Small Business Services

Is Your Customer Service Really Serving? 5 Tips

Good customer service used to be a given. Back in the days when there were fewer people, fewer things to buy and sell, and fewer forms of communication, polite, gracious discourse was the rule, not the exception.

There are still plenty of businesses that emphasize customer service. You know them when you see them. But everyone is so busy, so in a hurry today. There’s so much to buy, so many places to buy it, and a dearth of workers who seem inclined to put the customer first.

How’s your company doing with its response to all manner of customers wanting all manner of things? If your customer service seems lacking, consider these five suggestions.

Test your website on a 7-year-old. Not really, but you probably understand the concept here. How user-friendly have you made your website? Are your navigational tools absolutely transparent and visible, so customers never have to guess how to get to the content they want? Is your user interface visually attractive without being garish or too graphics-heavy?

You certainly want visitors to find their way to your shopping pages, but it’s just as important that they can reach the other resources you’ve provided, like FAQs, educational/problem-solving content, and your contact information. There should be a Contact Us link on every page that takes your customers and prospects to a page listing all email addresses and phone numbers that you want to make public.

Hire individuals to man the phones who can be friendly, truthful, and well-spoken. Working the customer service phone line(s) can be brutal. Employees probably get lots of questions and complaints from polite, reasonable customers, but there are always individuals who – for whatever reason – have an ax to grind. Hear this often enough, and the “friendly” part can go right out the window. If you can, rotate your phone personnel in and out of that position and have other service-related tasks ready for them.

Be proactive. This can mean a lot of different things. You can put a lot of effort into creating content that helps your customers and prospects:

  • Troubleshoot common problems with your offerings.
  • Understand your return policy, and explain how to prepare a return.
  • Learn how they can extend the usefulness of your products through, for example, maintenance tips and links to related or integrated products. Provide a deep support site, and add video to the mix.

There should be links to these pages everywhere on your social network sites, not just to your sales area.

Don’t provide customer service on social media unless you mean it. If you open a Twitter feed or otherwise let customers know that they can register complaints online, make sure that someone is always watching these areas (again, you can rotate staff in and out). Every query, gripe, and request should be acknowledged and routed to the right person.

Your most skilled web folks can be proactive in this area, too. Ask them to find industry- or product-specific forums where your types of offerings are discussed. Troll for disgruntled customers, too, by doing searches for your company and product/services names along with words like “complaints” and “reviews.” If it’s an open forum, you can join the conversations and offer responses/tips/suggestions, etc. Your employees shouldn’t be defensive, just concerned that there may be a problem. If someone is trashing you unfairly, contact the operator of the forum.

Know who’s said what. Keeping track of all of the comments and questions that come in on social media, the phone queries, the letters, the comments sections of your blog and website is an Herculean task. But it needs to be done. A customer relationship management (CRM) application is your best bet, but you may be able to cobble together a custom system of your own with the help of a skilled programmer.

Salespeople need to know what products customers have complained about, what they’ve returned, what they’ve requested, etc. Customer service personnel need a history of interactions. Accounting may need to provide and be provided some information. Management needs meaningful reports. Every customer should have a comprehensive profile that can be accessed by employees on a need-to-know basis.

Customer service is really a job that’s shared by your entire staff. But having robust, responsive, responsible customer service functions shared by a couple or a couple dozen employees can set you apart from more inexpensive or dazzling or well-known competitors.

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