With an increasing number of large, national chain stores popping up everywhere, small businesses sometimes find it difficult to compete. In the early 1900s, successful companies lasted an average of 67 years. Today, businesses typically exist for only 15 years. Mastering the fine art of providing excellent customer service is the best way to attract customers to your business and your products and earn their loyalty
Oftentimes, customers are willing to pay a little more if they are getting that little something extra along with the product or service they are purchasing. Two basic rules to follow: train your employees and treat your customers as you would want to be treated.
Start by training your employees to treat every customer who walks through the door as an individual. Stress the importance of simple tasks like being courteous, greeting customers with a smile, and respecting a customer’s decision. Develop training programs that will make your employees knowledgeable on all aspects of your services and products. Nothing impresses customers more than realizing a store’s employees are knowledgeable their product or service.
Studies show that three out of four consumers know more about the products they buy than do the salespeople. When a consumer realizes this, their buying experience suffers. A big part of selling is education; employees need to know what they are selling, and why it is valuable to the customer. Your investment in educating and empowering your employees will show up in satisfied and returning clientele.
ACCESSIBILITY IN DIVERSE ENVIRONMENTS
For the online, retail enterprise, a key component of customer service is accessibility. To improve your accessibility and give your customers confidence, consider the following:
- Provide a reliable means for potential or existing customers to reach you, by phone, by email or through online chat.
- Train online sales and support associates to offer professional, courteous service in all verbal and written communications.
- Make your shipping and return policies easy to find and easy to understand.
- If you provide any guarantees on your website, be sure to honor them.
Teach your employees how to read a customer’s needs, and treat him or her accordingly. In a retail environment, some customers are in a hurry and don’t want to have a “relationship” with a salesperson, they just want to know where a product is located. Others want a little courtesy and even a little pampering. The same skills will apply to online chat services an internet retailer may provide; teach your employees to follow the customer’s lead to know whether they are seeking a quick answer, or detailed information.
When dissatisfied customers present problems, make certain you know how to handle the issue. Acknowledge your customer’s complaint, apologize, and respond quickly. Don’t forget that if you resolve the problem reasonably and fairly, the customer is likely to tell others about the wonderful customer service at your company. Train your support staff to be effective listeners and to diffuse tense situations with customers. Provide your support staff with the means to escalate a consumer issue to a supervisor when the situation requires it.
Whether your customers rate your company on sites like BBB or Yelp, social media or word of mouth, people will talk about the quality of service they received. Every customer who chooses your company is placing their trust in your ability to efficiently and expediently provide the service they are expecting. They also trust your ability to handle any issues that may arise during this time.
That may not mean meeting a customer at the door with a four course meal and a shoe shine, but it does mean investing time, energy, and personnel into acknowledging and resolving customer issues. Some businesses can credit their success to something as simple as saying “please” and “thank you.”
INVEST IN EXCELLENCE
An effective marketing plan includes a growing number of avenues for seeking out new customers and holding on to those you already have. But even in a changing world, outstanding customer service, provided by knowledgable, courteous employees, is as effective as buying advertisements and posting billboards on the busiest highways. Earning the trust and loyalty of your customers and maintaining their goodwill will expand your market reach and strengthen your business. Your satisfied customers’ word of mouth referrals to family, friends and associates are gold. Their goodwill, as expressed through social media and customer reviews, is invaluable. When it comes to providing quality customer service, figure out what works best for your company and be consistent. You will never regret the investments you make in great service.