Ask any successful business owner what the true key to success is and many will answer that it’s obtaining and maintaining strong customer relations. No business is successful without a loyal and growing customer base behind it, and ensuring that your business has a friendly and effective customer service team and design in place is the best way to get that customer base. There are numerous ways of improving the customer service of any business.
Many people will avoid speaking with employees to prevent conflict, seeming foolish or feeling embarrassed. Their concerns may go completely unchecked as a result, and you, your business and your customers may all suffer as a consequence. Let your customers know that they have an open line of communication that is welcome to any and all questions, comments and concerns. Sometimes, it’s nice to have a somewhat anonymous method of communication like comment boxes on websites and social media accounts to help make the process a little more comfortable. However, ensure that your customers always know that more personal methods of communication such as phone, email and even face to face conversations are not just acceptable but also very much welcome in your company.
The Power of Patience
While many customers are very civil, there are also quite a few that tend to be irate. This can range anywhere between hearing an insult being muttered under their breath to having people scream at you or you employees. In addition, there can be many problems that are just as frustrating for you as they are for your customers. For example, a technical problem with your payment system can cause a lot of headaches for you and create a lot of tension in your customers. The key is to have as much patience as possible. Keep a cool head and more customers will be likely to stay below the boiling point as well. Staying calm, professional, courteous and kind is also a show of respect to your customers.
If you or your employees don’t know the answer to a question or how to rectify a specific problem, be honest and tell your customers that you don’t know and that you’ll do everything in your power to find out. If necessary, get the customer’s contact information and explain that you’ll get back to them with the solution as soon as possible. Customers appreciate when businesses make themselves seem more human. It’s much more understandable for a customer to accept a difficult issue and get a solution later than to act like you know how to fix it when you don’t.
Likewise, if you are experiencing problems on your end, were wrong about something or made a mistake, admit it to your customers. Not only does this show that you’re honest and humble, but it also helps customers empathize with you. This creates strong customer relations and can even help calm down angry patrons.
Speak Like a Human
Building on the point of appearing more human to customers is analyzing how you speak to them. Customers tend to hate it when you throw out scripted automatic responses to their comments, complaints or questions. It makes you seem cold and dismissive. While there should be some guidelines in place for addressing customers in specific ways, encourage all of your employees to speak with customers in a normal yet professional manner. Address customers by their names, don’t be afraid to make a joke on occasion, make conversation where appropriate and try to remember each customer that you speak to.
Use All Feedback to Your Advantage
Good feedback usually means that you’re doing various things right. If the customers are happy about it, your employees are good at it and it’s not very inefficient cost-wise, then keep it up. If you do have trouble keeping it cost-effective, look at ways to lower costs without creating problems for the customers. A little inconvenience to you could be worth it if it keeps the customers happy.
However, not all feedback is good, and you’ll even have stray comments that are downright insulting. Whether the feedback has any true merit or not, ensure that you look into any and all issues for legitimate problems to address. If you did spot a problem, don’t just fix it, tell people about it. Update your news page and social media with your improvements. If possible, send a message to the commenter directly about it. Not only will customers truly feel like their opinions and concerns are being respected and taken to heart, but it will also show that you truly care about your business and wish to improve it in any way that you can.
Practice Various Scenarios with Employees
While you may have a lot of experience with customers and their various comments, complaints and questions, your employees may not. You can’t prepare them for everything, but you can give them a starting point for confronting most problems. Get a friend or coworker to pretend to be a customer and prepare several scenarios to present to an employee. As they are faced with each scenario, don’t offer any advice or direction unless they ask for it or until they are done. This will allow you to get a good grasp on how they may act under pressure and in situations where they may be confused. As stated before, try to avoid creating scripted responses to certain situations. Simply give your employees a base to work from since every situation is different.
Be Accessible as Much as Possible
One particularly frustrating problem for customers is being unable to contact customer support or other representatives when they need them. Depending on how inaccessible your business seems, you may give off an impression like you don’t put a customer’s needs at the forefront. Make sure there is always someone tending to the email account and customer service lines throughout the day. If someone needs a lunch break, get someone else to handle the lines for a little while until they return or take it upon yourself to watch them.
If you are able, keep customer support lines open slightly before and a while after regular business hours. Thanks to the popularity of cell phones and the advances of communication in the Internet, you or an employee can field some customer concerns and questions as the day winds down Activity in regards to customer support is usually low both early and late in the day, meaning that this isn’t much of a sacrifice for a welcome benefit to your customers that will show that you truly care about their questions and problems regarding your business.
One of the absolute best ways to show your customers that you care about them, their well-being and their experiences with your business is by offering rewards for their loyalty. More and more businesses are offering loyalty reward programs through point systems, contests, giveaways and more. Customers can sign up for these programs or actively follow and respond to the social media pages of your business. Get creative with your rewards, and make sure that they’re as appealing as possible. Customers won’t feel very appreciated if the rewards or prizes are cheap or something that probably won’t get used.
With all of these tips in mind, remember that the common threat amongst all of these options is respect and appreciation for your customers, employees and business. Dealing with some customers may be unpleasant, but nearly any negative situation can be turned into a positive. Learn and grow with your customers to make your business the best that it can be.