Consider the following facts and stats about customer service:
- 80% of people who do not receive good service do not complain
- 73% complain when things go badly wrong
- A person who does complain tells nine people
- 12-16% leave without registering a complaint after receiving poor service
- 10-30% of customers leave after one complaint
- >80% leave if they have experienced three or more mistakes
- 5% increase in retention increases profits by 25-125%
- Acquiring new customers can cost five times more than satisfying and retaining current customers.
Looking at these pointers it is clear that whether you are running an online store or a brick-and-mortar outfit, customer satisfaction is at the heart of your business’ success.
A customer is the most important visitor on our premises; he is not dependent on us. We are dependent on him. He is not an interruption in our work. He is the purpose of it. He is not an outsider in our business. He is part of it. We are not doing him a favor by serving him. He is doing us a favor by giving us an opportunity to do so. ~ Kenneth B. Elliot
Providing stellar customer service is really not that hard. Once you get started you just need to maintain the habit. Knowing how necessary this is for your business’ success is definitely sufficient motivation to keep you on course.
Good service is good business. ~ Siebel Ad
The following customer service practices need to become synonymous with your business:
1. Easy accessibility
How easy is it for customers to contact you?
Being easily accessible is one of the small joys you should never deny your customers.
There’s really no joy in being the proverbial needle in a haystack, or do you have something to hide?
And who says that all calls are trouble? You could be ignoring a huge order.
Accordingly, ensure that your contact information is readily available.
Also, whatever the channel of communication is, don’t make customers wait too long to get a response from you; having to run after them after they become disgruntled won’t be much fun.
A 24 hour response time should be fine with most of your customers provided that you meet a 2-4 hours window.
You are serving a customer, not a life sentence. Learn how to enjoy your work. ~ Laurie McIntosh
2. Taking responsibility
As a small business owner you need to realize that you are your product or service.
Your employees, if any, need to realize that when dealing with customers they are the voice of the business. It should be clear that they need to stand behind the business’ products and services.
This applies regardless of whether the product/service you are offering has been created in-house or if you are distributing/wholesaling/retailing a product.
Should anything be the matter with what you are selling, customers will expect you to take responsibility for the fault. After all, it is you that received their money. You obviously don’t expect them to take up the matter with the product’s manufacturer.
Shirking responsibility in such situations reeks of blatant disregard for customers and you will lose them in droves.
Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning. ~ Bill Gates
3. Empowering your employees
This is absolutely vital.
You can be sure that customers will notice and appreciate this because of the practical benefits that accrue to them from you doing so. In fact, employees may prove to be inefficient backers of the business’ products/services if you haven’t empowered them to deal with customers’ problems.
You should therefore refrain from stifling your employees’ freedom of judgment and voice. This way you will spare customers the agony of having to hear excuses like “I’m not allowed to do that” or “Let me call the boss”. What happens if you are not around for the day?
You should understand that customers tend to be loyal to businesses where they are assured of good service come rain or shine. And who knows? Perhaps your employees are better at public relations than you are.
Customers don’t expect you to be perfect. They do expect you to fix things when they go wrong. ~ Donald Porter
4. Customer appreciation
It’s true that “Cash is king”. Nevertheless, it is customers who bring in the cash.
Your business therefore needs to show customers that their business is truly appreciated and there are many ways of doing this.
With time, as the relationship grows, appreciatory habits will become second nature.
Your business should treat its customers as individuals. Learn your customers’ names and refer to them as such. Gradually you will notice things about them that will feel okay to compliment. Remember that they are people too and they’ll be able to tell whether or not you are faking it.
Every great business is built on friendship. ~ JC Penney
A sincere relationship can be very rewarding – the possibilities are endless.
Perhaps your customer is the nurse you’ll need to take care of you in hospital or indeed the sleuth who’ll help to apprehend a “customer” who vanished without a trace after you trusted him with some merchandise.
Spend a lot of time talking to customers face to face. You’d be amazed how many companies don’t listen to their customers. ~Ross Perot
5. Anticipating customers requirements
When customers purchase a product or service from your business you are basically helping them to solve a problem. Understanding this is crucial because if you can no longer solve that problem then your relevance to the customer will start to diminish.
Accordingly, you should make efforts to know your customers much better.
