As a small business owner, you're in the game of building loyalty any way possible. This is especially important because according to a 2015 Aspect Consumer Experience Survey, 76% of consumers say they view customer service as the truest test of how much a company values them. In a consumer market that can be incredibly finicky, here are five smart tips on how to improve customer service and keep it as one of your top assets.
1. Respond Each and Every Time
A timely response to a problem, question, or comment is just one more way you can foster a positive relationship with your customers. John Pepper, founder & CEO of popular burrito chain Boloco, stated in a Salesforce.com Dreamforce conference session that it's wise to listen and acknowledge the statement no matter what it is. "We decided to be one of those companies that when a customer says something, we actually listen and respond no matter what it is, even if they're telling us "You're the worst!" He went on to say that if you're willing to learn from feedback and respond authentically, especially in the social media realm, chances are, more than one person is going to read it and be swayed by what you have to say.
2. Consolidate Into One Place
With so many sources to check for feedback, it can be easy for a customer's input to get lost in the fray. However, customer service apps like ZenDesk, Desk.com, and SmarterTracker offer low-cost pricing but high-level functionality to address common customer woes and combine all chatter about your brand into one place. ZenDesk provides an easy system to handle inbound ticket requests from email, web, social media accounts, phone, or chat, while Desk.com creates one "universal inbox" for social media comments, phone calls, chat, and email. SmarterTracker includes a support ticket system, live chat, knowledge base, and a self-service help desk that's available on any tablet or mobile device.
3. Do What You Can To Make It Great
What separates good customer service from fantastic customer service often boils down to time, attention to detail, and generosity. When customers reach out to your business, nothing will delight them more than to have any issues addressed quickly, easily, and smoothly. This might mean having previous orders or customer information at your fingertips; minimizing wait times on phone calls, chat logs, or email responses, being thankful and appreciative for past business, and even just remaining pleasant if they're frustrated. Also, remember that customers like being asked for feedback, it shows you care about their experience and gives you valuable insights on where you might be falling just a little short.
4. Master The Apology
Nothing smooths over an unhappy customer faster than a simple, "I understand your frustration, and I'm sorry for your inconvenience."When someone calls in who's less than thrilled, starting off the conversation with these miracle-working words (whether the blunder is your fault or not) sets the stage for the customer to cool off. Once you find out exactly what the issue is, you'll be able to come up with a plan to prevent it in the future. If you do find out that your company was at fault, simply own up to your mistake, then deliver on your promises to make it right.
5. Take Their Advice
Another way to increase customer service and simultaneously promote brand loyalty is by giving the consumer a voice. A quick poll, blog post, or email with a small participation incentive like a coupon or a chance to win can take the heavy lifting off of trying to decide what customers will want next or how you can improve. If you make a change based on feedback you've received, be sure to give them credit for the idea when you announce it in email or on social media. For those that are openly engaging with your brand on a regular basis, thank them with a sample of something they haven't tried or a free upgrade. The cost to you will be tiny compared to the impact this satisfied customer will have when promoting your brand.