Business trends come and go, but in business circles currently, customer service is being dissected and discussed as though it was some brand new, out-of-the-box idea. Behind all the conversation, the truth is probably this: It is—and it isn’t.
What hasn’t changed? Customer service is a critical component for all businesses, and everyone’s trying to figure out ways to do it better.
What has changed? Customer service is a game changer. Your customers are firmly in the driver’s seat. And within every business, customer service is everyone’s job.
For small businesses, customer service presents almost unlimited opportunity for differentiation and to build loyalty.
Many believe that ‘old-fashioned customer service’ is making a come-back, even as small businesses adopt the use of digital tools. Even though customer acquisition has sometimes taken precedence over customer service, smart business owners are now redoubling efforts to make the customer front and center in every aspect of their businesses.
At a time when customers demand nothing less, businesses are harnessing the power of their opinions, feedback—and yes, even criticism—to not only expand and fine-tune their customer service efforts but also to drive business decisions and the bottom line.
According to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, the vast majority of consumers surveyed said they have spent—and would spend—more with businesses they believe provide excellent customer service.
So businesses are all over it, right? Not exactly. Another recent report says that although businesses say that one of their primary goals is to increase customer satisfaction, most either don’t want to make an investment or would make only a limited investment to do so. Total disconnect? You decide.
Still, there are businesses across all sectors that have made the commitment to customer service and recognize that providing outstanding customer service is a key differentiator. And for small businesses, while social and mobile media platforms have leveled the playing field, the opportunity to provide excellent service offers them distinct advantages.
What are some absolute musts for small business customer service? Smallbiztrends.com offers what we consider 'non-negotiables' for every small business. Here are a few of them:
- Time is of the essence. Because so many things are 24/7, customers expect quick responses and resolution to problems. Honestly, we don’t think customers expect small businesses to take their calls in the middle of the night! But, they do expect answers to questions and problems. You can accomplish this by empowering employees.
- Use all channels for customer service. Customer service happens through blogs, social media and mobile apps. Make sure you monitor for comments and respond. Online and offline channels, like web-based and phone support are also becoming intertwined. There are software options for doing this.
- Make self-service options available. Too much self-service is not good; however, having the choice is appealing to many customers, especially the impatient ones!
- Don’t forget, it’s the experience. Here small businesses can shine. In-store, online or by phone, even the finest detail of customers’ interaction with you is automatically catalogued into their ‘experience bank,’ which they will remember and share with others. The key here is to never assume any action is too small or too insignificant to make a difference—and to never stop exploring new ways to improve them or offer them in new and unique ways.
- Talk. Ask. Chat. Nothing replaces a good old-fashioned chat with customers one-on-one. Educate your employees to do this on a regular basis, regardless of their jobs. Make sure you make time for this in your busy schedule. The returns are invaluable.
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