Define customer service in your business. What is good customer service? Why is customer service important? Because it helps you get, and keep, customers. To be successful in your business in a sustainable way, you need to clearly understand the definition of customer service as it relates to your specific business, how to find out what your customers think about your service, and how to improve it.
Do you know where your customers come from?
And, just as importantly, do you know why they stay with you, or why they leave?
Understanding how to gain, and maintain, customers needs to be one of the primary goals for all businesses. (Note: the cost of acquiring new customers is high, it is much more cost effective for business owners to invest in maintaining existing customers through delivering exceptional service!)
Do your research first. Talk to your customers. Do surveys. Ask your employees to assess the services, and the road blocks that you put up that impedes good service.
Use online or hard copy (in-the-mail) surveys. Or ask your customers for input and feedback as they place orders, or even as you deliver orders (with the invoice, or with the shipment, or via a follow up call).
One of the key differentiations between you and your competition can be in the service you provide. If your customer service is outstanding, it can be hard for your competitors to match it (or to do better).
Focus your business on clearly understanding your customers and why they do business with you.
Where do your customers come from?
Ask your customers how they found you. Was it by referral? Word of mouth or through social media? The advertisement you placed in the local paper, online, or on the radio?
If they didn't find you, but you found them, ask them why they gave you the order. Was it your product or service? Was it your unique differentiation? Was it you personally?
Once you better understand how you connected with customers, find out how they view your business. Do this from both the perspective of longer term customers as well as new customers.
Find out how the longer term customers feel about the business relationship over the long term: do they believe you to be reliable, knowledgeable, on time, price competitive, do you deliver what you promise each and every time? With new customers, find out how the buying experience went: do they feel that you over delivered on your promises? Would they buy from you again? What do they feel was weak in the process; what was strong?
Assuming that the quality of your product or service is similar or comparative to your competition, use good customer service management to differentiate your business and to engage your customers. Before you can improve customer service, or grow sales with new and existing customers, you need to have a good understanding of why you keep customers, and why they come back for more.
Learn how to effectively define customer service in your business; once you've defined it clearly, then consistently deliver the best value over and over again. Customers don't keep buying from you automatically, it is a conscious decision. If they are buying because you are the 'only game in town', you will be at risk when a new competitor opens up or takes a run at your customers.
Knowing what your customers need and want, and how you meet those needs and wants, will give you an advantage in building a stronger marketing and sales approach for your business.
Return to Good Customer Service.
Focus your customer service efforts on the highest value activities; these are the actions that will provide your business with the best return on your investment of resources.
Review your sales by customer at the product or service level (by type). Then analyze your direct and full costs by product or service.
Your goal in gathering, and then analyzing, the numbers is to compare the costs by products and services and then by customers; you want to know which products and services are the lowest cost and which customers provide your business with the best value.
This will help you focus your business resources to provide the most service and support to high value customers.
What's the gross profit margin by customer? Rank your customers not only by total sales but by profitability; and by sales by product or service.
If you have specific products or services that you know are more profitable than others you will want to focus your attention on the customers buying those more profitable items and/or you will want to encourage customers to buy more of the profitable product or service lines.
Note: A number of accounting software systems provide the capability to run these reports quickly and easily.
Providing customer service that consistently delights (rather than just satisfies) results in long term customers.
Your business' commitment to exceptional quality; the reliability and consistency of your service (your customers like to know that they can expect the same product or service, and the same level of support, on each and every order); and highly trained and knowledgeable staff are all key attributes to developing successful relationships with your customers.
Focus your business on more than satisfying customers; make delight a number one goal.