In a world where consumers and B2B buyers alike have hundreds of choices available at the tap of a touchscreen, customer service is becoming a key differentiator for businesses. In Microsoft’s most recent State of Global Customer Service Report, 61 percent say customer service is very important; in fact, bad service caused 60 percent to stop doing business from companies in the past.

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How can you provide the kind of customer service that gets customers talking (in a good way) about your business and keeps them coming back? Start by unders

tanding the No. 1 thing your customers want from customer service: convenience.

 

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Convenience likely means different things to different customers. To ensure you’re delivering the convenience your customers want, you need to know their demographics, key concerns and preferred communication methods. However, no matter what target market your business serves, convenient customer service basically boils down to four factors:

 

Speed. Rapid resolution of problems and complaints is crucial to providing customer satisfaction. That starts with responding to them quickly. In the Microsoft survey, for example, 57 percent of consumers say they’re not willing to wait more than five minutes on hold to speak to a customer service rep. Whether you handle customer service via email, phone, chat or some combination of the above, make sure you have adequate support to handle your customer load.

 

Consistency. Today, your customers want to do business with you wherever and whenever they please—online, in pe

rson or over the phone. They expect their experience with your business to be seamless. They don’t like having to repeat the same information they entered online on the phone, or struggle to pick up a package they ordered online in your store. Look for customer relationship management tools that help you maintain information about customers in a central, web-based location so you and your customer service reps can access it wherever you are.

 

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Flexibility. For a 22-year-old, convenience is being able to text a company’s customer service department. For an 82-year-old, texting is the opposite of convenient—he wants to call you and get a live person, not a voicemail menu. To ensure all your customers have a positive opinion of your service, provide a variety of ways for them to contact your customer service team. That might include phone, email, chat, text or even social media. When customers have the option to reach out to you in the way that’s easiest for them—you’re starting the customer service interaction off on the right foot.

 

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Proactivity. More than three-fourths (77 percent) of consumers in the Microsoft survey have a positive opinion of companies offering proactive customer service notifications. After all, what’s more convenient than having a business take care of customer service issues before they even arise? Provide online training videos, how-to guides, or FAQs on your website to help customers better use your product or service. Create an online knowledge base or user board to help them resolve their own questions. Send customers automatic notifications when products need to be refilled, equipment needs to be serviced, or upgrades are available. Consumers will love it when you do the work for them.

 

Customer service is becoming a more important factor in business success. Fortunately, by providing the convenience customers crave, you can make your business stand out in a positive way.

 

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.

 

Web: www.growbizmedia.com or Twitter: @Rieva

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