Don’t get me wrong, the customer STILL is always right, but our generation has taken the concept of customer service to a new level. These days, the idea of business hours seem outdated when it comes to customer service. Sure, you can have second-to-none customer support Monday through Friday, 9-5, but what happens when a customer has an issue at night? Or on the weekend? Today’s consumers want answers and they want them now. With so many new ways to engage a customer base, you will need some basic knowledge to keep up and build upon the basic foundation of traditional customer support.Imagine you are a regular at the coffee shop down the street from your office. One day you notice a sign on the counter saying that you can get updates and promotions by following the shop on twitter. The next day you get a notification on your phone 5 minutes before you normally drop in for your large latte letting you know the coffee shop mentioned you on twitter with the tweet, “@mrianborris, your usual will be waiting for you upon arrival.” The fact that the shop owner not only got to know you by face and name, but also by twitter handle shows an incredible amount of commitment to the customer. I don’t know about you, but they would have me for life with a move like that.
Customer service has become a 24/7 gig. I’m not saying that you should sit at your computer day and night responding to every tweet, wall post, and email, but in the age of twitter QR codes, and Facebook you better make sure you are engaging your customers. Paul Dunay of Avaya seems to completely drill the idea home when he explains, “Not everyone enjoys calling into a contact center and, as social media evolves, people will expect to be able to get support through the channels they prefer and feels most comfortable using.”
The simplest way to make people feel comfortable with your customer support is by having a conversation with them. You should make sure your customer base does not feel like your relationship with them is one-sided. As is probably pretty obvious, most conversations are two-way, give and take. Providing them with untimely responses or vague resolutions will leave them frustrated and the chance of them becoming repeat customers slim-to-none. You must engage. While many more complex ways to approach customer service in the small business world exist, I like to think keeping it simple is the best way to build a solid customer support foundation.
1. Follow Up
One incredibly simple way for you to make your relationship a two-way street is with follow up. Regardless of how you provide customer support, you should always take the time to follow up on issues. Reaching out to make sure a customer’s issue has been solved or to tell them the idea they mentioned was dynamite takes no time at all and will make your customer’s feel respected.
2. Leverage New Technologies
You could also offer more direct contact. This can be taken as far as you would like it. While dishing out your cell phone number may be a little over-the-top, there is nothing wrong with giving a customer other options. Have them direct message you on twitter or linkedin in order to give them a more personal feeling of communication.
3. Ask for feedback
It doesn’t get much more direct than a customer telling you to your face what is working and what is not. Even if you have to incentivize getting feedback with promotions or sales, honest feedback will prove to be invaluable.
The bottom line – having an unbelievable customer service experience should be high on your list of priorities. If not for common sense, how about because it could be your biggest advantage over the competition – especially if your business competes with better known brands.
Got any firsthand knowledge about a small businesses’ superior customer service? How about horror stories that you think could have been handled differently? Let us know some of your customer service experiences in the comments section.