This month I’m celebrating my 15th Anniversary in business, don’t forget to sign up for your chance to win SmallBizLady’s 15 Days of Giveaways contest. Today is Part III of my 15 Things Series. Today we’ll discuss how to stay in business by providing outstanding customer service in your small business.
The real secret to getting customers to keep coming back is to deliver outstanding customer service. Good service should make the customer feel special and important to your business. Word-of-mouth marketing doesn’t just happen, you have to create it and that’s what it means to deliver the WOW. Every small business owner should have a strategy for exceeding expectations. When you really satisfy customers, your bottom-line will grow. This is not a luxury – providing outstanding service is something every business must do to stay in business.
Here are SmallBizLady’s Top 15 Strategies for Providing Outstanding Customer Service:
Keep Your Word: Don’t make promises to customers that you can’t keep. If you say you can do same day delivery, be there on time. If you offer free consultations make it easy to sign-up and get scheduled. You don’t want to break trust with the customer by not living up to your word.
Listen to Your Customer: As business owners, your primary job is the serve your customers so well that they want to keep doing business with you. If you’re a brick and mortar business, employees at the point-of-sale should engage customers during every purchase. It’s a natural opportunity to capture feedback. Develop a two question check-out survey or leave a comment card on the table. Don’t miss this opportunity to gain valuable customer insight.
Train Your Team: Your team is often the first point of contact for the customer so they must be trained to deliver great service. Make sure the person answering the telephone is trained on how they should greet customers. If you have email customer service through an ecommerce site give people guidelines on how to respond. Timeliness in response is key to online customer service.
Immediately Address Concerns: Tackle customer complaints, challenges or returns head on. No small business owner likes being attacked with negative comments or have products come back, but realize that feedback is an opportunity to learn and improve your business. When you address a customer’s concern right away, you build the relationship and they like, know and trust you more.
Appoint Decision Makers: Have you ever gone into a store or restaurant had a problem and been told “I have to get the manager”. This is a quick way to anger a customer because problems should be solved by the first point of contact. Create guidelines in your business that empower employees to make decisions. For example, you can tell them they can replace an order up to $30 without a manager or that if a customer is not completely happy with the service, give them a voucher to return at no additional cost.
Talk to Customers: What your customer first hired you for may not align with all their current needs. It’s important to meet with long term customers on a quarterly basis so that you never lose touch. You should also use survey monkey to gather data from your clients’ front line team to craft your offers to fit their needs.
Start with Yes: Train your team members to say yes. When customer asks for help (within reason) be ready to give them support. Don’t miss the opportunity to build loyalty showing the customer you can create extra value.
Offer Value Without Payment: We live in a freemium world. Customers want to try and experience what you have to offer before they buy. Have you ever purchased a product at the supermarket because someone offered you a taste test? Decide what items you can make available in your store that will deliver value before the prospect becomes a customer. A blog can be a great way to position your business as an invaluable resource.
Anticipate the Demand: A business that takes the extra step of anticipating customer needs can develop loyal repeat customers that accelerate sales. Take for example, if you run a flower shop and you know 100 customers last year ordered for their wives’ birthdays. Why not send them a reminder email a month in advance inviting them to order again.
Orient them to the Business: Most companies spend a lot of time selling to the customer and then neglect them once they get the business. Take time to introduce your customers to how your services work. Offer an introductory call, orientation session or welcome packet to get them familiar with how they can benefit from working with you. Determine what you can do to keep the relationship going once the contract is signed.
Say Thank You: Nobody owes you business. Take the time to say thank you to your customers for doing business with you. Set up an automated email series that goes out after they buy on your website or send a hand written thank you card when you ship the order. It’s easy to stand out from the crowd by showing a little bit of gratitude.
Create an Exclusive Offer: Make your existing customers feel appreciated by giving them an exclusive offer. Put together a coupon with a note that says “Thanks for doing business last month, here’s 20% off to share with a friend.” People really enjoy being treated special and knowing that they have a unique deal to pass along and you’ll create referral business.
Deliver Great Service on the Web, Too: Use a service such as livechat.com to answer questions to your website visitors right on your website. Make sure the hours this service is available are posted. Keep in mind your hours might need to be twelve hours per day to cover East and West coast customers and any international inquiries.
Know the Competition: You should always have your pulse on what other people in your industry are doing. This is fundamental to delivering a good service experience. Research and understand competitors’ customer service and figure out what you can do “better” than the competition. You’ll stay on top of the marketplace and position yourself as different for customers.
Develop a FAQ: There are questions that you get every day from customers. Have a meeting with your team and develop a list of frequently asked questions. Share the FAQ on your website, if clients have all the information they need, it’s easier to make a buying decision.
Great service is all about how people feel when they do business with you. Providing outstanding customer service creates word-of mouth marketing. If done well you can turn your best customers into an unpaid sales force for your small business.
What tactics have you used to deliver great customer service in your business?
Don’t miss out on my SmallBizLady’s 15 Days of Giveaways Contest March 5 through March 25th Every business day, we’re giving away a great prize worth $150 or more to help you in your small business. To participate, you must be a legal U.S. resident and signed up for my email list www.succeedasyourownboss.com/15daysofgiveaways Each day an email will be sent with the #15DaysofGIveaways link of the day. Between Noon-6pm ET you can post the link on Twitter or my Facebook Fan Page www.facebook.com/smallbizlady to qualify. One winner will be selected per day. Be sure to us the hashtag #15DaysofGIveaways. We have a ton of great prizes from sponsors including Sam’s Club, Google, Infusionsoft and Staples so stay tuned.