June 12, 2017 Starting and Managing a Small Business

No matter what business or industry you’re in, customer service is a vital component to running a successful small business. When you’re able to make your customers happy, they’ll remain loyal and recommend you to others. 

“Customer service” isn’t rocket science. At it’s core, excellent customer service is about treating others as you would like to be treated yourself. These 10 simple rules can help keep you on the right track.

1. Be Nice

The first rule is so obvious that we almost feel silly stating it … “Be nice.” No matter what the scenario, being warm, friendly, and engaging will go a long way toward making your customers happy. It’s as simple as offering a smile at the door and asking people how they’re doing, or thanking someone for a complimentary online review.

2. Respect Your Customers

Remember that your customers are the reasons why you have a business at all. Treat your customers as valued members of your community. Your customers are humans with feelings, not just credit card numbers. Listen to them when they speak, take the time to read and respond to their feedback online, and treat their concerns seriously.

3. Listen

When customers complain about something that has gone wrong or a product that is not up to their expectations, the initial instinct may be to counter-argue. Let your customer complain, listen to their entire concern, and process it before responding. Simply being heard will make your customers’ experience better. Jumping straight to the defensive makes them feel like you’re calling them a liar – and no one likes that.

4. Be Positive

A Harvard Business school study reported that positive phrasing instead of negative may boost customer satisfaction up to 18.5%. Simply by changing your phrasing from “I cannot do that” to “I’ll look into that for you” can put a positive spin on your interactions.

5. Offer Solutions, Not Excuses

Customers are coming to you to complain because they are not happy and want you to fix something. Whatever that “something” is, try your best to give your customer what they are asking for. If something has gone wrong, you should do what you can to make it right.

Do they want a refund? Do they want a discount? Do they want another meal cooked at a different temperature? Only the customer knows what will make them satisfied. To make sure you’re addressing their needs, ask outright what you can do to fix the situation. It can be a little painful to take that hit, but it’s the right thing to do and it’s good for business. Sometimes, it may be worth taking the hit even if the customer is wrong or being somewhat unreasonable – a little goodwill goes a long way.

6. Be Honest

One of the hardest parts of customer service (and life in general) is owning up to mistakes that you, your staff, or your company has made. If a customer paid for overnight shipping for a bouquet of Mother’s Day flowers and someone missed that on the order form or failed to put it in the computer, admit that your team made a mistake and then do what you can to make it right. People appreciate honesty and know when you’re making excuses.

7. Go the Extra Mile

If you can find a way to elevate your business above all others, then do it. One way to do this is to go the extra mile when it comes to customer service.

Think about what you can do to take that extra step to keep your customers happy and coming back. It is a hand-written note in an Etsy order? Is it free, stunning gift wrap? It is a promotional bottle of wine on birthdays? There are tons of little ways to set your business apart as one who goes above and beyond to delight their customers.

8. Apologize

Customer service is a relationship between your business and those who patronize your business. As with any relationship, there are times with a meaningful apology goes a long way. When your business has done something wrong, own up to the error, and say you’re sorry.  It will go a long way toward making your customers feel validated.

9. Ask for Feedback

Part of running a successful business is finding out what customers think and responding to complaints and criticisms. Fine-tuning what’s working and what isn’t can take your products or services from just ok to exceptional.

It’s important to follow up with your customers so you can use their opinions to better your business. Asking your customers for feedback shows you value their thoughts and that you care about their experiences. Social media makes it easier than ever to get real time, concrete feedback.

10. Say “Thank You”

Customers in today’s retail and service environment have thousands of options to choose from. It is a compliment to your company that your customers seek you out and do business with you. Without buying customers, your business would not exist. Let your customers know that you appreciate their business with a simple “thank you.”

Treat Your Customers Well and They’ll Return the Favor

At the core, excellent customer service is about civility, maintaining relationships, and good manners. Be good to your customers, and they’ll be good to you.

 

Thank you to  Fifth Third Bank for supporting Accion in expanding economic opportunity for small business owners.

 

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