Most businesses have processes in place that keep the company moving forward each day. But pausing to think about how a company provides service makes a huge difference in a small business. For companies like Zappos, Nordstrom, and Southwest Airlines, customer service is a differentiator from their competitors. Done right, good customer service can bring lots of referrals that lead to increased revenue. Here are eight tips to improve service and the customer experience.
1. Offer a “Welcome Home” Greeting
Consider business as the ‘home’ and customers as invited guests. Whether by phone, email, or in person, greet customers as guests. If the business has a storefront and customers walk in, have employees greet them immediately with a welcome message that ends in “Please, make yourself at home.” If a prospect or customer calls, greet them warmly with “I’m so glad you called.” If a customer or prospect contacts the business via email, personally email them back (no autoresponders) to acknowledge their message. These seemingly small details go a long way to set the tone for a positive customer experience. A warm welcome with every contact makes customers feel important.
2. Send Throwback Thank You Cards
Be old-fashioned for a change and handwrite thank you cards to your top clients. It’s easy to get blank folding cards with matching envelopes from a local printer or paper shop and have print a company logo on them. Or consider an electronic option with an eCard or SendOutCards.com. Lucrum gets a tremendous response from the handwritten thank-you cards we send.
Things are bound to go wrong. Be quick with a heartfelt apology whenever a customer struggles with anything – poor service, missed appointments, delays, and so on. Teach employees to apologize first, then own the problem and get it fixed for all future clients. A helpful response that covers a lot of situations is, “Thank you for giving us the opportunity to fix this for all future clients.” People like being part of a solution, even if they suffered as a result.
4. Mystery Shop
Periodically hire a mystery shopper to evaluate actual customer experiences. These customer service experts provide suggestions on many aspects of the customer experience that are often taken for granted, from a voice mail recording to paying a bill. An alternative to hiring a mystery shopper is to talk with customers about their shopping and/or buying experience. The point is to make the company easy to do business throughout the purchase process.
Everywhere the business touches a client should be streamlined, easy, and sealed with a smile.
Customers can be the best source of ideas for the next new revenue stream. Find ways to ask for feedback, and incorporate relevant ideas into the business. People like to feel like they make a difference, and their suggestions are often win-win opportunities. A great tactic to demonstrate listening is to repeat what we hear back to the customer/client to give them an opportunity to correct any misunderstanding.
6. Reward Loyalty
Customers like to be appreciated, and it doesn’t take a full-blown loyalty program to make them feel that way. Think of ways to provide incentives for continuing to do business together, such as ‘buy X and get the next one free.’ Rewarding customers in some way just for signing up for a reward program jump-starts the process. Or give a loyalty gift- here’s an example of a Lucrum gift we gave to a client (http://www.lucrumconsulting.net/fun-stuff.html)
7. Pay Attention to Employees
Delighting customers often relates to the experience they have with a company’s employees. Happy employees create happy customers. Ask employees to offer observations and contribute suggestions. When employees feel appreciated, they’re motivated to work harder and go the extra mile. Be sure to notice and ‘catch employees for doing something right or good.’ Specific feedback reinforces positive behaviors.
8. Invite Customers Back
Periodically take a look at customer records and see if there are customers who quietly ‘went away.’ Calling or sending a communication to a lapsed customer is a way to reach out to customers to bring business back. At the very least, there is no harm in showing that the company appreciates the relationship with the former customer.
How companies treat customers is always important because positive experiences ultimately generate revenue that grows a business.