How to Not Lose Customers : Tips Every Business Owner Needs to Know
As a business owner, and as a customer myself, I've seen my fair share of do's and don'ts in the realm of customer service, and I know what makes for a bad, average, and stellar customer experience. So, as a business owner who cares about repeat business and establishing a reputation to enable your business to grow, there are some tips to live and breathe by when it comes to customer service.
As a business owner, and as a discerning consumer myself, I've seen my fair share of do's and don'ts in the realm of customer service, and I know what makes for a bad, average, above average, and finally stellar customer experience. It's amazing what you start to notice after you have been a small business owner yourself for a few years, when you are on the receiving end of a customer service experience.
You start to really notice the little nuances that you may not have noticed or even cared about before you went into business for yourself. It's not like I didn't know what bad and good customer service was before, it's just that I've become more intuned to it now since it is the cornerstone of my bread butter as well.
When I have a really good or a really bad experience as a client, I tend to mull it over and figure out why it bothered me, and what the business owner or representative of the serving business could have done better, or how they could have handled it differently to make my experience better.
This line of thinking has led to what I call, in my world as a customer and a business owner, the foundation of good customer service. If you can grasp these as a business owner, and pass them on to anyone who works for you or ingrain them in your corporate culture, well, you only have one way to go, and that's up.
The first rule is to always maintain professionalism. This may seem like common sense to you or the next reader, but what seems like common sense doesn't always translate into the right thing being done out there when clients are involved.
I'll give you an example. I was in a small privately owned spice shop a few weeks back, in an upscale shopping development. I like to shop there once in a while for some hard to find spices and sauces, and am willing to pay the higher than average price because it is a specialty store and because it has a nice, calming atmosphere.
I have been to this particular place at least a dozen times before and consistently had a good experience - nothing I would categorize as spectacular, but acceptable, and definitely not "bad".
The last time I went to browse happened to be with my sister who was in from out of town. The person working at the counter, and apparently the only employee in the store at the time, and quite possibly the owner for all I know, was in a heated discussion with someone who appeared to be an acquaintance. Not only were we not greeted and made to feel welcome, but their argument actually made us so uncomfortable that we had to leave the store.
This is what I call the ultimate in bad customer service and definitely the ultimate bad experience. Did this person have any idea that we walked out because of their heated discussion? Who knows, but the fact is, once we walked in, the discussion should have stopped, or they could have carried it on in the back room.
We've all had those experiences when we've felt ignored or even trivialized at a place of business, and that always leaves a lasting negative impression that is detrimental to that business' customer base.
So, rule number one is that consummate professionalism ALWAYS is, in my opinion a necessary foundation for great customer relations.
The customer always comes first, and this means their needs supercede any personal drama, job angst or other issues you as a business owner or as a representative of a business may have at the moment.
The second rule is to always make sure a client gets timely responses to any issues or complaints they may have. In the online world, this is especially an easy one to overlook, since it's easier to just not answer or ignore an email for a while.
I can't tell you how many times I've had bad experiences with this one. In my line of business, I deal with a lot of people online and over emails, and many times I will either never get a response to a question or complaint, or it will be delayed several days, even weeks.
This always leaves a bad taste in my mouth as a customer, and has even forced my hand at finding a different service who values me as a customer and responds to me in a timely fashion.
On top of a timely response to questions or issues, it is especially annoying and even angering to clients when they receive a response that is not relevant to their question, or only answers part of it or dances around the true problem.
I know you've all experienced the "form letter" approach to problem solving, where you get a response that is supposed to resolve your question or issue that only creates more questions, or does not directly address your problem at all. And I also know how frustrating that is as a customer.
Please, as a business owner, make sure you are supplying on-point and direct resolutions to your customers problems. They will appreciate it and remember it.
Last but not least is showing, or training your people to show and actually have, empathy for the customer. We've also shared that similar experience where we've called about a question, problem or issue with a product or service, and are met with a cold, unsympathetic voice on the other end of the line who doesn't seem to care or want to really help.
Hire good people. Hire people who have demonstrated at other jobs a genuine desire to do the best they can for customers, and treat them as they would like to be treated if they had called with the same question or issue.
As a business owner, if you are not a one man show, your business is only as good as your employees, so make sure you are hiring the right people, and training them to handle customers in an empathetic, timely, professional and courteous manner.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Danna Schneider is the founder and primary editorial contributor of Credit Card Offers Catalogue where information on low interest credit cards, special deals on low to no interest credit cards, and the best deals currently going in credit and loans. She also manages an online financial and credit info and news blog called Low APR Credit Cards, Special Credit Offers.