By: Brent Barnhart
on Tuesday, December 18, 2012
The importance of customer service has been stressed time and time again for small business owners, especially in an economic climate with so many challenges
. Customer services comes under even more scrutiny during the holiday season, where it seems as if our customers put every single one of our actions under a microscope
Regardless of the season, your existing and potential customers are paying attention to the way that you're treating them, and that treatment has an impact on your bottom line.
Is your business on the “nice" list? Ensure that your company is on the right track with its customers by taking the following tips into consideration.
Put Yourself in Their Shoes
Oftentimes, business owners think of their practices are pristine and their customer service and experience are something to be envied. While a bit of confidence never hurt anybody, it's important to hold your small business to a higher standard. The old adage to “never assume” rings ever-so-true in the business world. Assumptions often create paths leading to nowhere; through testing, trial and error, however, businesses can get where they need to go.
Consider your own customer experience. What is it like to navigate your business, whether it's web-based or brick and mortar? What's the buying process look like? What about refunds? What if you have questions? It's easy for small business owners to forget what it's like to be on the other side of the register. Run through the process yourself and pretend to be the customer, as you may learn a thing or two and understand where your business may be lacking. Remember; customer experience matters
. A thorough understanding of each of the aforementioned scenarios will provide you with a much more thorough understanding of your own business.
Businesses that can respond to questions and concerns quickly and swiftly will benefit big when it comes to acquiring and retaining new customers
. The lag time between you and your customers can be deadly; don't fall asleep when it comes to tending to customers' concerns. Whether it's email, shipping, payment or even refunds, dashing to the needs of your user will put your business in a positive light. Time is of the essence when it comes to nurturing customers, as each delay offers a chance for a competitor to sweep in and take your business. Companies today understand the need for speed when it comes to taking care of its customers.
Tell the Truth
Nothing good will ever come of offering something that your business simply can't provide. Whether you're trying to seal the deal on a sale or push a particular product, “little white lies” often don't fly in the business world. Never promise results if your product can't back them up, and likewise, never embellish the scope of your business or its product. As privacy online becomes a distant memory with the rise of business review sites and Social Media, it's nearly impossible for businesses employing underhanded tactics to remain transparent.
Don't blacklist or sabotage your business for the sake of trying to make a quick buck. Your customers deserve honesty and delivering upon your promises builds integrity for your business. Once again, such integrity matters in an increasingly social landscape for today' small businesses.
Own Up to Your Mistakes
Whether your product has failed to deliver on its promises or there was an error in billing; be willing to admit to your mistakes, compensate and move on. It never pays to argue at length with a customer over something trivial, as you risk losing them forever. And remember once again the rise of business review sites; do you want to be known as the business on the block with crummy customer service? It may seem that some customers just want to complain, and sure, some customers may indeed be out of line. In which case...
Offer Service With a Smile
Demeanor goes a long way in the eyes of the modern buyer. It means the world to customers to be received with open arms, and putting genuine effort into keeping your customers happy will always result in positive returns. Oftentimes, you have the ability to set the tone for your business and its transactions. Consider the companies and businesses that you frequent yourself; how do they treat their customers?
Are you creating a welcoming environment for your customers when it comes to customer service or are you leaving them out in the cold?
The Bottom Line
Does your small business make the “nice” list? By delivering exemplary service to your customers during the holiday season and the remainder of the year, chances are that you're covered. Your business is responsible for creating a positive customer experience
; what does yours look like?