Good customer service is at the heart of any successful business. You can make your brand popular for the products that you offer, but if your customer service isn't up to scratch, it can quickly turn people away. Small businesses can often feel like it's difficult to get customer service right because they don't have the power and resources of other businesses. However, being a small business is what can give you an advantage. You can offer a more personal service to your customers, who will feel like you're more genuine than a global brand trying to do the same.
Small businesses should take a look at the following tips if they want to fine tune their customer service offering.
1. Communicate Using the Channels Your Customers Like
In the digital age, there are lots of different ways to communicate with your customers. There are the more traditional ones like telephone and mail, and even email is seen as pretty standard. But now there are other channels to explore, such as social media and chat applications. One of the things small businesses should consider is which of these channels your customers prefer. It's important to keep in mind that many customers today are looking for instant answers. They don't want to wait the weeks it might take to get a reply to a letter or even wait on the phone for half an hour. They want to get the help they need as soon as possible.
Your business can't necessarily use all different types of customer service channel, though. If only a very small percentage of your customer base prefers to call you on the phone instead of getting in touch on social media or sending an email, is it worth having a customer service phone number? Perhaps it is, but you will need to keep your telephone customer service at a small scale to avoid wasting money. Although you want to make sure that all of your customer service is excellent, you will want to invest more in the areas where it can provide the most value for your business.
2. Invest in Your Staff
The people you hire are clearly one of the most important elements of your customer service. It is, after all, people who will be delivering your customer service (when it's not being done by bots). The first thing that you need to do is make sure that you hire the right people. Who is right for your company is up to you, but you might have a list of criteria you want people to have. The most important qualities might be being personable and confident, and being a good fit for the company culture. Experience doesn't always need to be a top priority.
As well as hiring the right people, you should also make sure that you provide adequate training for your employees. Training them when you first hire them ensures everyone begins with the same skills and knowledge. Continuous development can help you to improve your employee retention rate and ensures your customer service quality keeps improving too. It's worth investing in training your staff and researching the best ways to do so. As well as training, you can provide mentoring and look for additional opportunities that you can offer employees. Find ways to help them develop and use their skills and strengths. The happier your staff members are, the better they will perform.
3. Use Technology to Reach More People
The use of technology in customer service continues to grow, so it's important to look at how it might help your company. Small businesses need to be careful when deciding when it's appropriate to make use of technology. Some tools might be useful for you, while others could just be a waste of money. If you're looking at how digital tools can help you improve customer service, two of the things you might be considering include social media and chatbots. People increasingly expect brands to have a social media presence. You might have one, but that doesn't mean you use it to provide customer service. If you usually just refer people to your email or phone channels, you should consider being more active on social media instead.
When it comes to chatbots, you could find that they're a very useful tool. They can help to provide instant answers for people who need help, and they offer extra support to your human customer service staff. Chatbots can use machine learning to train them on how to answer common questions. They can help people with online purchases or just provide a first line of communication until a customer service representative becomes available. They can deal with the standard queries that get asked again and again to remove the tedious task from your employees.
4. Improve Your Complaints Handling
Handling complaints is one of the most important parts of customer service. If you don't know how to handle them gracefully, it could damage your reputation. You should have a good policy in place for dealing with complaints and make sure that you offer employees training and support to handle complaints appropriately. While you might not take the view that the customer is always right, particularly if they're being belligerent or abusive, you still need to be careful about how you reply to complaints. Even rude complaints should be handled politely, although you can be firm and forthright in rejecting the complainant's rudeness.
One of the most important things to remember is that when you reply to complaints using some online channels, anyone can see it. If you're responding to a review on a website or replying to someone on social media, the way you handle it will be available for anyone to read. You don't want to affect your brand reputation, and you certainly don't want to end up going viral, as several brands have done due to their open responses to complaints. Of course, when communicating with people through less public channels, you still need to maintain professional standards and treat customers with respect.
5. Get Feedback to See How to Improve
If you want to find out the best ways to improve your customer service, collecting feedback from your customers is a great way to do it. On top of that, it's a great way in itself to provide good customer service. Your customers want to know that you care about what they think, and you're willing to not only listen to them but also respond to what they say by making some changes. Of course, not all of the feedback you get will something that you want to act on. But if your customers are overwhelmingly putting forward the same criticism or asking for the same things, it's worth thinking about how to give them what they want.
If you want to gather customer feedback, there are lots of ways that you can do it. You can use surveys, which you could ask people to fill out in a number of ways. You can ask people when you make a purchase, either when they place their order or after they have received it via an email. If you're just trying to get a general sense of how your customers feel about your customer service experience, you could use a rating system to make it a quick and easy process. You might also ask for reviews both on your own website and external review sites.
Small businesses that want to improve their customer service need to know their customers well. Ask them how you can improve if you want to understand them better.
Another quick way that you can quite quickly improve the quality of your customer service and your customer facing staff is to make use of the services of a virtual receptionist like the ones provided by VirtualOffice.Sydney. Our professionally trained receptionists will always present your business in a professional way and can help you to raise your standards. Why not give one of our helpful sales representatives a call to find out how we can help you.