Plenty of us make New Year’s resolutions about personal improvement (more exercise, better diet, read War and Peace, etc.), but what about resolutions regarding your small business? This might be the right time to look again at the quality of customer service you provide—both online and, where appropriate, in your retail setting. Regardless of your product or service, the thing customers usually remember most is the experience they had interacting with your business. Here are five tips to dramatically improve the quality of your customer service in 2015:
1. Be the expert. Prospective customers expect you to be fully knowledgeable not only about your offering, but about your industry in general. Review the types of questions you’ve encountered in the past and make sure you have answers for similar queries in the coming year.
“Stay informed enough to respond to most inquiries and know where to turn if the questions become too detailed or technical for you to answer,” advise the experts at SurveyMonkey. “But don’t be afraid to say ‘I don’t know’ either. Customers will appreciate the honesty and your efforts to find the right answer.”
2. Listen better. Listening is a skill that’s critically important when it comes to quality customer service. In any conversation with a dissatisfied customer, do your best to really hear what they’re saying and demonstrate your empathy with their feelings. Often, this is all it takes to begin rectifying a situation.
3. Admit when you’ve made a mistake. Some business owners and their staff become defensive when confronted with a mistake they’ve made. A better approach is acknowledging your responsibility when something goes wrong and promising to do everything possible to fix the issue as soon as possible—and, of course, following through on that promise. Make sure every employee is trained to handle mistakes in a way that satisfies your customers.
4. Be available. Even if most business transactions take place online these days, customers still like to buy from human beings. Consider improving your response rate to customer inquiries and complaints this year, i.e., commit to providing an answer within 24 hours of receipt of their message. When contacting a valued customer, suggest a video call to give the interaction a more personal feel. Also, be sure your website offers a physical address and include your photo and your staff’s photos to reinforce that personal touch.
5. Show respect at all times. No successful business owner ever takes his or her customers or employees for granted. Showing respect for people demonstrates how much you value either their patronage or the work they do on your behalf. “Happier employees are infinitely more likely to provide stellar customer service, so make it your goal to treat everyone the way you would like to be treated,” says business writer Drew Hendricks. “Ultimately, you’ll provide better service across the board.”
Providing first-class service often leads to repeat business with satisfied customers and with the friends and family members who come to you, based on the recommendations of those same satisfied customers. That’s reason enough to add “better customer service” to your New Year’s resolutions in 2015.