The Basics of Customer Service?
This Special Edition newsletter article is about Customer Service.
Customer service can make or break a business, especially a small business. Good customer service is key to bringing back customers and making them repeat customers – the type of customer that lets you build a strong and healthy business.
Poor customer service can mean your business just doesn’t grow.
Good customer service really isn’t that hard, it has a lot to do with having good manners, never getting upset or mad with a customer no matter how rude or snipey they can be, having a smile on your face, even when you’re on the phone and listening carefully to what customers are saying and where they are coming from – are they needing a coffee or do they want to get some ideas first and need advice more than anything else?
I think hard selling is a killer for good customer service because it gets the customer’s back up and they stop trusting you.
Investing in your customers with quality service can mean you don’t get the initial sale but results in them coming back with friends who also end up shopping. I know some of my business friends believe it is best to get a quick sale but I think the repeat sale has greater value because it multiplies – there is more than one of them.
Good customer service is also about communicating with your customers – letting them know what is happening, what changes to business systems and processes are happening with the implementation of new ways of doing things.
Two of my wholesale suppliers have changed how they do business in the last year – one was bought and another had new computer systems implemented. Neither of them communicated with their wholesale customers, even their long term customers. So each time you go to do business with them there is a different requirement. I’m feeling like I’m jumping hoops for them and I’m their customer! So now I’m looking round for other suppliers because they haven’t communicated with me and have damaged our relationship.
Good customer service would have had them sending out a letter or two with information about the upcoming changes and giving me the opportunity to be part of the growth. Smart customer service would have included a customer survey finding out what I like about their businesses, what I would like to see improved or added and showing that they value my business. You don’t have a business if you don’t have customers – consumer, business or government.
Your customers will tell you so much about your business it is staggering. Treat the information with respect and open your eyes and imagination as to how it can improve your business. Ask you customers what they like and don’t like and they will tell you. Give them permission to say what they really think and don’t take constructive criticism personally – people don’t always have to be diplomatic with their thoughts and it is easier if you have a thicker hide with feedback because it is worth more than gold for your business.
Good customer service also includes patience with customers. I have some truly lovely regular customers – retail and wholesale – and some of them are very sweet and vague and like it when I can help direct them with choices. But I make sure I take the risk out of it for them and let them exchange – I’m not always going to pick out exactly what they need and I value their business.
Communicating with your customers also includes talking with them. Now for all of you who have met me you know I can talk too much sometimes and that it can sometimes be not so good for good customer service but then I trust you to forgive me my human foibles. But talking is crucial for good customer service and I am learning when to simply shut-up and be quiet. I’m sure you’ve all come across a market person sitting back reading a book or newspaper and wondered why they haven’t greeted you and thought they just don’t care. Well they do care but they are shy people generally – they can create great things but don’t know how to talk to people – they feel that whenever they start talking to people who come to their stall they scare them off. They are introverts and can talk comfortably one-to-one but talking to customers daunts them and their customer service suffers. Many creative people are introverts, I break the mould by being a talker but then it comes to Monday’s and I like nothing better than to keep to myself all day and not talk with anyone.
So what is the solution for introverts who want their own business and have the ability to create and source great goods? Bring someone in who is good at the customer service side, someone who can bring you the sales from customers because without the sales you don’t have a business.
You’ll find also that the influence of the chatty customer service helper will rub off and some of the skills in talking with others will develop.
Another solution could be having a website where your sales are doing through effective systems and the writing of the website copy (words) does the talking. All you have to do is complete the orders.
Customer service for websites include meeting deliveries quickly, replying to emails clearly and quickly, having autoresponders working that provide instant information for customers and an easy to use website.
The basic rule of thumb for good customer service is to look after others as you would like to be looked after – good manners and communicating clearly are the keys.
So don’t limit your business with poor customer service, instead, let it flourish with excellent customer service! 🙂