Businesses today face more competition than perhaps at any other time in history. Not only are small businesses facing increasing competition from brick and mortar big box superstores in large and small communities throughout the country, they are also facing increasing pressure from Internet-based companies that provide the same goods and services with the added benefit of home delivery.
However, as a small business owner or manager, you can turn those disadvantages on their heels — if you practice the fine art of providing exceptional customer service. These seven practical methods are great places to begin.
1) Anticipate and meet the needs of your customers. Give them what they want, time and time again, without forcing them to jump through hoops to ask for it. That makes a world of difference, especially among customers who may not know exactly what it is they want or need.
2) Listen effectively. It’s not enough to simply listen. You must learn to listen effectively to find out what it is your customers really want, the problems they’re actually having, and what it is they want you to do to fix the problem. Train associates and sales professionals to provide undivided attention to the customers they are dealing with until the time when they pass that person along to someone who can assist them better or they’ve resolved the matter completely. Consider sending out a customer service survey so you can gain even more insight into how your customers feel about the customer service your company provides.
3) Show appreciation. It is one of the simplest things you can do to make your customers adore you. A simple “Thank you!” gets real results. However, if you develop a loyalty or customer reward program, you can increase the return by offering a tangible showing of gratitude your customers can appreciate.
4) Communicate what’s going on. Communication is critical when it comes to building better customer relations. Most importantly, customers who are kept in the loop feel better appreciated and are able to accept problems, delays, etc. better if they arise — as long as you maintain contact throughout the process. Utilize your blog or your social media accounts (Facebook and Twitter) to let your customers know of new developments with your products and services or within your industry. Provide extra resources and written educational materials, such as ebooks or on your blog, that shows that you want to keep your customer informed and knowledgeable on happenings in your industry.
5) Use positive language. Just as positive thinking has a profound impact on someone’s day, so does the power of positive language. Train your employees to eliminate words like can’t, don’t, won’t, unable, unavailable, etc. and replace them with positive words, like “we can do that” instead. Over time, they’ll find that this habit helps them in all relationships and not just relationships with customers.
6) Treat your staff like family. While you probably go out of your way to treat your staff well, with kindness and manners, when you treat them like family, they pass along those same values and treatment to your customers. Let your staff know how much you appreciate them. Take an interest in their lives. They will return the favor with your customers.
7) Make your customers feel welcome and wanted. Something as simple as a smile and a kind “Hello!” when walking in the door is all some customers need to feel appreciated, welcomed, and wanted in your place of business. It makes everyone feel welcome and lets him or her know that their presence is acknowledged and they’ll be served as quickly as possible.
Little steps like these make a huge difference when it comes to customer service, customer loyalty, and repeat business. Practice them so often they become the rules for your business rather than the exceptions.