Why your Small Business Can’t Afford to Neglect Customer Service
In the hierarchy of importance of departments, customer service is often not given the prominence that it deserves, especially when a growing business has to put sales, accounting and marketing at the forefront in order to create the revenues needed to sustain growth. Customer service improvements can get put on hold during scrambles to expand, but not paying enough attention to these areas is a big mistake for growing businesses lest they find themselves with a growing client base and no means to appease them should things go wrong (and something will always go wrong). So what is a small business owner to do? How can you create satisfactory customer service practices without taking away from building the other aspects of your business? Here are some suggestions for developing a customer service experience that will keep your customers happy and coming back for more.
If you lack a dedicated customer service department, plan to create one. Right off the bat, if you don’t have a customer service department, you should lay the groundwork for creating one, This doesn’t necessarily mean hiring a new employee. While you will eventually need to have dedicated customer service representatives, creating a manual for customer service interactions that you can share with your current staff is a good place to start. Customer service manuals should address the general guidelines of how you want your representatives to interact with your clients, and then offer some step by step instruction on handling common customer service issues, for example, checking on the status of an order or troubleshooting issues with a product. This document should draw off of your own experience while incorporating templates from manuals from businesses in your industry as points of comparison.
Teach your customer service representatives to value customer perspectives. One of the areas where customer service can break down within small businesses is in the arena of understanding customer frustrations. All too often, a customer will call a service line only to be put on hold, and then treated in a condescending manner by support staff who would quite clearly rather be doing anything than actually helping fix issues. What is wrong here is that the customer service representative does not empathize with the issues being experienced by the customer. Try encouraging your reps to think of every customer complaint as if it were their own. Instead of wishing that customers wouldn’t call them with problems, these employees would be better off focusing on how they can educate callers and have them get off the line feeling satisfied.
Be generous. Your clients want to feel that they are important to you and that you are willing to work with them to preserve their business. For this reason, adopt a generous attitude. Be generous with your time, and with your ability to create solutions and special offers for your clients. These positive actions reinforce that your brand brings a full experience in the minds of customers, and some of the most loyal and vocal brand advocates are those who have experienced problems with a service and then been given a stellar fix through their customer service experience. In the end, you will be glad that you took the time to create good experiences when your business has a great reputation and strong referral base.
Photo Credit to Oregon DOT on Flickr