You probably think your small business offers great customer service—well, at least good customer service. But does it really?
Without setting customer service benchmarks for your staff, then monitoring and measuring them, you can't be sure how well your employees are living up to your customer service promise.
Here are six ways to assess the effectiveness of your customer service.
- Set benchmarks. "Good customer service" can be a nebulous concept, unless you set measurable standards and create rules to follow. Whenever possible, try to quantify your standards. For example, set a goal to answer all customer service emails within 24 hours, or not to put callers on hold for more than 60 seconds. For behavior that isn’t easily quantifiable, come up with general rules employees can follow. For instance, you might have a rule that your retail employees should acknowledge every customer who enters the store by smiling, greeting them and looking them in the eye. Once you have set such benchmarks, it’s easier to tell if your employees are living up to them.
- Put technology on your side. The tools available vary but there are many ways to keep track of your business’s customer service metrics. If you deal with a lot of customer service calls, for example, use software to track measurements such as how quickly calls are answered, how long customers spend on hold, and how long it takes to resolve a problem. Assess company-wide averages as well as individual employees’ metrics to spot areas where your business is falling short.
- Ask your customers. It’s easier than ever to survey customers about their satisfaction with your business’s customer service. Methods range from the low-tech (comment cards on your restaurant tables or at your point-of-sale) to online surveys, quick polls on social media or annual check-ins with your best customers to see how satisfied they are. To get unvarnished opinions, stay on top of your business’s online reviews and ratings. If lots of reviewers are criticizing the same aspect of your business (such as the attitude of the wait staff at your restaurant), take it seriously.
- Pay attention. Numbers are one way to measure customer service but keep your eyes and ears open too. As a small business owner, you have an advantage over bigger competitors: You can literally see what’s going on in your business every day. Take time to walk around, talk to employees and talk to customers. For example, suppose you have an employee who consistently takes longer than the rest to ring up customers. Watch, and you might find out she’s taking more time to chat with customers and suggest complementary purchases. That means she’s building good customer relationships and boosting the average purchase volume, too.
Empower your employees. Today’s tracking technologies can make you seem like “Big Brother” to your employees, especially if they aren’t sure what you’re measuring and how it affects them. Inspire employees to improve their performances by explaining what you’re tracking, giving them access to their own metrics and showing why the numbers matter. Be open to suggestions from employees about how to improve customer service. Since they’re on the front lines with customers, they can identify processes, bottlenecks and rules that are causing problems.
Take action. Once a month or once a quarter, review all the information you’ve gathered to look for ongoing trends or problems and then determine solutions. Whether the answer is revising your processes, giving employees additional training or incorporating new technologies, taking steps to improve customer service will make both your employees and your customers happier with your small business.
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About Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and Co-founder of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog SmallBizDaily.com. A nationally known speaker and authority on entrepreneurship, Rieva has been covering America’s entrepreneurs for more than 30 years.
Before co-founding GrowBiz Media, Lesonsky was the long-time Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. Lesonsky has appeared on hundreds of radio shows and numerous local and national television programs, including the Today Show, Good Morning America, CNN, The Martha Stewart Show and Oprah. Lesonsky regularly writes about small business for numerous websites and for corporations targeting entrepreneurs. Many organizations have recognized Lesonsky for her tireless devotion to helping entrepreneurs. She served on the Small Business Administration’s National Advisory Council for six years, was honored by the SBA as a Small Business Media Advocate and a Woman in Business Advocate, and received the prestigious Lou Campanelli award from SCORE. She is a long-time member of the Business Journalists Hall of Fame.
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