Guest Post By Greg Boudonck
In my opinion, customer service is the most important aspect of any business.
That goes for small businesses and for large corporations.
When we treat the customer right, things will flow great within the business structure.
If customer service is done wrong, we can find our business slip-sliding into failure.
Over the years, I have worked in various positions in which customer service was top and center of my job duties.
As a telemarketing manager many years ago, I often had to provide customer service.
And even as a freelancer now, I have to always be aware of my clients and their needs.
I have decided to share the top 27 customer service tips for small business owners.
But, these tips should also be instituted by managers of large businesses too.
I have witnessed a strong decline in customer service over the last few years, and businesses wonder why they are suffering.
These are in no particular order.
They are all important.
Some of these tips deal with having employees, and I do realize that some of us do not have employees per say.
But just consider any freelance or contract workers you have, or even family members.
You can put them in the place of the employee in these tips.
Tip #1: Use humor
So you receive a call from a customer who is unhappy about a certain situation.
It can help lighten the stress just by using a humorous sentence.
“Oh, I am so sorry about the late delivery Jim. I told that UPS driver not to take the L.A. route to get to Minneapolis from Chicago, but he just didn’t listen.”
Just a bit of humor can lighten everything, and then offer to make up for it in the best way possible.
Tip #2: Always respond
Sometimes we feel the urge to just ignore some seemingly stupid comments about our business, but it is best that we always respond positively.
I said with a positive!
“I am sorry you feel that way Ma’am; how can we make it better?”
Tip #3: Always deliver on promises
No matter the promise you make to a customer, deliver on that promise.
I recently encountered this situation with a major restaurant chain.
I had a bad meal in which the eggs were not cooked completely and the employee treated me terribly.
After a call to the owner, he told me to visit his store anytime and mention the call; he would cook me a free breakfast.
About 2 weeks later I did what he said, but he did not remember me and charged me for the meal.
I haven’t eaten there since, and I won’t.
Tip #4: Learn from social media feedback
We can love Facebook and hate it, but we can learn a lot from posts on it and other social media sites.
Learn from feedback and grow.
Tip #5: Listen
Some customer service representatives have a tendency to predict the final sentences the customer will speak.
They then overrun the customer with an answer trying to quickly end the call.
Even if they were right about the solvement of the issue, they still have an irate customer because they did not listen.
Just listen and things will go smoother.
Tip #6: Respond quickly
So a customer sent in a complaint form.
How long should you take to respond?
The day before yesterday.
The quicker responders have the most satisfied customers.
Tip #7: Always be willing to apologize
No matter what the issue, whether it was your fault or some other, be willing to apologize to the customer for their inconvenience.
Don’t be willing…Do it!
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Tip #8: Tag team
When you have 2 or more employees who are trained properly in customer service, there is no reason they cannot “tag team” the customer’s issues.
After all, 2 heads are better than 1.
Tip #9: Invest
It pays to invest in tools and education that can help you have the best customer service possible.
Some ideas may be:
Customer service books and classes
Tip #10: Train your employees
It is quite important that you train any employees or contract labor on the exact methods you want customer service handled.
As long as everyone is handling customer service in the same way, there is less chance of confusion.
Tip #11: Be flexible
So you only carry red and blue products, but your customer really wants a yellow one.
I suggest you bend and find a way to make a yellow one.
You will have a very happy customer even if you charged them more.
Tip #12: Use technology tools
This goes right along with #9, but some of these technology tools are free too.
I suggest an autoresponder, an answering service and the best software possible to help you have the best customer service.
Tip #13: Engage
Some small business owners think they are too busy to engage with customers.
They leave this up to the employees.
I suggest as a business owner you need to find every opportunity possible to engage with the people that are putting profits in your bank account.
Tip #14: Ask for feedback
Just simply calling a customer and asking how the product or service is doing for them can help you make needed changes.
It can also create more sales, because customers will appreciate the gesture.
Tip #15: Use personal touches
I had an insurance agent who consistently sent me birthday and Christmas cards.
These personal touches worked!
Even when contacted from other insurance agents offering lower prices, I stayed with my insurance agent friend.
Tip #16: Overcompensate for errors
Every business makes a mistake here and there.
It is how you handle that mistake that defines your business structure.
It may cost you, but the best method is to always overcompensate for errors your business made.
Tip #17: The customer is 1st
This should be a no-brainer, but the customer must always be 1st.
By following this tip, you will always have satisfied customers even in trying conditions.
Tip #18: Freebies and promotions
It may not seem like this fits into customer service, but more into marketing.
Our customers deserve a special freebie or promotion from time to time.
This will show we care about them.
Tip #19: Loyalty program
This goes right along with #18.
Loyalty programs are an excellent way to show our customers that we care about them and the business they give us.
Tip #20: Seek advice
There is always someone who has more experience at customer service than you do.
Seek their advice and mentorship.
Just as you are reading this, you can also learn customer service tips and tricks from other small business owners.
Tip #21: Relax
If you are not relaxed and confident, the customer will be able to tell even over the phone.
Just relax, because you can and will find an answer to solve the customer’s issue.
Tip #22: Reward employees
Whenever an employee or contract worker handles a customer service issue correctly, reward them.
By doing so, you will show them and other employees that customer service is of utmost importance.
You are showing them that you appreciate that they care for both your business and the customer.
Tip #23: Refer business
Many of our customers are also business owners.
So you have another customer that asks you if you know someone that performs what you other customer provides in their business.
When that person tells them you referred them, you have gained a friend and customer.
Tip #24: Have a written customer service plan
While you can never predict every single issue a customer may have, you can develop a basic customer service plan to follow.
Put it in writing and share it with your employees and/or contract workers.
As I said, it may not cover every circumstance, but it can give a basic procedure that can help.
Tip #25: Follow through
Here is where many small business owners slip up.
You believe that you fixed the issue with the customer, but do you know for sure?
It is wise to do a follow up call with customers around 1 week after and see if the issue was completely solved.
And like I said, many businesses do not do this, so you will show that you are far above the rest.
Tip #26: Your top priority
If you make customer service your top priority in your business, all other things will work much smoother.
Remember, it is the customers that are keeping the business running.
Without the customer, no matter how great your product or service, you have nothing.
Tip #27: Be accessible
The question is this: if your customers can’t contact you, how can you provide customer service?
Make it easy for them.
A phone number
A contact page
By providing a plethora of contact options, it will show your customers that you truly care about their experience.
I will now tell you that you will have a customer at some point that you cannot please no matter what you do.
But do not quit trying.
Many businesses gain either success or failure from their customer service methods.
Even when we make mistakes, customers will forgive if we handle the situation properly.
So what do you think?
Do you have any other customer service tips you would add?
And another question; is the customer always right?
That question has been debated time and time again.
I would like to hear your thoughts on it.
You can post all comments and questions below.
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About the Author
Greg Boudonck is a freelance writer and the author of over 50 books. He writes on many different topics, but business subjects are one of his primary areas of writing expertise. You can see more about Greg and his work by visiting his website at Lancerlife.com.
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