In case what they usually buy from you isn’t available you should try to find suitable substitutes and convince them to give them a try. Perhaps they will like them.
Good customer service in this case will require you to be proactive.
Know what your customers want most and what your company does best. Focus on where those two meet. ~ Kevin Stirtz
6. Selling at the right price
Issues of price will always be a source of concern for customers everywhere. Your customers will always be keen to know whether the prices you are charging them are fair or not.
You cannot afford to overcharge a product/service that customers can easily buy elsewhere. Even where you have the privilege of setting your own price, e.g. for freelance copywriting services, you need some sort of pricing strategy to help you decide what rates will be appropriate for different clients.
Try not to make customers feel that you are pushing them to spend more than they are prepared to pay. Of course, you don’t have to do business if the price isn’t right.
Make a customer, not a sale. ~ Katherine Barchetti
7. Maintaining high standards of quality
Your product/service should meet and exceed your customers’ expectations.
Customers’ assessment of your product’s quality based on its performance, conformance to standards, features, reliability and durability. You can expect that they will be a discontent lot if your product/service fails to live up to their expectations as set by you.
Errors do happen though and your customers will certainly understand the reason why you let them down if you are immediately forthright about the matter and you offer logical explanations and remedial measures.
On the other hand, ignoring their hue and cry is business suicide. You really don’t want customers to start treating your business with some sort of suspicion. Trying to correct this perception later down the line is most likely going to be an exercise in futility; too little too late.
Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you. ~ Mark Cuban
8. Making the customer experience as convenient as possible
Perhaps the best way to address this concern is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Imagine which of your business’ practices make customers feel like they are being forced to jump through hoops despite being the people bringing in the money.
Your aim should be to eliminate such; you need to make customers want to do business with you over and over.
The goal as a company is to have customer service that is not just the best but legendary. ~ Sam Walton
Now imagine the new measures you can adopt to become more convenient.
Would you feel happier as a customer?
Implement these ideas immediately.
Most of your loyal customers will immediately commend you and spread the word.
Loyal customers, they don’t just come back, they don’t simply recommend you, they insist that their friends do business with you. ~ Chip Bell
9. Offering sound information and advice
While customers know that they need to purchase a certain product/service, they are sometimes not too knowledgeable about their options, prices, terms, warranties, etc.
Sharing your product knowledge in this case will be a solid opportunity to tilt your customers’ willingness to bring you return business in your favor.
As a business owner you should realize that taking advantage of an uninformed customer can only benefit you once – and perhaps never if the customer is the suspicious type. No one appreciates being taken advantage of.
Your customer doesn’t care how much you know until they know how much you care. ~ Damon Richards
As such, take time to find out what your customers want. See to it that they get the very best you can offer and let them know why you think this is so. In case much better options are available then don’t hesitate to make suggestions.
The more you engage with customers the clearer things become and the easier it is to determine what you should be doing. ~ John Russell
10. As for online business owners…
A good number of online businesses have managed to set the customer satisfaction bar quite high. The onus is on you to do the same if you rely on e-commerce for your bread and butter. You don’t have to match what big players like Amazon are doing but you can certainly learn a few things from them.
The customer experience is the next competitive battleground. ~ Jerry Gregoire
For your website to provide excellent customer service the following issues should be addressed:
- Content – Always ensure that your site’s content is fresh and enticing, both for actual customers and prospects.
- Search – Customers and prospects should have an easy time when trying to find a product/service they need on your website. You should therefore ensure that on-site searches return relevant results.
- Navigation – If customers and prospects find it difficult and cumbersome to access various locations on your website then you risk losing them. Accordingly, ensure that your site’s menus are handy and that the entire shopping experience is well streamlined.
- Mobile – Today most people are going online via the mobile platform. Your site can’t afford to ignore this fact. Ensure that it is soundly optimized for mobile devices.
- Language – Basically, an online store is designed for international business. This being the case, your site’s contents should be translatable into at least one other major language. Your site should also offer global support.
- Integration – Although this may be quite tricky, you should ensure that customers enjoy the same sort of top-notch experience whether they are buying online or offline.
In the world of Internet Customer Service, it’s important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away. ~ Doug Warner
Do millennials make up most of your customer base? Here’s an interesting infographic with lots of ideas about how you can deliver top-notch customer service for this generation of consumers: