Without customers, your business can’t exist. Seems simple enough, but sometimes this guiding principle gets lost in the shuffle of day-to-day operations. You might hear from a customer about a mistake your business has made, but odds are you won’t. The customer will have walked. The only way you’ll find out is through a steady loss of profits.
Fortunately, by paying close attention to the service you provide and learning from your mistakes, you can minimize any damage to your business. Start by being aware of the most common customer mistakes:
You don’t deliver as promised. The customer’s decision to purchase your product or service is based on trust. You’ve made a promise—a high-quality product, delivery by a certain date, a money-back guarantee—and the customer trusts you’ll follow through on that promise. Whatever your product and service standards might be, only make promises that are realistic and risk-free to the customer. Avoid a negative “expectation gap” by making sure to always under-promise and over-deliver.
Your customers feel ignored. Maybe a customer walked into your store and employees were slow to help her. Or a customer called with a minor complaint and was put on indefinite hold. Ignoring a customer is a huge mistake. The answer? Train your employees to always adopt a “customer first” attitude. Whatever the situation, offer assistance immediately. Don’t wait around to be asked.
Response time is too slow. When a customer contacts you with a question, problem or complaint, the longer you make him wait for a response, the less likely he is to ever do business with you again. Don’t make people have to talk to three or four different people on the phone. Reply to customer voice-mails within 24 hours, if not sooner. If a mistake does occur, address the problem yourself and offer a gift card or product discount to apologize for the inconvenience.
You provide too much information. Customers hate wasting their time being told things they don’t need to know. Train your staff to specifically address a customer’s question and provide only the information needed to solve their problem or complete the transaction. The same goes for overly technical information about your product. No one wants to hear a lot of industry-specific jargon they don’t understand.
Current customers feel unappreciated. Businesses are constantly on the hunt for new customers, but this should never be at the expense of existing customers. If your marketing budget is skewed almost exclusively toward attracting prospects, offset any damage to your customer base by instituting a VIP or customer loyalty program. With every transaction or customer interaction, take time to say “Thank you.” Let people know how much you value their business.
If doing all you can to please your customers seems like a vast, time-consuming project, try thinking of each of them as being a life-long relationship. If people are satisfied, they will come back again and again for years. They will also be more inclined to refer you to family and friends. That should make you feel that providing the best customer service is well worth the effort.