This is part three of MyBusiness’ four-part series on preparing for the new year. Check out our previous stories on how to create a mission statement and how to set and keep goals, and stay tuned for more tips and resources to improve your small business in 2014.
How would you rate your business’ customer service? At the core, your business exists because it provides a service or product to customers who need it—can you do anything more to show appreciation for your customers’ support? Check out these five tips.
1. Assess your current policies. “Write out your current process for handling customer service,” says Alex King, CEO and co-founder of gatherDocs, an applicant tracking system and mobile hiring tool for the retail and service industries. “Then take that process and evaluate what works, what doesn’t work and what can be improved.”
2. Evaluate your team. “I think customer service often begins at the hiring level,” says Maggie Hodges, Internet marketing analyst for Full Media, a web design and Internet marketing company. “You have to have team members who are committed to serving one another and also their clients. It’s important to find a hiring process that identifies this inherent trait in potential employees.”
NFIB member Andrew Schrage, founder and CEO of financial education website MoneyCrashers.com, advises making customer service a priority with employees by conducting training sessions, modeling ideal practices, rewarding positive examples and counseling those falling short.
3. Don’t underestimate the basics. Kelly Mistry, owner of MyFairyTaleBooks, a personalized children’s gift company, suggests providing your customers with multiple ways to reach you, responding promptly and honing your listening skills. Jerome Byers, U.S. head of Citi small business, says the key to authentic customer service is making it personal—know your customers’ names and what’s important to them.
4. Take a heart-centered approach. Audrey McLaughlin, CEO and owner of McLaughlin Sales Group LLC, a medical sales company, created an online course for small business owners called Customer Service from the Heart, based on the philosophy that customer service is the new marketing and that repeat and referral business is won through heart-centered service. “We strive to treat everyone like they are a guest in our home,” she says. “And we strive to treat one another and our customers in the way we would want to be treated.”
5. Take advantage of digital opportunities. Chris Campbell, founder of Review Trackers, an online review-monitoring platform for small businesses, says social media is a great avenue for improving customer service. “A well-thought-out and genuine response from your company on review sites can go a long way in building a strong customer service program,” he says. “Listening and responding to reviews shows customers you care and is the first step to building customer trust. The second step is to take action. If you tell a customer that you’ll make changes or remedy a situation, make sure you follow through, because that customer will let the world know in either case.”