No matter how innovative your product or how interesting your marketing campaign, your business will suffer when customer satisfaction ratings are low. When it comes to daily operations, a focus on customer satisfaction is vital.
What It Means
A strong reputation for great customer service encourages new customers to take a chance with your product. The power of word-of-mouth advertising can't be overstated, either. When your customers are satisfied and feel valued, they're more likely to recommend your products to others in their social circle.
Great customer service means going above and beyond the minimum for your buyers. Make yourself available to answer product inquiries. Never let complaints or concerns go unaddressed. Offering special loyalty rewards for repeat buyers can also be an added bonus. Ultimately, you want every customer to feel as if they're you're most valued and important buyer.
Why it Can Be Hard
On the surface, providing stellar customer service seems relatively simple. After all, you just need to answer messages and respond in a timely manner, right?
Actually, it's not always that simple. When business is booming, you're juggling several responsibilities. Taking even a few moments out of a hectic schedule to respond to a complaint or question can be a challenge. It's also never easy to hear criticism, especially when the product in question is one you've worked hard to perfect. From time constraints to purely difficult customers, extending the very best in customer service isn't always as easy as it may seem. Maintaining a great rapport with your buyers requires a special perspective.
It's a Mentality
The first key to providing the absolute best in customer service is to make it an ingrained part of your business. It should be a key tenet of your mission statement, not an afterthought. When your business model is built around striving for absolute satisfaction, it becomes part of your overall work ethic. Taking the challenge out of providing high-end customer service is almost always a matter of changing your perspective.
Be Appreciative of Your Customers
There's one tried and true method of changing your attitude about customer service: realize just how important your buyers are to the overall health of your business. You'd never make a sale without your customers, so appreciate them! Then, make a point of showing your appreciation by going above and beyond the call of duty to meet their needs.
Change Your Mindset: It Isn't a Chore
Too many merchants view customer service and interaction as a chore. This is one of the fastest ways to not only lose perspective of just how important your customers are to your business, but also to become burned out by buyer demands. Don't think of your interactions as an unpleasant requirement, think of it as just part of doing business. Approach your interactions with an eagerness to help, not an eye on shuffling the problem aside as quickly as you can.
Dealing with Negative Feedback
It's never easy to hear your products or business model be criticized. You work hard on your product offerings, and it can feel diminishing to have all of that work dismissed by an unsatisfied customer. Still, negative feedback can actually be one of your most valuable tools. You'll be better equipped to make improvements and add features to later product offerings when you know what does and what doesn't work. Even if some of your less glowing reviews seem downright mean-spirited, look for the valid criticisms and take them to heart. You'll be able to plot a map to success with future versions of your product, guided by the honest, albeit harsh, reviews of your past customers. Remember, negative feedback happens to everyone. Even lauded tech industry giants like Apple deal with backlash and poor responses to new products from some customers.
Going the Extra Distance
Sometimes, providing great customer service isn't about dealing with a negative response. Often, in fact, it's just about going the extra mile to show your appreciation. Consider loyalty rewards, special pricing and other perks for repeat buyers. Reach out to each customer to thank them for their purchase. Make yourself available, and the vast majority of buyers will respond positively.
Have Processes in Place
Just like everything else relating to your business, you need to make sure you have a plan in place for customer service interactions from the very beginning. THis allows you to respond uniformly to all inquiries and complaints. Not only will your customers get a fair and equitable response every time, but you'll be able to save time by adhering to the plan. While you always want the freedom to go off-script in special situations, processes and plans in place save you time, effort and reduce the risk of a failed interaction.
Set Times to Deal with Requests
Create a daily schedule for yourself, complete with blocks of time set aside specifically for addressing customer service issues. This helps you to avoid treating the entire process like an afterthought, and means you're giving your undivided attention to each related task. Make customer service part of your daily schedule, and it becomes just another important part of doing business.
Set Email Script Responses
Even if your automated email does nothing more than acknowledge a customer's communication has been received and will be reviewed, set up email script responses. This gives your customers the satisfaction of knowing their issue is being taken seriously and will be addressed, even if you're not available to personally handle the situation on the spot.
Provide Readily Available Contact Information
You can't address customer service requests if your buyers aren't able to reach you. Make it easy for your customers to communicate their needs by providing readily available contact information. The longer and harder your buyers have to search for a way to contact you, the more disgruntled they become. Make it easy to communicate; display your contact information openly.
The Number One Rule of Customer Service
Above all, your customers want and need to feel that their request, concerns or criticism is being heard and addressed. Email scripts, prompt responses and genuine concern are all an important part of this process. Respond in a timely manner, and take responsibility for complaints and concerns. Use language like "I understand your issue; let me get that fixed for you," is much more effective than a brusque or argumentative stances. Remember, even when they're misguided, the customer really is always right. At least, that's how you should approach buyer interaction.
Think about the best customer service experiences you've ever had. Then, think about the absolute worst. How can you replicate the former, bringing those ideas and systems into play in your own business? Even more importantly, how can you avoid the mistakes of the latter? Start building your script, system and processes for customer interaction, preparing for several different types of communication. When you're prepared and ready to answer any inquiry, you're more effective as a customer service provider and a business owner.