Consumers are pickier than ever. Since they are inundated with choices on the internet, attracting them to your business and earning their loyalty is increasingly difficult. Being pretty good just isn’t good enough anymore. Excellent customer service makes for a truly memorable experience that clients are likely to tell their friends about.
Service should be at or near the top of your list of core values. It should frequently come up for discussion. It should always be considered an area in which there is room for improvement. Businesses that put service on the back burner simply can’t compete these days.
Here are five tips to providing excellent customer service and watching your bottom line grow as a result.
The best customer service exceeds expectations every time. It’s near impossible to achieve if your expectations aren’t written in stone and clearly understood by your staff.
Never assume that all your employees are on the same page or that common sense will prevail. Put your standards in writing, provide ample training, closely monitor employee-client interaction and enforce consequences for poor performance.
Rigid standards may be uncomfortable for you if your company culture is decidedly laid-back. If so, get out of your comfort zone. You can’t afford not to. If you’ve been forgiving of inattention or rudeness to customers in the past, now is the time to lay down the law. Replace workers who don’t share your passion for providing top-notch service.
On the other hand, when someone receives a service-related compliment, acknowledge or reward the employee in a public way. This provides a strong incentive to excel at service.
More often than not, you’ll read about it on Yelp if a guest had a horrible experience but not hear a peep if he had an outstanding one. Consumers are funny that way, so you have to get good at prying feedback out of them.
Never miss an opportunity to gauge a customer’s satisfaction level. Warmly greet guests at their coming and going. Observe their body language, and listen for tone of voice. Initiate a discussion after every transaction. Ask specific, relevant questions rather than general ones that can be answered yes or no. Pay close attention to the answers.
Evaluating happiness levels is easier in brick-and-mortar businesses than in e-commerce. In both cases, though, invite honest feedback through comment cards or short surveys. Encourage customers to post reviews. Feedback is your friend. It holds you accountable to your own standards. Set aside time every day to read and absorb it, and respond accordingly.
Be completely accessible. Make sure that the contact information on your website is prominent. It goes without saying that anyone who contacts you by phone should reach a real person who has been extensively trained in excellent customer service.
For even the smallest complaint, send a personal email of apology. Better yet, arrange a convenient time to call. Press customers for specific actions you can take to make things right and earn their future business. Never make excuses. Take ownership of mistakes, and commit to resolving them. Your success or failure depends largely on how you handle complaints.
In short, ask, listen and respond.
More than ever, consumers want to engage with their favorite brands in meaningful ways. They want to align with a company’s core values and overall mission. They want to partner with businesses that are making a difference in their communities and their world.
Let them see the real you. Don’t hesitate to blog about your favorite sports, hobbies or travel destinations. Publicize your efforts to better the environment, support education or make an impact in underprivileged neighborhoods.
Likewise, get to know your customers as personally as possible. They want to be respected as unique individuals rather than account numbers.
Don’t waste valuable tidbits of information. For instance, if a man orders flowers for his wife’s birthday, make note of the date so you can send him a reminder each year. If a woman leaves a business card, memorize her face so you can ask her how it’s going the next time you see her.
Let them know who you are, and find out who they are.
It’s not that people mind getting emails; it’s that they mind being saturated with pitches for products they’ve never remotely shown interest in.
Invest in technology that’s capable of tracking purchase history, personal preferences, frequency of shopping, location and other customer details. Fewer emails with specific, relevant information are more effective than generic daily emails. Again, making it personal adds value to the relationship. Every time you notify customers of new products, special events or discounts, they should marvel at your uncanny knack for knowing their preferences.
You should also have software that measures success. Up-to-date progress reports will drive your efforts to improve customer service.
Never stop sincerely thanking your clients for their business. You can do this in person, by email, in greeting cards or through a loyalty rewards program. Taking your customers or your competition for granted is the kiss of death to your business.
Don’t think of excellent customer service as an end goal. Think of it as a never-ending work in progress.