Effective customer service is just the starting point for your business.
The most successful small businesses align many facets of their business operations to revolve around their customers' needs. Their internal systems support the efforts of front-line employees to handle just about every type of customer interaction situation. They also measure the results of their customer service strategies and honor employees who excel in this critical function. These businesses are committed to delivering customer service "with a visible passion and commitment."
Here are five tips that may help you transform your effective customer service to outstanding and personalized service your customers won't soon forget:
1. Redesign your website with customers' needs as the top priority.
Many small business websites feature plenty of information about how wonderful their products and services are. There's nothing wrong with that-- unless a customer comes to your site looking for helpful information and can't find it. A more personalized approach involves highlighting product or service information that's readily available to people who seek specific details, such as how to use your product, how its various features yield tangible benefits, etc. Redesign your site so visitors can easily access product manuals, FAQs, blog posts and other content that addresses the most common concerns, inquiries, and so on.
2. Ask for — and act upon — productive customer feedback.
Successful businesses regularly survey their customers, seeking input on how satisfied they are with their product or service. They invite feedback through surveys, social media activity, and even asking customers in a physical setting if they "found everything they needed." More importantly, when a valid critique or actionable suggestion arises, these companies act on the information; fine-tuning their offerings to achieve a higher level of satisfaction. They find ways to reward those customers who provide such valuable input through special discounts or gift certificates. (They also aren't shy about promoting the fact that they solicit and act upon customer feedback through their marketing and social media efforts.)
3. Make a big deal out of your loyal customer base.
In the ongoing quest for new customers, some businesses fail to "take full advantage of what their regular buyers have to offer--and are missing out on opportunities to ensure they come back for more." Look for ways to honor your best and most loyal customers, such as:
- Find a place on your website to highlight a great customer. If the customer approves, post an article including who they are, how they benefitted from your business, and sprinkle in a compelling testimonial or two (and, if they have a business, provide a link to it as well). They'll appreciate the free publicity and you'll enhance awareness of your brand as one that puts customers first.
- If you have a retail store, look for ways to reward such a customer with an "on-the-spot" special offer or discount.
- Identify and honor your "Most Valuable Customers" with exclusive discounts, advance notice on forthcoming sales or product updates, and other free perks that make them feel appreciated for their long-time patronage.
4. Offer free online and/or on-site product or service demonstrations.
Are there facets of your product or service you wish people knew more about? Journalist Lisa Furgison suggests complementing your personalized service efforts with free "classes, workshops, webinars or tastings that add value to your customers' lives." Be sure to highlight these free offerings on your website, social media platforms, newsletters, etc. Emphasize how these classes or workshops will give prospective customers new insights into how your product or service can make their lives easier or better.
5. Hire employees who demonstrate a commitment to service.
There's no guarantee, but by fine-tuning your recruitment and hiring process, you can focus more on hiring employees with demonstrated people skills. Look at a job candidate's prior experience dealing with customers and ask if they can relate specific instances where they went above and beyond. Get a sense of the individual's ability to listen and empathize. Particularly for front-line staff, these are invaluable traits.
To truly differentiate yourself in a crowded marketplace, it's essential to leverage every opportunity you can to offer greater personalized service. By doing so you can establish your business in the minds of customers as the place to shop for goods or services, as opposed to all the other competitors out there.