CUSTOMER SERVICE • April 2, 2015
2 minutes Read
There is one powerful edge that small businesses can offer: superior customer service.
Once-a-year promotions aren’t enough to keep a small business running. It takes a healthy customer base to keep your business alive and growing, and in order to attract and keep customers you have to show them that you can offer something the big competitors can’t. Here are three tips that can make you stand out and inspire customers to come to you first.
1. Be super-responsive.
In these extremely impersonal times, going the extra mile to “be there” for your customers can give you a genuine edge over the giants. If you have a brick-and-mortar operation it goes without saying that you and your team should be attentive to everyone who walks through the door. Make sure you’re adequately staffed to handle the customer flow, and be sure each and every member of your team is trained not only in product knowledge or delivery of services but also in customer relations. Superior product knowledge/expertise and personalized service can be powerful magnets for repeat business, prompting customers to choose your little shop over the big-box retailer down the freeway. When customers send you an email, you should respond within 48 hours, but preferably sooner (set up an autoresponder to acknowledge the email as soon as it comes in). Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter are also a great way to remain in contact with customers and potential customers, almost in real time. As a business owner you may not have the time to spend on social media, so get a skilled and trusted staff member to handle it for you. Just be sure that you regularly monitor the conversation to make sure your social media presence is a positive reflection of your business. Whether a customer has a complaint, a question, or a compliment, every customer deserves a polite, professional and prompt response.
2. Always keep your promises (and try to deliver a little more than you promise).
This sounds so basic and obvious, but we often forget this in both our business and our personal lives. Whether you’re selling a product, a service, or both, reliability is one of the foundations of a successful business. Very simply, don’t make a promise if you aren’t absolutely sure you can keep it. If you tell a customer that their product will be delivered on the 25th, make sure it is delivered on the 25th. Think carefully before you make any promise or commitment, and train your staff the same way. Few things annoy customers more than a broken promise. And whenever and however it is appropriate to do so, always deliver a little more than you promise. Instead of over-promising and under-delivering, strive to err on the side of under-promising and over-delivering. Your customers will be pleasantly surprised and will remember you for it.
3. Do your absolute best to resolve complaints. Dealing with customer complaints is a fact of life when you’re in business. For the sake of good customer relations, it’s almost always better to err on the side of believing that “the customer is always right,” even if you sometimes have to bite your tongue. More than likely the majority of customer complaints you’ll get will be legitimate and can be resolved by listening carefully and empathetically to the customer, and offering to make things right. The key word is empathy: put yourself in the customer’s shoes, without taking the complaint personally. Do everything you can to keep the problem from escalating. And as is the case with keeping your commitments, if at all possible give the customer more than he or she expected; that’s a great way to win a customer for life. A customer complaint may seem like a problem, but in most cases it’s a chance to salvage a valued relationship. Take advantage of that opportunity, and of course make sure you’ve trained your staff to do so as well.
As the “shop around the corner,” or the online boutique business, you can still maintain an edge over the giants and other competitors if you always strive to provide not just adequate, not just good, but unbeatable customer service.
Photo credit: William Perugini/shutterstock.com
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