When you are getting your business off the ground, honing your customer service skills may not seem as important as other startup projects like renting space and website design. But providing great customer service can have the biggest impact on your bottom line.
If you provide poor customer service, you will lose business.
Poor customer service costs Australian businesses over 122 billion dollars per year. This could have something to do with the shift to providing service via digital channels. Recent studies show that 81% of Australian consumers still prefer to deal directly with a human rather than digital platforms to ask questions or resolve issues.
Luckily, there are a number of universal skills that small businesses can master to dramatically improve the quality of the customer service experience.
The 9 customer service skills you need
These nine skills can help you build strong, long-lasting relationships with customers.
- Listen to your customers.
- Answer your phone.
- Set a standard response time.
- Have a consistent process.
- Avoid big promises.
- Employ well.
- Be solution-focused.
- Value your existing customers.
- Know all the answers.
Let’s look at each of these skills in turn.
1. Listen to your customers
First on our list of customer skills is listening. When customers feel like they are being heard, they’re far more likely to support your business. Take the time to actively listen to your customer base by:
- Reading and responding to their feedback
- Encouraging comments and questions
- Monitoring all incoming channels
The time and effort you spend on this will help you problem-solve effectively and improve the overall quality of your service.
Make sure your customers can easily share their opinions about your business.
Take the initiative by inviting them to comment on a social media post, leave a Yelp review or participate in a customer survey.
Most importantly, share your findings and make sure your customers know exactly what meaningful changes you plan to make as a result.
2. Answer your phone
In our digital world, the humble phone call has been replaced by iMessage, chat or Facebook. But there are many customers who want the option to make a call and speak to a real person.
Simply offering more traditional forms of service isn’t enough though. You could still have very unhappy customers due to:
- Unanswered calls
- Long hold times
- Disconnected lines
If there are times where you’re unable to answer all incoming calls, consider using a live answering service or virtual receptionist to capture those calls you might otherwise miss.
This is not just about keeping existing customers happy. Most first-time callers will hang up if their call goes through to voicemail. Ensuring that your phone gets answered will not only satisfy customers, it will also give you more opportunities to sell and grow your customer base.
3. Set a standard response time
Make sure you have a defined response time for every avenue of communication you offer to your customers:
- Social media
You need to establish the accepted amount of time for your business to get back to your customers.
Customer service is all about being present everywhere, from checkout to social platforms and emails. Having a clearly-defined amount of time for customer responses will ensure you don’t leave anyone feeling neglected or unhappy with your services.
Pro tip: Want to really wow customers? Offer a gift if their issue isn’t resolved within the published time period. Then hold your staff accountable for delivering on the promise.
4. Have a consistent process
Treat every customer to the same level of respect and attention, regardless of whether they are a regular or one-off customer.
Repeat customers, referrals and former customers can be a huge asset for your business. So you don’t want to be inconsistent when they come knocking on your door (so to speak).
Make sure you have a solid process and well-trained staff in place throughout the entire customer lifecycle. This way, you can be sure every person receives the same amazing service experience.
5. Avoid big promises
Nothing annoys a customer more than a broken promise. Remember that you’ll be judged by what you do, not by what you say.
Over-the-top promotions and extravagant promises will definitely entice customers to buy or sign up to your product or service. But click-bait offers or flaky promotions with too many conditions will backfire on you.
If you’re honest and up-front with your customers, you’ll have a far more loyal customer base.
6. Employ well
Hiring people with good people skills and a willingness to learn about your products and services is non-negotiable for success.
Whether it’s a cashier or a dedicated customer service agent, good customer service skills are essential for anyone who interacts, engages with or assists your customers.
Keep in mind that employee satisfaction also positively affects your business. Happy employees who are treated well, are more likely to stay positive about your business. Their enthusiasm for their work will flow over into their interactions with your customers.
7. Be solution-focused
Whenever people exchange money for goods or services, problems due to unmet expectations can arise. Finding a satisfactory solution for your customer — no matter how long it takes — will have a long-lasting impact on your bottom line.
Put your pride aside when dealing with difficult customers.
No one wants to be told that they’re wrong, especially by a business they’re investing their time and money in. Instead, focus on finding the best solution possible.
Even worst-case scenarios can be salvaged if you find an answer the customer is satisfied with.
8. Value your existing customers
Many businesses understandably focus on keeping a steady stream of new leads coming in.
But don’t forget that keeping current customers coming back is just as important and more economically viable. Keep your existing customers feeling valued with:
- VIP perks like exclusive invitations
- Early bird sales
- Loyalty programs that offer discounts for returning
Maintaining a strong customer base is only possible if you consistently show appreciation for customers.
9. Know all the answers
Make sure you know your products and services, inside and out. If you aren’t familiar with every aspect of your business and client base, you won’t know how best to help your customers when they run into problems.
Your team members should also have a thorough understanding of all products and services, so they can offer advice and resolutions to your customers. Empower them to make customer-friendly decisions by providing clear guidelines.
Improve customer service and win
From the first interaction through to sales and return purchases, your customers should feel as though they are receiving service that is both specialised and personal to them.
Make customer service king at each touch point of your business by learning these skills and you will deliver a consistently high-quality customer experience. This will ultimately boost your bottom line.
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