24-7-Customer-Service

While the quality of your company’s products or services is extremely important, there is another major factor that helps determine a company’s success: its customer service. In many ways, customer service is as important as your company’s services or products, if not more so.

A loyal customer, after all, is worth many times more than the amount of their first transaction with your company. Having great customer service isn’t easy, but it is more than worth the effort.

Here are four tips to improve your company’s customer service, and build a base of loyal, returning customers.

1. Be There

In today’s tech-heavy world, it’s easy to think humans operate like a computer. Logically. We even romanticize about thinking things through from A-Z with only keeping logic in mind. However, we are humans. At our core, we want love and affection. Since we have yet to isolate and remove this trait (but then again — would we want to?) it is part of everything we do in life. Everything.

Business is part of life. That’s why many people laugh at the statement, “It’s only business.”

What does this mean? It means we need to treat customers in the very same way we treat our friends, romantic partners, business partners, the waiter at the deli who you treat well so he won’t sound the alarms when you stay there working from your laptop for three hours straight.

In order to build those relationships, you have to be accessible to your clients whenever they need you. Your company has to have a way of rapidly responding to communications from clients.

For larger companies, this may mean a dedicated customer service department that can respond 24/7 to clients’ needs. If you are a sole proprietorship, that means you will need to be able to respond to whenever a client has an issue. Being responsive to clients takes discipline, and a significant investment of time and resources, but it is more than worth it; on average, your company is considerably more likely to sell its product to a returning customer than a new one.

This is why Amazon has such amazing support. It cares about the customer experience more than nearly any other company it seems. The result? Amazon is quickly realizing the dream of Jeff Bezos and becoming the company that sells everything to everyone.

What we’re saying is that business is personal and it likely always will be.

Be there for your customers. Treat them like real people. After all, they are.

2. Improve Your Staff

Whether you are a one-man show, or a company with a large customer service department, investing in the people who interact with your customers is critical. When choosing staff to manage customer service responsibilities, look for people with a proven track record in this field.

If you are considering a relatively inexperienced person who will be responsible for interacting with clients, choose people who have strong interpersonal skills, and who communicate effectively both in speaking and writing. Provide training, internally for new members of your team as a minimum; it also might make sense to send your customer service representatives to external training to further hone their skills as well.

It’s important to remember that even though you love your customers, you’re not often the person they’re speaking with. So while you may have great rapport with them, you must make sure everyone else they interact with is giving them the same white-glove service.

To give them the best service possible, put yourself in their shoes. Trace their contact with the company. Has each experience been amazing for them? Where have they felt uncomfortable? How can you improve the experience so that never happens again?

3. Reward Your Loyal Customers

If you have ever seen crowds going mad searching for sales on Black Friday, you know that people love deals. One of the best ways to keep your clients happy is to reach out to them directly with good deals that are not available to anyone else. Deals can take many forms — deep discounts on items, exclusive rights to purchase a good or service before it is available to the general public, or simple perks like gift cards for their favorite stores or restaurants — anything that rewards clients for loyalty.

But let’s think simply for a moment. You know how when you show up with a box of hot donuts and everyone goes wild? Pretty simple, right? Simple carbs. Dirt cheap. But people still go crazy for them. It doesn’t take much to brighten someone’s day. After all, most senior citizens will tell you, it’s about the little things in life. Give your people donuts… or fruit, veggies, hummus, etc. if they eat healthfully.

Additionally, providing exclusive information to loyal clients about the company, the future products or services it will provide, or any changes it is going through, is another way to reward long-time clients and further cement their loyalty.

4. Leverage Technology

This is where you can embrace the dream that we can think logically all of them time. Because when in the world of customer service technology, we can think like robots — and that’s just fine!

It takes a talented individual to add technology to the customer service experience. Because they must think logically and emotionally. For many, they rely heavily on one rather than the other. Find a person who can handle both.

No matter how big or small your company is, the advantages of using technology to help improve your customer service are too big to ignore.

21st Century technology can help you manage relationships with customers directly as well as indirectly. In terms of the former, customer relationship management (CRM) software can help your company effortlessly manage your relationships with clients, assisting with lead generation, contact and opportunity management, and workflow automation, among other things.

CRM software like Insightly and Salesforce and are particularly good choices for small businesses and sole proprietorships, for example. Indirectly, a company’s social media presence on platforms like Facebook or Twitter can help to keep you connected to clients; online comments and reviews, at times blunt, can also help you gauge how satisfied customers are with your products and services, and can signal when changes might be in order.

Final Thoughts

Not long ago, I flew across the country without saying a word to anyone. Including on my brief layover. I flew commercial too.

For United Airlines, that’s a very efficient passenger. No mess. No complaints.

Though was it the best experience in the sky? No. Because as great of a business transaction it was, it lacked the human aspect. It was not that I wasn’t talkative, the staff just treated me like a robot so I just let it happen and turns out none of the staff cared.

The beauty of the slick United process was great. But without the emotional aspect, there’s something important missing.

Always be sure that when you’re improving your customer experience, you improve both the logical and emotional aspects listed above.

William Lipovsky owns the personal finance website First Quarter Finance. His most embarrassing moment was telling a Microsoft executive, "I'll just Google it."

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