As technology has advanced over the past decade, so has customer service. In the early 2000s we saw the shift from phone support to email. Today, customer service comes in the form of self-service portals, live chat and even apps! Many businesses have successfully incorporated social media channels into their support strategies as well. This comes as no surprise considering that we as consumers ourselves take to Twitter, Facebook and Yelp when looking to sharing constructive feedback about delivery delays, poor customer service, defective products, and more; not to mention the occasional positive shout out too!
Today you will see:
- Brands creating customer service Twitter accounts that focus solely on support issues. (Best Buy does this well.)
- Positive and negative brand interactions posted on Facebook for everyone to see.
- Online reviews that call out a specific restaurant location, waiter’s name and details about the service overall.
What has not changed? The power of good or bad customer service, and the direct effect it can have on creating loyal customers.
Studies show that the majority of customers (70%) are willing to spend more for excellent customer service , and even more (89%) will seek out the competition after a poor customer experience.
Businesses should be customer centric by understanding customer needs and buying behavior. Fit Small Business's guide to becoming a more customer centric business is a great resource to accomplishing just that.
Due to their size and flexibility, small businesses have a unique advantage when it comes to providing excellent service that results in long-time loyal customers. But the ‘How’ may still be a wonder.
Being small and nimble is an advantage when it comes to managing quality, training, and product on-site. Below are 7 ways a small business owner can enhance customer experiences and react to issues in a swift and customized manner.
#1. Get Personal
Small businesses are known for having better relationships with their customers when compared to larger stores. An easy way to personalize customer service is to ask for the customer’s name. Every customer has a name, but only 21% of employees ask for it. Knowing your most loyal customers and even taking the time to learn their favorite order, can go a long way. (Tall latte with soy milk, please!)
#2. Wronging A Right Goes A Long Way
Every business has “off days” when mistakes are made. The good news is that most customers are rather forgiving. If a complaint is resolved, up to 70% of customers will visit that business again. Adopt this humble approach when you just can't seem to catch a break. Most customers will empathize and appreciate your candor!
#3. The Devil Is In The Details
Excellent customer service doesn’t stop at employee-customer interactions. Keeping up appearances with stocked items, clean tables, and product quality can positively impact a customer’s experience. As a business owner, design and enforce a schedule to keep your businesses’ amenities and customer-facing operations up to snuff.
#4. Take Feedback Seriously, Not Personally
Although working with dissatisfied customers may not be the cherry on top of your sundae, know that you're only hearing from 4% of your customer base. While it’s tough to take criticism, use this constructive feedback to enhance the customer experience, and act upon it when valid. Conversely, when you receive positive customer feedback, be sure to incorporate more of what was liked, and take note of who your best customers are for extra-special service.
#5. Highlight Excellent Customer Service
If customer service is important to you, then your entire team should be aware and be working towards providing an excellent experience, everyday. Recognize employees who exemplify best-in-class customer service, and do so in front of your entire team. Consider implementing a monthly award for your staffer who provides the best service with a smile.
#6. Respond Quickly
Questions, concerns, complaints? Don’t sit on them for days. When contacting a business by email, 41% of customers expect a response within 6 hours. Over 80% of customers who reach out via Twitter expect a same-day response. As a small business owner, you clearly can’t do it all, but try to carve out time once a day to visit and respond to reviews online. Why? Well, a one star increase on Yelp results in 5-9% in revenue.
#7. Reward Your Most Loyal Customers
The most successful small businesses rely on their community of local customers. Even with the best coffee and muffins in town, customers may stray for convenience competitors, prices, and more. Loyalty programs increase the amount customers spend over time and encourage them to visit more often. Make sure your loyalty program shows customers you care!