Customer service skills are the pinnacle of effectively running any business. Without good customer service, your products are less likely to be purchased, and you are likely to have a high customer turnover rate. According to Ruby Newell-Legner in “Understanding Customers,” “it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for one unresolved negative experience.” When it comes to customers, maintaining overall satisfaction is a way to secure the success of your business, while ensuring that you will have returning clients, which results in steady income. While negative experiences from a customer standpoint are inevitable, there are many ways that, as a small business owner, regardless of your industry like construction, landscape, or property management, you can prevent these experiences from occurring often. Here are 10 customer service tips that all small business owners should keep in mind.
- Focus on the customer directly in front of you: It’s happened to all of us – you’re alone, holding down the fort, and you have a long line practically waiting past the front door. The telephone is ringing nonstop, customers are asking question after question, and you find yourself flustered. Not only are there multiple customers in front of you, but you also face the dilemma of missing multiple phone calls that could have to deal with issues, questions, appointments, or other business-related topics. When it comes to customer care, it is most important to handle the customer standing directly in front of you, regardless of the situation. Someone on the phone will assume that the line is busy or that the company is observing an hour for a lunch break, and are more likely to call back later, whereas the person standing directly in front of you could get offended and feel like they’re being placed on the backburner.
- Remaining patient regardless of the circumstances: I have had my fair share of angry customers. One time specifically, I recall a particular customer who was heated over the price he paid for his kids to play basketball. He accused me of not doing my job right, when I was following all rules and procedures that the job entailed. I remember resolving the issue, calmly go over the set price ranges of the Recreation Center I was working at, and just why he paid what he did. After multiple times of explaining this reason to the customer, he still did not have a good understanding of why he was charged the given rate. By remaining patient with him, I found an effective, step-by-step manner to explain this to him, was able to place myself in his shoes, doing everything I could to ensure that his experience would be an excellent one. With indecisive or impatient customers, remaining empathetic allows you to understand and effectively assist them, your patience will be comforting, rather than overwhelming and stress-inducing. Remaining patient regardless of the circumstances not only allows for you to have the higher ground in the long run, it is an overall more professional and human way of running things. Patience is a virtue!
- Effective Communication: It is important to be able to speak with customers. When it comes to businesses, there is always a plan to promote or sell a product to a customer. Being able to effectively communicate the pros of any given product is key to keeping customers satisfied. While many aspects of outstanding customer service fall under the communication umbrella, effective communication has the ability to keep customers satisfied, build relationships, and solve problems. It is also important to remember that, like most aspects of a business, that communication can always be improved!
- Ask for help: You may wonder just how asking for assistance can help a customer and promote better customer service. When you are unsure of something, inform the customer that you would like to give them a second opinion, and ask for help from a colleague, supervisor, employee, or whoever is willing and able to help. A good way to secure help is by implementing a contingency plan to ensure organization! When it comes to running a business, getting overwhelmed and sidetracked by the menial aspects of organization can be daunting, hindering the overall progress and potential of your business. Start early, always have a plan as to what will be said to customers at all time (creating contingencies for speech as well), and be organized from the get-go! If you’re struggling with organization in aspects such as what consumers by and who buys what, ask for help!
- Timeliness: When it comes to customer service, every consumer wants to be helped in a matter of seconds. The average attention span is around four seconds, and patience levels from customers are at an all time low, as waiting games nowadays are far less common than they were barely half a decade ago. In a world where instant gratification can be found in just about every facet of our culture, timeliness is extremely important to keep in mind when assisting a customer. It is important to remember that with slow customer service comes turned tables. Customers want to be helped at a rapid pace, and it is the goal of businesses to see as many customers as possible on a daily, hourly, minutely basis, etc. According to a Forrester study, some 73 percent of customers have come to the consensus that overall timeliness and valuing their time is key to providing great customer service.
- Go above and beyond: In every single job I’ve ever held – whether it be the service industry, aircraft industry, or working with communities – I have heard emphasis, on multiple occasions, of going above and beyond for the customer. This is a weighty topic, as it is customary to do the bare minimum for customers. In order to keep customers, you have to impress them, show them you care and personally, down to your core, prove to them that their business benefits you and the company. Reiterate things, be sure that the customer has everything they need, will not run out of a given product, and always make sure they leave happy. If a customer appears to be unsatisfied, ask if there is anything you can do to enhance or better their experience. At ezClocker we take this to heart where we constantly ask our customers for feedback on how we can serve them better? How can we improve the product to make it easier for them to use? great customer service is as important to us as building a great product.
- Service with a smile: Customers know when you don’t want to be there. I’ve had bad days at work, you’ve had bad days at work – we’ve all had bad days at work. It is important to distance yourself from your anger or disdain when speaking with a customer, as it may be hostile and they may feel like they have nothing to gain from their experience. Smile when you answer the phone, when a customer comes through the door or when they ask questions. Listen and make suggestions when needed. Humility and empathy are the keys to great customer service, as understanding others allows us to fix our mistakes and tailor our company’s products to the consumer’s needs. Service with a smile shows that you want to be there and, most importantly, that you want to help.
- Be persuasive: Sometimes you’ll have an indecisive customer or two. It happens! Don’t be afraid to go down the list with them and name every option available. Get excited, smile, explain to them that you yourself have the product and that it has made a world of a difference, and see where that takes you! excitement is contagious so when a customer sees that you are happy or excited about something they also become excited. Read more about the importance of having persuasive skills here.
- Keeping a calm demeanor: While this is along the same lines as remaining patient, it is more about your demeanor than your actual speaking voice when dealing with difficult customers. If you are dealing with an angry customer use listening and agreeing as a technique to calm them down even if they are on the wrong side, some people just need to vent before they can calm down. If that doesn’t work Sherrie Campbell says “The sales professional should go with the customer’s energy. If nothing the professional is doing or saying can satisfy this customer, then he can use the strategy of agreement: surrendering and granting agreement to the difficult customer (even when he’s right). To read more about how to deal with difficult customers read this article.
- Perceptiveness: Reading other human beings is a hard task. No two people are exactly alike. Everyone ticks differently, and it is important to tailor yourself and your service to just how you may feel the customer would appreciate. Let me reiterate: humility and empathy are the keys to not only promoting excellent customer service but to learn other human beings as well! Always try to understand the customer, be warm, friendly, open and happy to speak with them, even if you yourself may not be happy. This takes acting skills, but with practice comes perfect, and you’ll be on your way in no time!
Author: Christian Jimenez
Christian is a Public Relations student and freelance writer from Dallas, Texas. He has a passion for traveling, coffee, and all things writing (creative, technical, you name it). His works range from newsworthy topics to self-help blog posts for small businesses. He is currently the content creator for ezClocker.