Customer service is often why consumers choose local small businesses over larger national chains. By offering a high level of customer service—getting to know consumers as individuals, offering around the clock answering service access, and forging strong bonds—smaller companies can provide a superior experience to larger firms.
Giving customers a positive, memorable client support experience will help businesses retain them, creating the repeat business companies need to survive and thrive. Average or lackluster customer service simply won’t get the job done, and bad customer service will ensure that they never darken your door again.
According to a 2011 American Express Global Customer Service study, in a good economy about 70 percent ofAmericans are willing to spend up to 13 percent more on average with companies they feel provide top-notch customer service. Conversely, about 78 percent of American consumers have abandoned a transaction when they felt like good customer service was not being provided. Fifty-nine percent of customers will try a new company to obtain an improved customer service experience.
The bottom line is that providing positive customer service isn’t a luxury, it’s an absolute necessity. Good customer service allows small businesses to retain their existing customers. It also gives them the opportunity to snag customers searching for better service than they’ve been receiving. By upping your company’s customer service game, you can quickly see improved results in terms of new customers and repeat business.
11 Tips for Excellent Customer Service
The need for exceptional customer service is clear, but many small businesses struggle with finding ways to improve. Small businesses often work with a shortfall of labor and funds, so finding resources to devote to improving customer service can be a challenge. The following are a few ways small businesses can improve customer experience in their stores, or via phone or their online presence.
- Start a dialogue with employees – Your employees are one of your best barometers of customer sentiment. Start a conversation with them and ask whether they think customers are happy. Solicit their advice for ways the company can improve customer experiences. You’ll be surprised at some of the great suggestions you can hear from the folks in the trenches.
- Consider hiring more newbies – Let’s face it—doing customer service can wear on just about anyone after a few years. Instead of having strict policies about hiring only veterans with years of experience, try throwing some fresh faces in the mix. A little youthful enthusiasm and insight into modern consumer habits can make the extra training you must provide these employees worthwhile.
- Encourage employees to talk up other products – The check-out is a great place for your employees to tout the benefits of other products and services your company offers. You have a captive audience for the few seconds it takes to facilitate the transaction. Make the time count by having your employees sell your other offerings to customers.
- Provide employees with leeway to give great service – Employees need flexibility to provide exceptional customer service. Take a look at your company’s policies regarding customer/employee interactions, and determine ways to give employees more autonomy in dealing with customers. With the right tools and training, employees with a greater range of options can provide superior customer service experiences.
- Monitor your social media presence – If your business doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter account, get one. Then regularly monitor it to find out what your customers are saying about your business. You can also use the account to respond to customer complaints, questions, and concerns. This not only appeases customers who may have been disappointed in your service, it also shows the world that your company cares about the experience it provides to consumers. Your social media account is also a great place to offer discounts, and keep consumers up to date on events and other developments at your business.
- Optimize websites – Customers aren’t very forgiving of business websites that are slow, difficult to use, or are victim to frequent crashes. The Internet age has spoiled us, and we’re used to instant access to everything all the time. Small businesses should do a careful evaluation of their websites to ensure they are reliable and user friendly. The customer interface should be easy to use, and all broken links should be eliminated. The graphic design of your site is also important. Pages should be clean, have modern, up-to-date visuals, and avoid clutter.
- Outsource call center services – If your company does a lot of business over the phone, it may be worth considering hiring a third-party call center company to handle calls. By farming out call center services, companies save money on costs associated with labor and telecommunications equipment. Outsourcing call center services can also allow your company to handle customer questions and orders 24/7. By outsourcing call center services, you put customer service in the hands of trained professionals. This allows businesses with small labor forces to focus their employees on mission critical tasks rather than having them alternate between handling calls and doing their real jobs.
- Encourage employees to collaborate – Getting the whole team on board to provide superior customer service is essential to ensuring your consumers have the best possible experience. Encourage cross-departmental collaboration and regular interaction among your employees, to get them talking and thinking together about how they can improve customer experiences.
- Just ask – Use surveys and customer-employee conversations as a gauge to find out how well your company has customer service covered. Most customers will not be shy in telling you how your company met their expectations or disappointed them.
- Reward your customers – Discounts, prizes, and a regular “thank you” can go a long way toward encouraging superior customer loyalty. The more customers feel that they are valued, the more likely it is that they will continue to frequent your business. That makes offering the 15 percent off coupon that they’re probably going to lose anyway well worth the investment.
- Fix your mistakes – When something goes wrong, make it right. Reasonable replacement or discount offers, apologies, and other measures can go a long way toward mollifying customers who may not have had the experience they deserved. Remember, an unhappy customer is more likely to talk about your business than a happy customer.
By focusing on providing exceptional customer service, your company will create the competitive advantage it needs to differentiate itself from larger players and local competitors. Customers crave personalized attention. Give it to them, and your company will prosper.
Outsourced Call Center Services
Personalized Communications uses the latest technology and a staff of highly trained customer service professionals to provide top-notch call center and answering services to clients in a wide range of fields. In business since 1975, Personalized Communications has a track record of providing flexible call center solutions that fit individual client needs.
All Personalized Communications call center agents receive thorough training prior to starting work, and also get continuing education throughout their tenure with the company. Calls made to Personalized Communications are also regularly screened for quality assurance.
Personalized Communications regularly upgrades its computer equipment to allow its customer service agents to quickly handle client needs without fail. Currently, the company delivers optimal call service via T-1 circuits, and state-of-the-art hardware and call center applications.
For an easy way to drastically improve your customer service operation, consider outsourcing call center and answering services to Personalized Communications.
For more information about how your company can benefit from customer support services, visithttp://www.callcenteragency.com/customer-support.html.