By Rieva Lesonsky
Just like your car needs regular tune-ups to keep it running smoothly, your small business’s relationship marketing techniques and customer service isn’t something you can “set and forget.” These days, customers are pickier than ever, and they have dozens of ways to spread the (bad) news if they’re not happy with your service—from Yelp reviews to an outraged tweet. What can you do to make sure your customer service engine is purring like a Ferrari’s?
- Staff stuff: Employees make all the difference when customers are choosing between your small business and a big corporation. Be honest: Are your employees up to par? Are they friendly and helpful at all times (no matter what the situation)? Are they up-to-date on the latest industry trends so they can give customers informed advice about what you sell? If your employees fall short, provide the training they need—or consider replacing them.
- Tech tools: Your business needs to be up to snuff with technology for your employees to do their jobs. Do you and your team have the tools you need—whether that’s an updated invoicing system so you can quickly access customer records, mobile payment tools like Square so you can take a customer’s payment on the spot, or tablet computers to show customers your ideas for their new home renovation? You don’t have to jump on every tech trend, but consider which ones will help you provide better customer service and pay off for your business.
- First look: What impression does your business give new customers? Is your location clean, updated and welcoming? If your employees visit customers at their homes or offices, are their service or delivery vehicles well maintained? Do their uniforms convey your brand? If your business looks dingy or outdated, customers aren’t going to choose you over the competition.
- Personable policies: Make sure your employees are empowered to make their own decisions about making customers happy. Give them boundaries within which they can decide on their own whether to, say, give an unhappy customer a refund or discount or offer them a free product or service. There’s nothing customers hate more than hearing “I have to check with my manager” or “That’s not our policy.” Today, customers expect the rules to be bent for them—so enable your team to do so.
- Follow their feedback: To maintain your customer service at its best, regularly get feedback from customers, whether by providing physical comment cards at the point of purchase, with the bill or in the invoice. You can also conduct informal polls about service on your social media accounts such as Facebook. Or get more in-depth by using a tool like SurveyMonkey, which lets you create free online surveys. Finally, use Google Alerts to monitor what’s said online about your business and spot unhappy customers before their complaints go viral.
For a different, authentic way to gain new customers, check out “A Case for Case Studies” to prove your company’s reliability and success to prospects.