Small business customer service: why it’s essential for survival
You’ve checked all the boxes: Excellent product or service. Marketing plans in place. And you’ve selected the best small business insurance. Now the next crucial step - keeping your customers happy while acquiring new ones. Small business customer service is vital here, and at times overlooked.
Let’s face it; we’re living in a time of uncertainty. Every day you’re open for business is a good one. Most small businesses cater to local communities, so experiences and reviews can often spread like wildfire. How you treat your customers will determine whether customers return, and will increase awareness of your business.
It’s hard to predict what will happen in today’s ever-changing climate. However, arming your small business with customer service that goes above and beyond will keep your customers coming back.
The customer is ALWAYS right – right?
This concept holds a special place in small business history – it’s a notion that’s been honored for decades. In today’s overly social world, however, it seems even when a customer is wrong, they passionately insist otherwise from behind the keyboard. Or worse, a passerby with a smartphone records a clip of an encounter at your place of business – and it instantly goes viral. How you handle these scenarios can make or break you.
You cannot simply ignore an adverse claim about your small business as it can quickly snowball into a more significant situation, potentially landing your business in the local news (not in a good way). Take time to research the claim and formulate an appropriate response. Always be courteous and follow the golden rule – treating one as you wish to be treated.
Mistakes happen. It’s one of the many joys of being human; however, how we respond to mistakes matters in the eyes of our customers. Offering an agreeable solution to an issue will please your customer and make them remember your stellar customer service. This approach gives your small business an edge over the competition and will keep your customers coming back.
We’ve all reviewed negative experiences – and we’re more likely to speak up when something goes wrong than when it goes right. That’s why a positive review is worth its weight in gold. Never ignore those offering you praise and compliments for your service or products. Think about incentives for customers as a thank you for their loyalty. Stamp cards that reward repeat business as usually seen in coffee shops or bookstores. Hair and nail salons typically offer a similar cards for customers who return for future services. Once these cards are filled up with stamps, a discount or service is provided to the customer. These types of programs are typically received very well by customers. Think about the products and services you offer and what sort of loyalty incentive you can provide. Businesses that offer services rather than products may benefit more from refer-a-friend rewards.
Small business customer service training
Excellent customer service is essential to the success of your small business, and it can be taught. While you can’t easily control prices, inventory, or even health mandates – you have control over your demeanor. Equipping yourself and the staff of your small business with customer service training can have a significant impact.
The U.S. Small Business Administration offers free resources relating to understanding your customers. However, it may be worth investing in a course geared towards small business customer service training like the one offered by the American Management Association, available virtually as well as in-person in New York and Atlanta.
Investing in a good customer service training program for you and your staff can translate to increased sales in the future. Learning how to speak to and work with your customers is an invaluable asset to your small business. It will not only keep current customers satisfied but will encourage them to tell others about your business.
Customer service tools to help your small business
In addition to training, setting your small business up with some simple tools can help you nurture the relationships you’re building with your customer base. For example, a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) system can elevate the level of service you provide. These systems allow you to segment, filter, and fine-tune communication and interactions with your customers in a more personalized way.
This approach makes your customers feel unique to your brand. Think about how you feel when receiving a personalized note; you’re more likely to pay attention to it over a generic message. This tailored approach helps keep your brand at the forefront of your customers’ minds. Using a CRM also gives you a universal location to enter details about your customers - what they’ve purchased, issues they may have encountered, points of contact with your small business. Naturally, these CRM accounts are password protected to help keep any sensitive data from becoming breached.
Top10.com recently posted an article highlighting some of the best CRMs for small businesses - it’s worth a look. In addition, some ESPs (email service providers) offer a version of CRM software in their packages, meaning you may already have this access at your fingertips; you simply need to put it to good use.
Social media platforms provide you with a unique opportunity to interact with your customers in a more personal way. These platforms allow you to show the human side of your brand, often leading to a deeper connection.
A word of caution for the social world – have a plan in place for posting, responding, and handling any possible negative feedback.
Here are some tips to get your business started on social media:
- Post 2-3 times a week to start
- React to comments – both the good and the bad
- Acknowledge customer service issues and take them offline
- Respond to some positive comments; reply, remove, or hide negative comments depending on the content. If a comment is offensive or contains vulgar language you don’t want to leave that for others to see.
- Watch for what works, and do more of that.
Related: Social media for business 101
Bottom line in small business customer service
You will never be able to please all the people, all the time. Thinking otherwise is pure fantasy. But offering the best possible customer experience with your small business will lead to loyalty and word-of-mouth advertising (which doesn’t cost a thing and often yields the best results).
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in being negative nowadays, so be different. Dare to rise above and show your existing and potential customers that you stand by your brand and are always willing to do the right thing.
And, for those situations that may escalate further than what a refund or credit can handle, be sure you have the right liability insurance – we’ve got you covered there.