The business world is changing so quickly—thanks in large part to the rapid advancement of technology—that business owners often don’t realize they’re falling behind the curve. Even something as straightforward as customer service must be viewed with fresh eyes to keep up with customers’ latest demands. Customers are bombarded with an overwhelming amount of information every day. How can you make sure it’s your information they’ll remember?
Make your customer service impeccable.
Here are some tools you can use to boost the quality of your customer service:
After years of trusting expert reviews, customers want to hear what others just like them have to say. Consumers are flocking to sites like Yelp1 and Angie’s List2 to tell the world about their experiences at your company. Once those reviews are in the public domain, they most likely won’t go away, so you want to make sure customers only have good things to say about you or your product. Check out reviews people have left about your competitors and see what lessons you can apply at your business.
Online Customer Service
As people spend more time online, traditional methods of customer service are often insufficient to please them. You set up your toll-free customer-service line and you have it staffed with live voices 24/7, but that’s just not enough anymore. Your customers need a way to communicate with you beyond the telephone. Options like live chat, contact forms, and quick-response email give midnight shoppers a way to communicate with you on their schedules.
As with customer-service options, your customer wants to do business with you in a way that suits him and his lifestyle. He may not be able to visit your brick-and-mortar storefront, and he may not be in your time zone or even your hemisphere. Find a way to let him ask a question or place an order online as an alternative to visiting or calling your company. You’d be surprised by how many of your current clients would appreciate these options as well.
Staying with the DIY online theme, build a repository of information that your customers can search and access on their own. Provide links to warranty information and service providers, make product manuals available on your website, or offer advice about making the most of your products or services. The benefit of this strategy is two-fold: Your customers will spend more time on your site (always the goal), becoming better educated about your business and perhaps finding more of your products that will benefit them. Additionally, your customer-service associates will have more time to spend with the customers who still need to call in for assistance.
It’s simple to add a discussion board to your ecommerce site. In addition to contributing to excellent customer service, you’re providing customers with a way to communicate with each other. Companies like Hewlett-Packard Co.3 and Apple Inc.4 have long recognized the benefits of consumer users’ groups and support communities, where users can share tips and support each other. Monitoring user discussions will also help you discover ways to improve your products and customer service.
Most business owners have recognized that taking positive steps for the environment is not only socially responsible, but it’s also a consumer hot button. No, not every customer demands that your company be environmentally friendly, but many customers are adamant about it, according to Green America.5 Find ways to share with your customers how you’re taking environmental concerns seriously and incorporating green strategies into your business. You’ll feel better and your customers will respect you for it.
Give and Give Back
Rather than offer your customer a percentage or dollar amount off a current purchase, give him a generous reward to be used on his next visit or purchase. This is one way to get the customer to return to make additional purchases.
Want more ideas? Check out “Eleven Crucial Consumer Trends for 2011” from Trendwatching.com.6