sectors of success.pngWhether it is having your Starbucks Frappuccino redone because your order was wrong the first time or the convenience of free shipping and returns at Zappos.com, good customer service is the lifeblood of any business and something consumers never forget. Unfortunately, the same is also true for bad service. In fact, it takes 12 positive service experiences to make up for one negative experience. Moreover, research has shown that a dissatisfied consumer will tell between nine and 15 people about their experience. Thanks to technology and an increase in social media use, consumers are able to voice their opinions faster and easier than ever. By using sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp, consumers can reach thousands of people in nanoseconds.

 

Ironically, while companies often invest heavily in attracting new customers, they usually don’t do nearly as much to keep them. According to a Customer Experience Impact Report from Harris Interactive, 82 % of consumers quit doing business with a company because of a bad customer experience

 

On the other hand, companies that get customer service right are rewarded with bottom-line building loyalty, positive word-of-mouth (likely the most powerful form of advertising in today’s age of social influence) and even the opportunity to charge a premium. The Harris Customer Experience report also that found that 85% of customers would be willing to pay more over the standard price in order to ensure a superior customer experience.

 

For small businesses, delivering great service poses a unique challenge. Consumers may expect a more personal approach. However, while the flexibility to treat customers as individuals, make concessions and resolve issues quickly can be a valuable differentiator, small businesses could be disadvantaged by limited resources for customer relationship management, such as CRM technologies and perks, like free shipping, used by bigger organizations to enhance service delivery.

 

Five Cardinal Sins of Customer Service

 

While there are many nuances to great service and every industry has different expectations, it is a sure bet that any of the transgressions below, especially if repeated, can sabotage your effort to make and market great products.

 

  • Check your mood at the door - No one is immune from stress. However, personal problems and good service do not mix. You and your employees should maintain a polite, friendly, helpful and positive disposition at all times. This means employees (and you) should never complain about their jobs and always remember to say please and thank you – even to difficult customers. Equally important, make sure that you and your staff have intimate knowledge of all your products and services, including options to modify or substitute if the exact item or service the customer is looking for is not available.
  • Silence is not golden - One common complaint about large companies is that they do not respond quickly or at all – to customer emails. You should do your best to set and keep a time goal for responding to customer inquiries, comments, or orders. Keep your inbox open all day and make sure it is synched to your smartphone. Also consider using Twitter and Facebook as alternative means to be accessible, share information and address customer concerns.
  • Don’t sell, solve – Helping a customer meet a specific need rather than just making your own registers ring is the cornerstone of an authentic customer service mindset. For example, if someone comes into your store to buy a birthday gift, ask questions about the recipient and budget that will help you tailor your recommendations, rather than just proposing generic ideas. Shifting the mentality from selling to solving eliminates pressure, makes the customer feel you have a genuine interest in them and translates into a positive, rewarding experience and repeat visits.
  • More jargon than they bargain for – Customers want to build relationships with authentic brands they can trust. Excessive and confusing marketing mumbo jumbo is a turnoff that can work against its intended purpose. Instead seek ways to add value to content on your site, blog, Facebook page – e.g., offer tips on relevant topics, share appropriate articles, etc.
  • Staying wrong and strong To err is human, to recover is good service. Mistakes happen, but what can make or break a business is what happens next. Sticking to your guns and not taking responsibility for an error will just escalate anger and make the situation worse. If your customers see you making an honest effort to rectify the situation rather than being defensive or offering boilerplate apologies, they are less likely to take their business elsewhere.

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How do you offer good customer service? What are some of your best practices and lessons learned? Share your experiences with the SBOC community below.