Fantastic customer service is the key to success and growth in a business environment that is cluttered and competitive in just about every industry. Even if you happen to be in an area of business that seems to be growing without much effort, some day it won’t be – and then the incredible customer service you have already established may be the differentiating factor that will keep you way ahead of your competition.
As a small business, it can sometimes seem overwhelming to do much more than sell and deliver. If you have a small staff (or a staff of one…), one more item on the ‘to do’ list can seem insurmountable. Instead of feeling overwhelmed by the idea of creating a CS plan, consider starting with the way you and your team think about your clients.
As an easy place to begin is to consider that the foundation of good customer service is really just respect for your customer. The very basic idea that you should treat others as you’d like to be treated is as valuable today as it was to your grandparents.
A few thoughts about showing and sharing respect:
Time: A respect for your customer’s time should be obvious….If you are dropping the ball here, there are few acceptable excuses. Make every communication and/or transaction time-efficient; be prepared with information; consider their schedule before yours; be as quick to respond to requests, questions, andconcerns as you possibly can. If a timeline for a service or product is part of your business – be honest. You may not be able to deliver according to the customer’s wishes but better to be upfront about timelines than have a disappointed customer later.
Information: The range of knowledge a potential customer may have can vary widely. Whether they are well-informed, poorly informed or ill-informed, engage in each interaction with an open mind. Try taking an approach that emphasizes helping and collaborating. Have a conversation and ask questions. You may be surprised by what you learn and your customer will appreciate an honest and patient conversation.
Money: Yes, you are in business to make a living but trying to squeeze an extra dollar out of one interaction might mean that you don’t get an opportunity to sell to that customer again. Consumers are savvier than ever before and will be more likely to develop a strong rapport with you if they feel that you are being fair. Even better, finding a way to provide some small measure of budget relief can be a fantastic way to create customer loyalty.
People: Your customers are people -with hopes, dreams, and challenges – just like you. Some customers can be really hard to like or really difficult to work with but with some patience and effort those are the ones who can create the most opportunities for success. Sometimes those very difficult customers can become your greatest champions.