The small business guide to great customer service
Great customer service is the only way to a customer's heart.
The power of great customer service is immeasurable. Because when we receive great customer service, we tend to tell other people about it. And in terms of growing your business, nothing could be more powerful than happy customers doing your marketing for you. So, what’s the secret?
Make your staff happy
If your staff aren’t happy, they won’t provide good customer service – it’s as simple as that.
So, you need to do all the things a good boss does: listen to your employees, give them a sense of purpose and provide meaningful incentives. You can find more ways of keeping employees happy here.
Find out what your customers expect
Before you plan your customer service strategy, your first port of call should be finding out what good customer service means to your customers.
Ask any existing customers for feedback on your services, focusing in particular on what could be improved. You could also create a survey, which are typically more successful if they’re supported by an incentive (discounts or vouchers, for example). Online surveys are simple to set up and often free – SurveyMonkey is a good place to start.
Your feedback and survey results will probably provide a number of different insights; your customers are unlikely to all say the same thing.
Although you should look for trends in the responses, you need to be able to offer different things to different people. Flexibility is vital, and it’s an area in which small businesses can excel. You and your team are small enough to adapt, and nimble enough to tailor your approach to each and every customer.
To get your customers shouting about your customer service, you’ll need to do something extraordinary.
So get creative. Have you heard the story of when a three-year old girl told Sainsbury’s that tiger bread should actually be called giraffe bread? Well, Sainsbury’s changed it to giraffe bread, and the story gave them the best publicity they’d had in a long time.
Great customer service is all about creating these special stories. That comes from being flexible, having happy staff and listening to your customers; but it also comes from using your imagination.
You might find some inspiration in this article on famous customer service stories.
Invest in customer service
Small businesses are able to offer great customer service because of their size. With fewer customers, you can build meaningful relationships with all of them.
However, as you grow, offering the same level of attention is challenging. Managing every interaction can become impossible, and checking that all your employees are offering the same level of customer care is challenging too. This is why bigger businesses often offer such poor customer service – they simply can’t manage the volume.
Investment is vital to maintaining high levels of customer service. You might need more employees, but you might also need better technology. As companies grow, they often invest in a customer relationship management system (CRM), which helps to automate certain customer service functions and store important customer information. Essentially, this can help to ensure that your customers get what they need quickly, and that nothing is forgotten.
Put service above price
For many small businesses, growth is all about prices – and often, being cheaper than your competitors. But relying on cost as your selling point is risky.
That’s because of two big factors. Firstly, plenty of evidence suggests that customers will pay more for excellent customer service. And secondly, there’s always another business just around the corner waiting to launch and offer even cheaper prices than you. So let them, and beat them on something that can’t easily be replicated – service.
After all, many of the most successful and enduring British businesses – businesses like John Lewis, Marks & Spencer and British Airways – are not the cheapest, but they are renowned for good customer service.
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