positive brand impressions.
Sometimes the policies in place around your product or service don’t fit the situation. You may find yourself dealing with extreme and unusual situations (like a customer who is an extremely irritated Sasquatch). Your customers will appreciate when you acknowledge a special case and offer a fair solution. You don’t want to bend the rules for every little request, but in extenuating circumstances, customers appreciate when you empathize and reason like a person, not a corporation.
Recognize when circumstances have turned for the worst, graciously accept the blame and admit you were wrong. Humility can calm anger faster than a refund. Don’t just give angry customers their money back and let them go away still angry. Admit you were ￼wrong, accept the blame, and issue a great apology. Fully acknowledge what you should have done instead and go out of your way to go beyond that.
Going the extra mile to make the situation right and exceeding the customer’s expectations will have more of a far-reaching, lasting impression than just doing it right in the first place.
Use friendly greetings, customer’s names, and by all means thank them for their business and loyalty. Even if you don’t plan on implementing customer loyalty programs, at least create a culture of gratitude. It can be as simple as having a “customer appreciation day,” or the pleasant greeting of a customer service representative who uses positive language to create a satisfying experience.
Customers readily provide you with information about themselves and ask questions often more than once. If they’ve called, submitted a request, or even done an exchange you should have a record of that. Whenever a customer contacts your company in the future, you should have general knowledge of the relationship they have had with you so far. Knowing their history helps you to provide excellent service and makes them feel cared for and satisfied throughout their experience. Using a ticket system allows you to manage customer emails and form submissions, keeping all their data centrally located and archived for easy retrieval and updating.
If you can grant a request, do it. You aren’t going to get requests every day all day that are outside of your normal operations, so when it’s something that doesn’t require a lot of effort, time or money on your part, oblige your customers. Again, you are setting yourself apart as a company that reasons like a person and responds in a personal way. Something your customers rarely get elsewhere.
Your customers have some of the greatest ideas that can grow your business, right on the tip of their tongues. All that you have to do is ask them to tell you. Feedback from a reasonably critical voice can be the key to understanding exactly what you need change in order to really appeal to your customer base.
Don’t just ask for feedback and stay stagnant. Use the information to your advantage, and let customers know you’re listening. Dominoes pizza is a great example of this process. I don’t know a single person that liked Dominoes pizza 5 years ago. But today their business is booming beyond belief, all resurrected by the message that they listened when their customers told them their pizza sucked. They didn’t just admit they had a bad product, they changed it. I know, myself, I was impressed by their changes and these days when I do order delivery…I order dominoes.
None of these strategies can take your business anywhere if you don’t have well trained, enthusiastic and capable customer service employees. Give them the most effective training you can and make the process well documented and repeatable. Make sure your employees have access to top of the line tools to make their job simple and streamlined.
A knowledge base is a great resource for training new employees, retaining company policies and informing and educating your customers. So no matter where your customers get information, the message of your customer service representatives is positively reinforced publicly.
The bottom line is… the big companies who do customer service the right way, haven’t lost sight of the small shop mentality. Do what makes the individual feel understood and valued… and by all means, make it personal!
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