By: Allan Thompson | Chief Operating Officer
In the quest for better customer service you have probably done at least a few internet searches on how to improve. There is a profusion of advice about customer service out there, but it really boils down to two things: relationship and response. Small businesses have an advantage when it comes to customer service since a local or niche focus lends itself to really knowing your customers and their needs. No matter what your business, from running a much-loved local restaurant, keeping a retail store exciting and new, to offering a specialized set of products on the Internet, you are an expert in what your customers need. Extending this understanding to all aspects of your business can enhance your customer service and help you tailor your responses to give your business a competitive edge, build your brand, and increase customer loyalty.
That’s why we’ve compiled this list of 10 tips to take your customer service to the next level:
1. Understand your customers’ needs before they do.
“Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves.”1 If you can anticipate what your customers want, you can anticipate their needs with the right inventory, the right events, and the right solutions.
2. Be welcoming. In the store, on the phone, online.
Every customer should feel welcome in your place of business or website. Make sure your team understands how to greet anyone who comes in the door or calls your business. Take a look at your website to make sure it clearly communicates what your business does. The front page of your website should be uncluttered and offer a very strong sense of exactly what service or product you offer.
3. Train your team smile and to be polite, professional, and thoughtful.
Danny Meyer, the hospitality guru of the Union Square Hospitality Group, makes the point that hospitality exceeds run of the mill customer service. Hospitality happens when customers feel you are truly on your customer’s side or as Danny Meyer puts it, “If you know I’ve got your back and I’m on your side, I guarantee you hospitality’s happening.”2
If your customers feel that you are on their side and want to make their experience the best possible, they will remember it and return.
4. Ask for customer feedback.
Staying in touch with what customers want will help you anticipate and keep track of their changing needs. Make sure your surveys and forms are clear, specific, and easy to fill out. Give your employees a way to jot down feedback they get verbally. This might be as simple as a notebook by the register, especially if they are constantly busy serving customers.
5. Look at every bit of feedback as an opportunity to learn and improve.
Every complaint or compliment is an insight into how your company is working. Try not to take any feedback personally. Using the praise or criticism from customers will be one of the best ways to stay on top of what is going well and what needs to be improved. Communication is important in every relationship, so embrace feedback as the customers’ chance to help you improve your business.
6. Train your team to solve small problems and investigate further.
Often, a customer complaint about something small indicates an issue that could become much worse or is a symptom of something larger. For example, if a user calls to complain that a button is not working on your website, it might be time to check through the whole site to make sure all of the buttons and fields are still working after a web browser update. If a product is returned, go to the shelf to make sure the flaw was in just the single item not the whole set.
7. Make your hours and response times clear.
Let your customers know when to expect a response and stick to it. If your web form says to expect a response within 24 hours, it is best to keep that timeline. If you take a complaint over the phone and promise to look into it, respond quickly with an answer. Services like snapengage.com might be a useful way to extend your customer service if your customers expect real-time responses around the clock.
8. If you get the same question or complaint over and over, track down why and fix the problem.
Tracking customer feedback is the key in finding patterns that need to be fixed. Technology can make this much easier. Desk.com offers a suite of features to track comments and customer requests. TalktotheManager.com offers another approach. Customers can text anonymous comments to the manager who then has a chance to respond immediately.
However you choose to keep track of feedback, if you see a pattern then fix the problem quickly.
9. Set clear limits and help your staff follow these guidelines.
A small business needs a policy in place to handle returns or unsatisfied customers. Your reputation is staked on how you handle returns. Having a written policy that is communicated clearly to customers will help your whole team respond consistently each and every time.
10. Keep an eye out for constant complainers and protect your employees.
Your small business may come across a customer that is a repeat complainer who is not offering any kind of useful feedback or even abuses your team. This kind of complainer can actually hurt your business by wearing down your employees. If the situation gets to the point of doing more harm than good, it may be time to calmly and professionally ask this customer to leave. A firm, but polite, refusal to serve a customer often stops the troublesome behavior, even while sometimes keeping the customer. For example, “I am very sorry, but it seems like our service is not a good match for what you need. Let me issue a refund and good luck finding what you need elsewhere.”
Protecting your employees will help them keep smiling and motivated to provide the excellent customer service that builds your business.
1. Attributed to Steve Jobs.
2. Soloman, M. Restaurant Magnate Danny Meyer On Customer Service, Leadership And The Right Way To Be Greedy (May, 2015) Forbes. Retrieved from
Get Jet Capital Updates by email