Customer service is key if you want your small business to succeed and stick in the consumer’s mind. You might sell the best product and have customers banging down on your door. However, your success may be short-lived if you don’t follow through with friendly service and a desire to ensure that every patron leaves happy and satisfied.
When you are a new enterprise, reputation is everything, and you need to hit the ground running with a customer-first atmosphere. You can do that by reading and responding to reviews, allowing your customers to reach you through different channels, and training your team to show empathy and put the client first. Here are some tactics to consider.
Brand Reputation Is Key
The first thing you need to improve is your brand reputation. When customers see your company as a dependable enterprise that values their patronage, they are more likely to shop with you on a repeated basis and refer their friends. Referrals are more important than you may realize. In fact, 65% of a company’s business comes from previous customers. If you prioritize every customer and show that you care, then customers will come back.
Companies that have poor customer service will quickly gain a bad reputation and it can be hard to recover. The issue is that we live in a digital world where a customer can leave a negative comment online, and once it is there, it sticks forever. The problem is that one review could be enough to sink your organization.
It is important to prioritize reputation management, which is how you promote your positive image and conduct damage control to limit the bad reviews and criticism that can hurt your company now and in the future. You can use software to scan the web for negative press. When you find it, use the information as a learning experience to improve your company. Reputation management also means shining your company in a positive light. You can do that by using SEO to rank positive press high in search engine listings and by promoting your company through paid ads, among other tactics.
Talk With Your Customers
Even if you master the art of reputation management, there is still a chance you could get bad reviews or angry customers. If so, don’t be defensive but instead use it as a chance to talk with your customers, fix their issues, and improve your reputation.
Start with your social media. Your company should have a presence that you use to share information about new products, upcoming promotions, and other important news. Customers will often use social media to vent their frustrations, and they may comment on one of your posts about a bad experience. If that happens, use this opportunity to fix the situation. Apologize, offer a solution, and thank them for being a customer. In addition to making that customer happy, other potential patrons may also see your post and decide that you are a company they want to use in the future.
Your company should also have several communication channels so customers can reach out through their preferred method. Phone and email should always be an option, but so should live chat. Put an option on your website so customers can click and chat with a representative at your company and get help with sales, service, or anything in between. It is a great option for customers on the go, and they will appreciate the convenience.
After an employee assists a customer, they should be instructed to ask candidly what the customer thinks of their service. If the customer liked what the associate did, put this positive review on the website. In the case of criticism, management can read that feedback and use it to mold future communications.
Train Your Employees
If you want your employees to provide customers with the best service possible, they first must be trained. Teach them the essential skills starting the first week of their new hire orientation and return to those lessons with residual training. You can do that by monitoring their calls or chats and then providing feedback that they can use for the next interaction.
While training is important, you also need to hire the best people and treat them right. Provide constructive criticism and annual reviews and give them kudos for a well-done job. When your employees feel appreciated, they will pass that positivity on to the customers. Management can also allow employees to make split-second decisions if a customer is upset. That could include stretching out the return period one more day or providing a small discount if the customer will return in the future. By proving to employees that you trust their judgment, they will take the steps necessary to make the customers happy.
Finally, your employees must know how to show empathy. When a customer calls upset, your team should instinctively apologize and see the issue through the customer’s eyes as they work towards a solution. An apology can go a long way, and it is the first step to building rapport with the customer. That positive relationship can lead to future referrals.
While sales are important, prioritizing your customer service is the best way to improve your small business and edge out the competition. Consider these tactics, spend time on training, and you will see significant results.
By Indiana Lee, BOSS contributor