Let’s face it: Small businesses live or die by their customer service.

Chances are people can go to a competitor for similar products or services. What will keep them coming through the door is the way you make them feel and the way you deliver the service.

Great customer service may be an art, but with proper training, it’s a process that anyone can master.

Read on for seven small business tips that can move you and your company from having satisfied customers to loyal customers.

1. Define Good Customer Service for Your Business

Depending on the nature of your business, the answer to the question “What is good customer service?” will be slightly different for different companies.

The key is knowing the definition of good customer service for your business yourself and communicating it effectively to your team. This will establish your customer service culture.

There are some fundamentals of good customer service that should underpin your customer service policy. These can be found in points two to seven below.

2. Get the Greeting Right

Whether it’s by phone, in person, email, or even through an online chat pop-up, the greeting matters.

The greeting should accomplish the following:

  • Acknowledge them
  • Make them feel welcome
  • Make them feel remembered (if they’re a returning customer)
  • Make them feel valued

This can be accomplished in a variety of ways in different settings. For example, a customer service greeting in Wal-Mart might be rather different from the greeting at the Waldorf Astoria.

However, the objective is the same.

When communicating with customers, we want to put them at ease, letting them know they have our undivided attention, and ask pertinent, non-intrusive questions to find out how we can best meet their needs.

3. Know Your Product/Service Inside Out

As a business owner or customer service rep, you need to have confidence that when a customer contacts your team, they will be provided with accurate information about the products and services you offer.

That comes down to proper training and assessment of the team.

When new products or services are launched, what training do you have in place to familiarize your team with them?

Team members must be given the information they need and an opportunity to experience the product or service, if appropriate. Role-play can be an effective training tool to ensure that your team is able to answer any reasonable questions that may arise.

When a customer senses that your team knows and believes in what you are selling, they will be far more likely to trust you with their business.

4. Stick to Agreed Timescales

Your customer’s time is valuable. You show this by dealing with them promptly on arrival, having a timely POS (point-of-sale) system and only agreeing to timescales you know that you can realistically meet.

Of course, unforeseen hold-ups do occur at times. Your standard modus operandi though should be to only agree to sensible timescales.

The thinking behind this is that if you come in on time, then you’ve met expectations. If you come in ahead of time, you’ve exceeded them.

Even if on rare occasions you are delayed, you have still built up enough goodwill with customers that this delay or an accidental halt in service is more likely to be forgiven.

5. Communicate Skillfully

Communication is an art, and never more so than in the world of customer service. Communicate too little and your customers will feel in the dark. Communicate too much or in the wrong way, and you risk irritating them.

We often think of this in terms of how we speak, and it is important to be clear, concise, and polite when dealing with customers. However, active listening is an even more important customer service skill to develop.

That’s because when we listen, we can find out how a customer really thinks. We can understand what they really want. Then, armed with that knowledge, we can set about meeting their needs more efficiently.

As we go through the process of providing the goods or services the customers require, we can continue to communicate, although the medium may differ.

An example of this is how eBay communicates with its customers.

Once an order is placed, an email is generated, reminding the customer to pay. The customer is then informed once the product has been dispatched, and when the product has been flagged as delivered by the courier.

Communicating this information by email is less intrusive than by phone or text. Depending on the nature of your business and its offerings, the method of communication may differ. However, most customers appreciate knowing where they stand at any given time.

6. Resolve Problems Quickly

The business customer relationship is easy to manage when everything is going well. The test comes when problems arise.

How will you manage them in a way that ensures the customer doesn’t take their business elsewhere?

First, take their concerns seriously. Listen to them and empathize. This can do a lot to keep them on your side.

Next, take prompt action to resolve any issues. Is the issue something that could be resolved by offering a small discount, a voucher, or another token of goodwill?

Is there information that you can promptly retrieve and share that would put the customer’s mind at ease?

Would speaking to a manager reassure and dignify the customer?

Use good judgement to keep the customer happy. Remember to take the long-term view. A happy customer will return and tell their friends. A disgruntled customer won’t come back and will tell everyone.

7. Your Staff Need to Care

Customers can smell disingenuousness from a mile away.

Good customer service is not something that can be faked. Try to fake it, and you will inevitably fail. Why? Because it’s all about caring.

To ensure great customer service, sometimes you or your staff will have to go the extra mile. They may have to work late. They may have to do things that are not explicitly mentioned in their job descriptions.

When you have a culture of great customer service though, your staff will come through. They will move heaven and earth to provide it, and your customers will repay you with their loyalty.

Small Business Tips on Customer Service That Really Work

The importance of good customer service to your company really cannot be overemphasized.

Follow these seven small business customer service tips, and you will be well on your way to giving customers a fantastic experience. Customers, in turn, will become your brand ambassadors, and business success will be far more likely to come your way.

For performance-based business consulting, contact The Business Turnaround Group.

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