I followed a twitter conversation a couple of weeks ago when a popular actress asked people to comment on the customer service of various companies they had experienced. It was a moment of truth as many companies received strong criticism and were called out publicly for their less than average customer treatment. Popular telecommunications, banking and ecommerce companies were lashed for their ‘insensitivity’ to customers. On the other hand, a few companies were praised for their willingness to bend over backwards to delight their customers.
Truthfully there is no better time for customer service excellence than this age of social media where you get instant judgment or commendation with a tweet or post. Research has shown that unsatisfied customers are more likely to talk about your business than satisfied customers. And one unsatisfied customer can do more harm to your reputation than anything else. An unsatisfied customer that is properly treated and compensated can become a raving fan and tell more people about your business.
So as an SME or entrepreneur with not as much publicity as the big companies, you can build your business brand and reputation with outstanding customer service and here are some guidelines you need to consider:
- Have a standard service delivery process: this should be a documented process of how you would attend to customers who patronize your products or service. It should be well communicated to your staff or colleagues. There should also be ways to check and ensure compliance. Consistency helps to build trust in your brand and your customers know what to expect from you.
- Design a complaint management system: This is the process through which customer’s complaint would be handled and make it clear to your customers either through an FAQ on your website, or having a customer complaint phone number or email that customers can reach. Once a customer makes a complaint, ensure that it is attended to as soon as possible because a disgruntled customer might start causing havoc before you reach them.
- Have a customer loyalty or appreciation scheme: a loyalty or appreciation scheme is your way to ensure that customers remain invested in your business for the long term. Loyal customers can become marketers for your business and they guarantee a long term return on investment. So ensure you treat them well and give them special loyalty privileges’.
- Train your customer facing staff: you and your customer facing staff should have some core skills like listening; communication and problem solving to ensure your customers do not go away dissatisfied. Communication is usually at the heart of most customer complaints and issues. So you need to know when to apologize and when to explain in a tone that is palatable to your customers.
- Know where to draw the line: I am an advocate of great customer service, but I also recognize that some customers might be extremely difficult and you might have to ‘fire’ them. Your complaint management system should have a limit to which you can go and you have to communicate as clearly and politely as possible to your customers. It is a difficult task, but you have to keep your eye on the big picture which is balancing customer satisfaction while still running a profitable business.
I hope you would do your best to turn your customers into raving fans who would promote your business and not raving foes who would soil your business reputation. If you would like more information on customer management, you can also read this article: Make your customers work for you.