Expectations for customer service have changed. No matter the size of the business, today’s consumers want digital-first, proactive support. It's key to staying competitive and generating long-term sales momentum.
No matter the size of the business, today’s consumers want digital-first, proactive support.
So how do you, as a small business owner with limited resources, deliver an impeccable experience every time? We'll outline five tips that will help your company provide excellent customer service.
What do modern consumers expect from small businesses in terms of customer service?
A study conducted by American Express showed that about one out of five customers (19%) felt that customer service missed expectations. The good news? That's an improvement from 2014, when the number reached about a third of the market. The bad news? That's still a large number of unhappy customers out there.
Meanwhile, standards for customer service continue to rise. A survey compiled by Microsoft indicated that more than half of consumers (54%) had higher customer-service expectations compared to just a year before.
That suggests a continual upgrade of expectations over time. Year by year, your customers will want better and better communication and support. Are you keeping up?
The issue for you as a small business comes down to one major truth: customers don't care that you're a small business.
You might categorize yourself as a small business in terms of the number of employees you have or in the amount of revenue you generate. Even so, you probably still have a national or even global footprint. In the interconnected globalized world, you need to feel big to your customers, even if your operations are relatively limited.
Moving from customer service to customer success
Customer service is reactive. It's about responding to problems and returning to the status quo. You fix negatives and restore things to the previous baseline.
Customer success has a more ambitious target. You aim for a more proactive approach. You aren't just trying to fix problems. You're working with your clientele to help them achieve their goals.
After all, your current client base offers your best opportunity to fuel future revenue growth. Data shows that the likelihood of making a sale jumps 14 times when you talk to an existing client compared to a stranger.
In this way, customer success becomes your success. By aligning your customer-relations efforts to proactively engage with your consumers, you do more than offer a better experience. You open the door to long-standing relationships that become an excellent source of additional revenue over time.
Tips for improving customer service
Time to get to specifics. Here are five ways to upgrade the customer service of your small business:
1. Offer Multiple Contact Methods
Your customers have different needs and different preferences. Make yourself available to everyone. Provide multiple avenues of contact, from text to phone to email to online chat.
Also, provide as much information as you can. You can eliminate customer complaints through outgoing communication. Having a robust website and a dynamic social media presence can dramatically improve relations with your consumer base. This is crucial to a digital-first approach.
2. Leverage the Best Technology
Creating a consumer relations process in the digital age requires the best technology. Use the right tools to maximize the efficiency of your staff. At the same time, leverage tech to communicate more effectively with your customers.
Yes, the top tech can be expensive. But you get value from these purchases. The investments become especially important for a small business. The right technology will allow you to get more done with a smaller staff and tighter budgets.
It's not enough to have the gold standard technological backbone right now. You have to maintain that commitment over time. Dedicate yourself to remaining at the cutting edge.
3. Provide Ongoing Training for Your Customer Service Reps
Even in the digital world, customer service means staying connected with people. As such, you need your staff to reach the highest standards and to get as much as possible in every interaction with the outside world.
Training makes this possible. Teach skills like empathy, active listening, and problem-solving. What's more, invest in ongoing education. Make sure your team improves over time.
4. Build Long-Term Relationships with Customers
Often, the only time you hear from customers is when they have a complaint. You can take steps to alter this negative tone. Don't wait until something goes wrong. Instead, create a communication program that touches base with your clients as part of the normal course of operations.
This way, you'll have a strong relationship if a problem arises. Dealing with that issue will just be a bump in an otherwise positive pattern of interactions.
5. Learn from Your Customers
Remember: contacts that come through your customer-service operations represent only a sliver of your total consumer base. One evaluation showed that for every complaining customer you hear from, there are 26 others who haven't contacted you. Let that vocal 4% speak for the silent majority.
Don't view complaints as one-off experiences. Instead, take a tip-of-the-iceberg perspective. Assume that dozens of consumers are suffering in silence for every contact you receive. With that in mind, look for ways to upgrade your operations to eliminate the underlying causes of those grievances.
Customer experience in the digital age
Modern consumers expect a modern approach to customer service. This involves a digital-first, proactive stance. To thrive in the current economy, you need to meet heightened expectations and shift your focus to facilitating customer success.
Modern consumers expect a modern approach to customer service. This involves a digital-first, proactive stance.
This can be difficult for a small business. You have a tight budget and plenty of other issues to worry about. Still, you need to invest resources in this area.
Offering a strong customer experience can set you up for future success. It will separate your small business from the competition and create consumer relationships that can drive ongoing growth.