The business landscape has grown increasingly competitive as the internet has transformed the world into a global marketplace. Customer expectations have changed right alongside this transformation, and most customers expect businesses to deliver excellent customer service.
In fact, according to Microsoft’s state of global customer service report, a whopping 61% of people across the world said that they have stopped doing business with a brand due to poor customer service quality.
These numbers clearly emphasize the importance of customer service, especially if you have a small business. A string of missteps here and there could cause your previously built quality customer service to take a nosedive and lead you to lose customers.
Here are 9 pointers on how to deliver excellent customer service. All the examples discussed here relate to well-known brands, but they can still give you ideas about how to deliver excellent customer service as a small business and how to go about it.
#1 Build a Rapport with Your Customers
Today, social media is the best tool to make your customers feel connected to you and your brand. You can bring out the human face of your brand and win your audience’s hearts.
For example, the make-up brand Glossier uses its social media community to connect with its prospects and customers, and informs them about their product development as a bonus. They have branded themselves as a “people-powered beauty ecosystem” where skin comes first, and beauty comes second.
The founder, Emily Weiss, regularly takes the stage to answer questions or investigate customer concerns through Instagram stories. They have a lot of interactive content that isn’t selling anything but building a rapport with the customers by providing value first.
Even if it’s in the form of a simple game!
This allows them to build a relationship with their audience that does not involve selling only. This rapport-building sows the seeds of trust. On top of that, Glossier creates highly relevant and targeted products that fly off the shelves. So, viewing your relationship with your customers as you would with any human helps you to invest in building a rapport, which then translates into long-term trust.
#2 Always Be There for Customer Communication
Online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos realizes the importance of being available for 24×7 customer support because, let’s face it, problems can arise at any time. And unlike other brands, it wants to be there to solve them. So not only does it have a phone number listed on the top of the homepage for all-time support, but a dedicated customer service menu right alongside it as well.
If, as a small business, it is not possible for your customer support team to be available 24×7, then you can have a dedicated Twitter page (just like Microsoft Xbox) that is made exclusively for handling customer support requests. You can also have a help desk ticketing system that can take care of queries that your business receives when it’s offline.
Tools like Zingtree can also help, allowing you to build self-solving guides in the form of decision trees that empower customers to discover answers for themselves. Plus, Zingtree will provide a full Q&A history of each journey through your decision tree. You can see each session, or have these transcripts delivered along with any support ticket that uses email: ticketing systems like Zendesk, Freshdesk, or Salesforce, chat applications like Zopim and Intercom, or any other system.
#3 Never Take Existing Customers for Granted
SaaS company Dropbox does an excellent job of rewarding its existing customers and fostering loyalty in them. The cloud storage platform comes with an amazing two side referral program. Not only does the brand offers free storage space to those referring the platform to their friends but also for accepting the invitation. The compelling product rewards both sides once they register for a dropbox account with free storage.
#4 Hire Staff With Exceptional People Skills
This means people who are patient, resourceful and have a warm and friendly disposition. When your customers interact with such people, they feel calm and assured that their concerns are being heard and will be addressed properly. Your customer support team have people who are:
- Active listeners, attentive, adaptable
- Creative and good at resolving conflicts
- Empathetic and effective communicators
- Good at reading physical and emotional cues
- Friendly and open-minded
- Patient and responsive
This is one way to deliver excellent customer service consistently and become a dependable name in the business.
#5 Foster Employee Engagement
It’s not just the customer support team but the entire human resource of your company that needs to be engaged to bring more value to your business which will result in enhancing the value for the customers. According to the Temkin Group, there’s a correlation between the companies that fared better in terms of employee engagement and their performance as a brand.
Even small businesses can make little changes to improve processes such as onboarding, communication processes, incentive programs, employee listening programs, recruiting and hiring and more to see a definite increase in employee engagement. As employees start feeling more meaningful in their jobs, it can help to deliver excellent customer service.
#6 Be a Pro at Problem-solving
Sometimes, only paying attention to what the customers are saying is not enough. You need to have an eye and awareness for more significant and global trends that are likely to affect more people in the future.
Adidas did just this and in 2017, when the climate change wave wasn’t as widespread as it is today, it launched a new line of shoes. These shoes were made entirely out of ocean waste. Not only did they fulfill the expectations of being well-made shoes, but they also solved people’s problems of including more eco-friendly items in their wardrobe.
Keep an eye out for the problems that your customers might be facing in the future and tackle those in the most innovative and value-delivering way possible.
#7 Don’t Make False Claims
In 2010, the popular cereal brand Kellogg’s was found to have committed false advertising. Customers had accused the brand of misleading them about the immunity-boosting properties of its Rice Krispies cereal. The advertising claimed that the cereal improved children’s immunity due to the 25% daily value of antioxidants and nutrients – vitamins A, B, C, and E. The Federal Trade Commission termed these claims dubious.
The case was settled in 2011 when Kellogg’s agreed to pay $2.5 million to the affected customers and also donated products worth $2.5 million, to charity.
Lesson? False claims could cost you more than the profit you were hoping to make. Just avoid them.
#8 Understand the Value of Customer Retention
According to Small Business Trends, the probability of selling to an existing customer is 60-70%, whereas to a new one its 5-20% since the value has already been proven in the former’s case. And the 80/20 rule is applicable here as well: 80% of your business will come from 20% of your existing customers. Not to mention, retention is cheaper than acquisition.
That’s not to say that you shouldn’t try to widen your reach and pull new customers in. It’s just that in the name of expansion, you shouldn’t forget your old customers like many small businesses are liable to do.
The best way to go about customer retention is to leverage email marketing, with 56% of businesses saying it was the most effective strategy. You can easily personalize and segment your mailing list using different emailing software to curate special offers.
#9 Act on Customer Feedback
This is perhaps the simplest and most effective method for delivering excellent customer service. Why? Because by implementing the feedback, you are directly indicating to the customer that you value what they have to say. Remember the adage: actions speak louder than words? The same happens here and when it does, your customer feels valued, seen, and heard. These are wonderful feelings for them to associate with your brand because it increases their loyalty and keeps them coming back for more.
For example, in June 2018, McDonald’s announced that it would be ditching plastic straws in favor of paper straws in the UK from September. The change happened as a result of a customer-led campaign that had nearly half a million signatures. Customers had a problem with the reportedly 1.8m plastic straws that McDonald’s was using every day. The company took immediate action as a remedy to the situation and won its customer’s appreciation.
The strategies discussed here don’t require costly implementation. In fact, whether small or large, each business can implement them for quality customer service. For relatively small investments, you will reap large returns for your business in the long-term. After all, it is the customers who keep your business succeeding.
So, are you ready to deliver excellent customer service to them and lock in your business success?
Dwayne Charrington is an expert in customer service and ongoing trends in the customer support industry. He conceptualizes and creates content for ProProfs Help Desk. He specializes in the customer support domain and has paramount experience in SaaS-based products. In his leisure time, he is busy with adventure sports and traveling.