We all experience it on a daily basis – customer service. Good, bad or indifferent, we all tend to have long memories about how we’ve been treated by a business and are typically more than willing to share our experiences with others, either face-to-face with friends or online on websites like planetfeedback or hellopeter, on blogs (like this one), or on social media like Facebook and Twitter.
Regardless of how it’s shared, feedback about the kind of customer service your business provides can have a significant impact on your ability to maintain and gain customers – especially if you’re a small business. Often, this word-of-mouth “advertising” can have a bigger impact than any paid marketing that you may do.
So what can you do to build and maintain your business’ reputation for customer service?
1) Keep it personal.
Making simple efforts to show customers you care can build a positive reputation. So make sure to place focused effort on getting to know your customers. Ask about their families, their hobbies, what they’re planning for the weekend ahead – and remember those details (take notes if you need to). Also take time to call customers from time to time, and ask how your business is performing for them. Are they satisfied? Find out what you can do to make their experience with you better?
2) Give back
Find a local charity with which you can become involved. If appropriate, volunteer to help them with your services, such as building a website, creating a database or whatever your area of expertise may be. Also find ways to promote and support the charity by getting your customers involved. Offer a discount for bringing in canned goods for a food shelf or pick a day to donate a percentage of your profits to the charity. Your customers will feel good that you’re supporting a good cause and so will you.
3) Build a local network
Because word of mouth is so powerful, build your company’s network by becoming involved with organizations where other business owners congregate. Get involved with your local chamber of commerce, Rotary Club, Lions Club or Women in Management organization. Take an active role. The people you meet and work with in these organizations are potential people to whom you can refer your customers if they have a particular need and vice versa.
4) Do what you say and say what you mean
Make sure you provide your customers with what you’ve promised when you promised it and, whenever possible, a little more. As the saying goes, “under promise and over deliver.” This may mean delivering something sooner than the customer expects or discovering a problem of which the customer may not be aware and delivering a solution. Also, if you’re not able to meet a customer’s need or deadline say so right away. Your up-front honesty will help you build your reputation better than saying you can do something to get the job, when you really can’t deliver.
5) Don’t forget your staff
Not only train your employees how you want them to work with customers, make sure you’re modeling those behaviors on a daily basis yourself. Also, support your staff by freeing them to make customer-benefiting decisions without your needing to provide your explicit approval. Lastly, remember your employees are, in a way, your customers too. Treat them well and with loyalty and they will do the same for you.
These items may seem like no-brainer activities. But by keeping these common sense items top-of-mind, you will keep your level of customer service high, which, in turn will help customers opt for your business over other choices they could make.