Good customer service can help your business succeed. Customers, who are delighted with your customer service skills and attitudes, will buy from you. Build strong customer loyalty concepts and programs into your business.
Customers want good customer service and, in today's competitive environment, it's also the minimum you need to deliver.
Customers want to be treated well.
They can be pretty clear when they feel they're not getting the service they want: they stop buying from you or they complain. Many customers won't complain initially; unless the service is really frustrating to them. However, if they continue to get bad service and still want to buy your product or service you can be sure that they will want to tell you why they are unhappy with your business.
It is one of your primary functions as a small business owner to make sure that customers are treated well and receive good service, throughout your organization.
Define customer service: first, how are you defining, 'what is customer service'? Without a definition it is difficult for you to recognize what needs to be done. This understanding of customer service will be different for every organization.
Second, recognize that customer service is related to every action or interaction on behalf of the customer. To deliver good customer service you have to have a staff and a culture that has outstanding customer service skills and that culture needs to be developed around customer loyalty concepts.
Third, the quality of your customer service is directly related to the quality of the organization you have developed. It is not possible to deliver outstanding customer service if you have hired people who are satisfied with delivering only average performance.
Fourth, as a small business owner, get involved in customer service complaints. This will enable you to better understand where the customer is coming from and where, when, why, and what you need to change in your organization.
Fifth, recognize that outsourcing customer service elements is perfectly acceptable and probably a smart thing to do when you are a small, growing business (at some point you will likely grow to a size where your business can manage it effectively).
You could for example, outsource the support desk or the warranty claims or even the order taking (via call center). But be careful in your outsourcing selection; you want to be sure they have the same value on delivering good customer service that you do and that they understand what you want (not a slick and superficial service; not a bored and reading-from-a-script service; but a genuine, thoughtful, intelligent service).
You also need to be sure that the customer loyalty concepts and programs you build include a balance between outsourced services and services provided by your own team.
Finally, always believe that a customer who complains is doing you a favor; it's the ones that don't complain who are not giving you the opportunity to improve, they will simply not come back.
Define customer service in your business' policies and practices handbook to ensure that every employee understands the importance of customers to your business.
However, defining good customer service is only the first step; then you need to hire people who are capable of communicating effectively and who care about both your customers, and your business.
Develop interview questions when hiring that use scenarios to allow applicants to demonstrate how they would behave in a service environment.
Once you understand and accept why customer service is important in terms of acquiring new, and retaining existing, customers, then you need to act on that understanding.
You need to commit to providing high levels of service; even if it costs more to deliver it.
Consider the cost a re-investment in the health and success of your business.
In order to deliver reliable and consistent exceptional service, it is important to effort to customer service management.
You can do this by using software tools such as Customer Tracking Software or survey development tools to help you track, measure and manage your successes and failures.
Note: make sure that you learn from your failures. Make corrections or changes to how you do business if you lose customers due to poor service. Communicate with all customers about the improvements you make from what you learn.
To keep your customers, you need to understand customer loyalty concepts and build programs that match their needs.
Some owners have told me that they need to keep costs in mind, that customers will always try to take advantage of them, that they need to make a profit and can't give all the money back to the customer. But bad customer service will result in a loss of customers. (Pretty logical outcome.)
And my response to that is yes, that's true. To some degree. But, if you want your business to grow, the customer always needs to come first, even at a price. It is your job to find ways to deliver that service efficiently and economically.
If, as a small business owner, you deliver outstanding service, and grow your customers and your sales, you will be able to gain economies and efficiencies of scale that help you get your costs down and earn a profit. Make good customer service one of your business' key performance metrics; in other words, measure your service delivery points (e.g. on time shipping; call answering; etc.) and manage for improvement.
If you have customers who are trying to take advantage of you, fire them or charge them accordingly. But don't make all your customers, good and bad, pay for the bad behavior of a very few.
Use this site index as your Small Business Advisor; it provides an index or map to all the content on this site (by topic).
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.