One of the best things about starting a small business is interacting with customers daily. Getting to know regular patrons, chatting up first-timers and generally helping meet the needs of people living in your community is a very fulfilling part of the job.
As it turns out, providing great customer service is key to making your small business stand out. Take a look at the details below to learn more about how you can use this strategy to your advantage.
The results are in – customer service matters
Before getting into the nitty-gritty of how to provide great customer service, let’s look at how failing to pay attention to this important aspect of running a business can impact your bottom line.
A May 2014 survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the mobile workforce management company ClickSoftware showed that poor customer service can lead to lost profit for businesses that aren’t taking it seriously. For instance, 35% of survey respondents reported canceling a service or ceasing to use a brand altogether due to a frustrating customer service experience.
What’s more, 72% have taken some kind of action because of poor customer service. While some of these actions don’t directly impact business earnings, others do. For example, 13% of respondents reported taking to social media to voice customer service concerns. Given the power of social media, this action could drive prospective patrons away from your business.
Americans choose small businesses because of customer service
In addition to the impact that poor customer service can have on your venture’s ability to attract and retain new business, data show that personal service is one of the top reasons that Americans patronize small businesses in the first place.
An April 2014 article from the online publication eMarketer states:
“According to April 2014 data from AYTM Market Research, personal service was the No. 2 reason US internet users preferred small businesses vs. large companies, cited by 52.7%. This trailed supporting the local economy (56.2%), but it led all other options by at least 23 percentage points.”
What’s more, it seems like prices don’t deter people who are looking for a good customer service experience. From eMarketer:
“61.2% of respondents said they would pay higher prices to support small businesses.”
All this serves as further proof that the quality of your small business’s customer service is vital to its survival – your clients are counting on it.
How to provide great service to your customers
Now that you know the importance of customer service, you may be wondering how you can improve yours. The Nerds have a few tips for making sure that your customers have a great experience with your small business every time:
Monitor your customers’ concerns and comments – Regularly taking the pulse of your customers’ service experiences is key to figuring out what’s working and what’s not. Read the comments on your business’s Facebook page regularly, search Twitter for your company’s name, and keep notes on customers’ verbal feedback. If you see the same concerns popping up again and again, make changes that will address them.
Make sure customers feel heard when things go wrong – Nearly half (49%) of respondents to the Harris/ClickSoftware poll reported that when businesses “show they understand them as a customer,” it improves their experience. One way to ensure this is by following up promptly when customers complain. Responding within 24 hours to an email, phone call or social media inquiry is a good rule of thumb, but the faster the better.
Teach your employees the importance of providing great customer service – You can’t be physically present at your business all the time, so it’s important to train your employees to provide great service to your customers. Mark Rantz, a small business owner in Lansing, Michigan, teaches his employees a series of key catchphrases to help them remember customer service essentials. He said:
“In our business, ‘speed and sense of urgency’ has always been a key component of our success. It is always about our customer, and that customer expects a sense of urgency in taking care of their needs. By instilling speed and that sense of urgency in our employees, we are able to show customers that we respect their valuable time. Additionally, our employees are more productive, which leads to a healthy work environment. In the end, a satisfied customer and an upbeat work environment brings repeat business and ongoing business success.”
The bottom line: Customer service is a key driver in your small business’s success. Be sure to follow the Nerds’ tips above for getting it right every time!
Customer service at small business image via Shutterstock