Customer service is one of the most important ways a small business can distinguish itself from competitors. You have the unique opportunity to connect directly with your customers, furnish the products or services that meet their needs, help them with problems, and follow up after the sale. This generates more than just sales; it also creates relationships that will not only keep those customers coming back, but also lead to referrals and new business.
But just what is considered “outstanding customer service” today? Microsoft Business contributor Jeff Wuorio says it’s something each company needs to find out for itself.
“Knowing what exceptional service entails is essential to establishing the procedures and the mindset with which to achieve it,” Wuorio writes. “So, delineate what extraordinary means, is it lower price? Keeping appointments on time, or making certain that telephone service reps always say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’? By knowing precisely what is merely good enough, and what takes your business beyond that, you get a firm handle on what you need to do to hit that goal on a consistent basis.”
To determine the elements of extraordinary service, Wuorio says some legwork is in order. “Conduct focus groups with customers to see what they really value,” he writes. “Ask your complaint department, if you have one, to identify topics that are frequent targets of dissatisfaction. Often, you may find extraordinary translates to a holistic grouping of issues, not just one product or service.”
Indeed, customer service is not just about doing everything right, but also responding quickly when things go wrong. These are often the experiences customers share with their colleagues via word of mouth, and with the rest of the world on rating consumer rating sites such as Yelp.com and StellaService.com
“The road to topnotch service is not without its bumps,” Wuorio observes. “Don’t pretend they’re not there. Rather, make them a part of the journey by acknowledging a slip-up and, in so doing, recommitting to extraordinary performance. For example, if a customer receives the wrong item, don’t stop at making sure they get the right one. Let the customer know that you’re sorry for the mistake and build their confidence that it won’t happen again.”
The best tactic for gaining a competitive edge with customers is to contact Raleigh SCORE. We provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners. To schedule a free appointment with our experienced counselors, go to http://raleigh.score.org, or call us at 919-856-4739.