As a small business owner, you know that maintaining good customer relationships should be a top priority. However, it’s easy to take your eye off the ball when you get caught up in the day-to-day challenges of running your business.
The good news is that improving your customer service doesn’t require a big expense or a massive operations overhaul. Here are some simple steps to help you and your team focus on keeping customers happy so they will keep coming back.
Get on the Same Page
Small business owners often assume that their entire team understands how important customer service is to your business. The reality is that each employee probably has his or her own ideas about why it matters and what standards to meet. To ensure top-flight service, you need to get everyone on the same page and create a customer service “declaration” for your business. This can be as simple as making it clear that the customer is your number one priority and making sure that everyone who interacts with a customer lives and breathes your declaration.
Take The Temperature
Many business owners are unaware of what it’s like to be a customer of their own business. Every time you interact with a customer or client in person or over the phone, have a quick discussion to gauge how things are going. This simple step will help you get a read on their satisfaction level and allow them to raise any issues or concerns. It also demonstrates your commitment to continually improving your service.
It is equally important to ask your employees about your customers and to take the time to really listen. Your sales, customer service, or relationship management staff has in-depth knowledge of how your customers feel about working with you and using your products or services. These teams might also see opportunities for creating or improving your products or systems and generating new business.
If a customer can’t reach you when they need to, you could lose them forever. They want to know you’re there for them day or night, whether it’s to answer a simple question or come to the rescue when there’s a catastrophe. Think strategically about steps you can take to minimize concerns about accessibility and trust. Depending on the nature of your business, being available could mean providing 24/7 phone or Internet access or opening satellite offices in key markets.
At Summit Financial Resources, we believe there is nothing better than old school, face-to-face interaction with our customers. Whether making time for a quick coffee or traveling across the country for quarterly sit-downs, our strongest relationships are with the customers we know personally and keep in contact with regularly.
If you collect customer data such as names, addresses, phone numbers, and emails, utilizing this information is paramount to keeping customers connected to your business. We’re talking about adding value to the relationship, not inundating them with marketing material. It might be a periodic e-mail that offers industry insights, product trends, or hints on how to change their lives for the better. If you interact with customers in person, spend time exchanging information on topics that may or may not relate directly to your product of service. Take advantage of this opportunity to learn more about who your customers are and what matters to them.
Educate your customer service personnel to fully understand the benefits your business has to offer, and train them to explain these benefits to the customer. The key here is to keep things conversational. A helpful discussion is not the same as a hard sell, so be sure to encourage your team to talk with customers like an adviser, not a salesperson.
Determine customer service measurements of success for your business, and make sure these measurements are meaningful. For example, if you want regular customers to increase the amount they buy, measure that as a goal for your customer service team. If you have a customer survey process, use the results to understand where you and your team can improve.
Starting a customer service improvement initiative is often easier than sustaining it, but achieving lasting results requires continual practice and reinforcement. Many successful managers stay on track by holding quick daily “huddles” with frontline staff to review goals and remind them that the most important person in the organization is the customer.
Summit Financial Resources believes that providing first-class customer service can help your business succeed regardless of your competition or the current economic climate. While it’s true that improving customer service is never “one and done”, it is an investment that pays endless dividends.
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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.