Customer service pertains to the way a business interacts with their customers – how they solve their problems, provide support and satisfy their needs. Good customer service is imperative to the success of most businesses, as happy customers are more likely to recommend and purchase again. In fact, author Pete Blackshaw reckons a satisfied customer recommends to 3 friends and eMarketer state that customer service is one of the most important elements in making a sale, especially for small businesses. So, the question is: what makes excellent customer service?
Think about the whole customer experience
A common misconception is that good customer service pertains only to how well employees treat customers. But, good customer service should relate to the entire customer experience.
Let’s take a restaurant as an example. There are a series of moments and moving parts which all contribute to the customer experience:
- Was it easy to find a parking spot?
- Did I have to wait a long time to be served?
- Did the food arrive quickly?
- Was the menu easy to read?
- Did they serve my favourite drink?
- Was I able to pay using my preferred method (cash, debit, apple pay)?
- Was my table clean when I sat down?
- Were the toilets clean?
The list goes on. Every moving part contributes to the overall customer experience, and how customers will consequently rate the level of service. Businesses who think about every minute detail of the customer experience, and ensure each detail is perfect, will be able to provide an award-winning service.
Most businesses have a website. This website is part of the customer experience, so it should be easy to navigate, answer frequently asked questions and be free of jargon. Make it easy for your website visitors to understand your business, make a purchase, and get support when needed.
The world is becoming digital and fast-paced, and, as a result, consumers expect businesses to be switched on and ready to engage almost instantly. Customers expect immediate answers and so the speed of response now contributes massively to how customers perceive the quality of customer service.
Businesses who take too long to reply to enquiries are likely missing out on new customers. 52% of consumers abandon purchases when they don’t get the answer quickly enough, and likely move onto a competitor instead. Likewise, businesses who take too long to respond to their existing customers will likely cause them to feel frustrated and potentially even lose their custom entirely. Ensure you’re able to respond quickly to customer enquiries!
Use a range of communication options
It’s important to remember that every individual has a preferred method of contacting a business, whether that’s phoning up, emailing or having the option to engage in live chat. In fact, 89% of consumers have stated that they want choices for how they contact customer support. As such, it’s a good idea to implement a multi-channel customer support strategy, whereby a range of options such as phone, email, social media and proactive live chat are available.
Go the extra mile
Going the extra mile for your customers will let them know that they are valued. For example, in 2011, business consultant Peter Shankman tweeted:
When Peter landed, a man in a tuxedo was waiting with a porterhouse steak, complete with napkins and silverware. Mortons knew Peter was a regular customer and so went above and beyond to ensure he received world-class customer service. While this level of service may not be possible for all businesses to achieve, it certainly sets a good example.
Another example comes from Vision Direct, who include a complimentary packet of sweets in every order. It’s a small gesture, but it makes the customer feel valued and that the business doesn’t just care about their bottom line. Thoughtful service like this will foster happy, loyal customers who rave about your business.
Ask for feedback and use complaints to your advantage
Feedback is incredibly important to any business. As a business owner, you might feel that your website and customer service are perfect, but you may be looking at them from a biased perspective. It’s easy to assume that customers will understand everything about how your product or service works and that they’ll find it easy to navigate along the customer journey in the same way you do. This is not always the case. Customers look at your business with no prior knowledge, and, as such, it’s likely they’ll become stuck at certain points.
The best way of learning how customers are interacting with your business is by simply asking them for feedback. Ask them if there was anything they didn’t understand, whether they have suggestions for improvements and whether they thought the customer service was good. This feedback is extremely valuable, as it will help you to see where improvements to the customer experience can be made.
Complaints are inevitable – you can’t please everyone. However, if a customer is unhappy or makes a complaint, this shouldn’t be viewed as a negative thing. You should find out what caused them to feel this way and endeavour to fix the problem and rebuild a positive relationship with that customer. It’s important to remember that this customer has helped you to pinpoint issues in your product or service which you can then fix or improve.