Customer Service Essentials 101

So you own a small business?

It’s hard; we know how it feels to never switch off, to be so busy we’re surprised we have time to sleep. But one thing we all know is important, possibly the most important, is customer service. Customer service can make or break a business, and it can set you apart from your competitors.

In a time where everyone is busy, a simple unexpected gesture for a customer can sky-rocket you more than thousands of dollars of advertising. So, let’s look at some ways you can get that good ol’ Word Of Mouth to become your businesses most powerful marketing tool.

Under Promise & Over Deliver

An oldie but a goodie- state a realistic turnaround time for a purchase, service or response time and then smash it out of the water. This doesn’t mean you have to work more, or even faster. It’s all about setting realistic expectations from the outset. Be careful to always allow yourself a little leeway, particularly if you are a SOHO business (small office/ home office). For example, you tell a customer that your turnaround time is 5-7 days, this is actually worst case scenario for you. Then you deliver it in the usual, all goes according to plan, 3 days and Wow!! Your customer is singing your praises and telling all his friends about it…..Now imagine you’d told him 3 days and you’d come down with the flu. Different story now isn’t it?! Queensland Trade Print prides itself in being the best in our industry when it comes to turnaround times.

Personalise the customer experience

All customers like the warm, fuzzy feeling these days and it really doesn’t take much to achieve. We all want to be treated like a person not Invoice no 1234 so following up with a quick phone call if further information is required is definitely worth the time. Usually a question can be answered in a more time efficient way than if you’d sent an email, especially if more questions follow. You’ll also get to show the customer that you do have genuine caring staff and no robots! Follow up every quote and enquiry with a phone call. You’d be surprised how many times I hear this on the phone as a great service to offer. Customers have become accustomed to the ‘they don’t care about us’ mentality- let’s prove them wrong! We love to write handwritten notes to our customers- they love it and it doesn’t cost too much time or money.

Handle complaints swiftly

Our least favourite part of being in business I’m sure. My best advice here is set a process that is followed EVERY time, particularly if you have staff. Business owners and managers dislike being dragged into every complaint and staff don’t like to have to send it their way either. So if everyone is aware of the process and resolutions that can be offered the customer walks away satisfied with the outcome. Sometimes it’s just the way you handle a complaint that ensures an unsatisfied customer might just come back again. I always like to use Trip Advisor as an example here. Not everyone is going to like every hotel, it’s just fact, but if a hotel answers politely and calmly to a complaint we usually overlook it – on the other hand if a complaint is met with blame shifting and irate language then we instantly look elsewhere. The same applies in your business.

Don’t be afraid to say no

This one is one of the most difficult for business owners because we hate to turn away revenue. But there is a point where sometimes we need to say no. These jobs often turn into complaints when we try to please everyone, leaving us saying to ourselves ‘I knew I should’ve said no’. In some ways it’s Customer Service in overdrive – we want to help everyone, but sometimes we need to know when to pass it on to someone else. Examples could be price-cutting to a point where the revenue doesn’t cover the cost or when you try to take on a complex job at the expense of your regular loyal customers. Trust your gut instinct here, it’s usually right. If you get the ‘not sure about this one’ feeling, you know what to do.