How to offer excellent customer service – 7 tips for small business ecommerce

 

customer service for small business

Customer service is a direct reflection on your business and your brand. Consequently how you manage your customer care is important. Poor customer care could result in the loss of customers and ultimately damage your reputation. Great customer service can create loyalty, bring in new customers and give you the edge over your competitors.

We now live in a society where social media and customer review sites are part-and-parcel of the business world and although they are both excellent vehicles for positive customer feedback, it also means that negative consumer experiences are out there for everyone to see – sometimes before you’ve even had the chance to deal with them directly yourself.

58% of consumers are more likely to tell others about their customer service experiences than they were 5 years ago

Ensuring that your small online business or start-up is offering all it can in terms of excellent customer care is essential for the long-term success of your business.

Impact of poor customer service

  • 82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service
  • 44% of customers switch to a competitor following inadequate customer care
  • 55% of customers intending to make a purchase have walked away due to poor customer service

Impact of great customer service

7 customer service tips to help your business stand apart

As a small online business or ecommerce start-up, you are unlikely to have an all-singing, all -dancing customer service call centre to hand. Chances are it is going to be you fielding the majority of  calls and emails. We’ve outlined some simple tips that are easy to implement, cost-effective and could make a big difference in terms of customer satisfaction.

1. Offer that little bit extra

Going that extra mile for a customer won’t cost you much but can pay dividends in terms of customer loyalty and repeat business. A little extra effort on your part – for example getting something in the post to a customer on the same day or going a bit above and beyond the call of duty to deal with a query or issue – will be noticed and appreciated by your customers. In the days of automated customer services, long waiting times and being passed around from pilar to post, you have the great advantage of still being able to personally deal with many of your customers directly – it’s your chance to establish a solid relationship.

2. Walk in your customers shoes

walk in your customers shoes

If you don’t understand your customers and recognise their needs, how can you be certain you are offering them a positive customer experience? Get to know you customers (and as we mention before you are in the great position of being able to have direct contact with your customers so use those moments to find out a bit more about what they like and don’t like about your business), think about their customer journey from start to finish and see what you can implement to improve their experience. Having a good understanding of your customers will enable you to deliver the service they want.

3. Be flexible.

There are times when a little bit of flexibility will reap rewards for your business in the long-term. Of course you will need to make a judgement call on each individual situation after all you are in business to make a profit, but a little bit of give now and then, particularly when you know you are dealing with a loyal customer, can be a great way to give a customer the feeling off special treatment. For example perhaps honouring a promotion or sales voucher when the deadline has passed or accepting a return even if it doesn’t quite meet your criteria.  Remember it is far more cost-effective to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. So where you can offer customers some flexibility – you’ll find it will be appreciated.

4. Save precious time – pre-empt simple queries

Of course, dealing with customer queries yourself is great for getting to know your customers and for relationship building, but the reality for a small business owner is lack of time means that having to deal with all customer queries is a potential headache. It is essential that you set up a way to deal with the most frequently asked questions and queries – ones that are simple and straightforward to deal with .  This will include simple things like your return policy, shipping times, opening hours, product descriptions, set up instructions and so on.

set up an FAQ page

 

Think about the calls you take and emails your receive.  What are your most frequently asked questions and which ones don’t require a telephone or email response. Set up  FAQ page and put all those kind of queries on to there. Make sure your FAQ page is clearly marked on the website and direct people there in your initial order confirmation emails and paperwork. It will save you time, enabling you to concentrate on the customer queries that require a little more personal attention.

5. Start with ‘sorry’

Even if you seriously question whether you should be saying ‘sorry’ always start your response to any customer complaint by saying that you are sorry that your customer has experienced a problem. This is simple good manners and not an admission that the fault is yours.  It takes the wind out of a customer dissatisfaction and shows that you are genuinely concerned that your customer is unhappy enough to take the time to make a complaint. Acknowledge if you have made a mistake and don’t try to  pass the buck. Your customer isn’t interested in whose fault it is – they just want their complaint listened to and dealt with quickly and efficiently. Remaining polite, well-mannered and professional at all times is essential no matter how frustrating the phone call or email .

6. Have clear guidelines in place

There may be times where other member of your team will need to step in and deal with complaints on your behalf. If this is the case with your small business, then it is imperative that you have clear guidelines in place. Not only on a practical level so that the issue can get resolved in your absence but also in your company’s overall approach to customer service. For example all members of the team should be clear on the kind of service they are expected to offer customers all  such as being friendly, polite, approachable, professional and communicating clearly and effectively.

7. Respond to negative comments

45% of customers share negative reviews on social media and 63% of consumers read negative reviews on social media.

Social media and customer reviews sites mean that even with the best effort in the world you will be faced with a disgruntled customer who will post a negative review. How you handle negative feedback is important. The difference between dealing with an unhappy customer via email or on the phone is that any negative comments posted on social media or customer review sites are there for everybody to see. It is really important to respond quickly and efficiently to comments. Apologise upfront for any inconvenience caused – showing you take the complaint seriously, be honest and remain professional and polite at all times – no matter how unfair you deem the complaint to be. To ensure the comment doesn’t escalate if it is appropriate take the comment offline to deal with – as in the IKEA example below:

 

social media dealing with negative comments

 

Don’t underestimate the importance of great customer service . It doesn’t cost the world and even implementing some simple practices can make a real difference to how you are viewed by customers and potential customers. A little bit of extra effort can pay dividends in the long-term.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on what great customer service means so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

 

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Why good customer care is so important for small businesses

old vintage telephone representing customer servicesNever underestimate the value of good customer care and just how important it is to look after your customers. Poor customer service is a sure-fire way to lose a customer. Small businesses tend to have a smaller client base, therefore losing a customer can potentially have a significant impact on profitability.

70% of shoppers have stopped buying goods or services from a company after experiencing poor customer service andyhanselman.com

In order to develop and sustain a positive, long-term relationship with your customers you must ensure that your business is focused on offering a high standard of customer care. As a small online business you should be looking at your customers as your most important asset.

Take John Lewis as a renowned example of how customers are looked at as a priority. Excellent customer service is so much a part of John Lewis’s  business ethos that it is completely ingrained into their brand image. Consequently , John Lewis has an enviable  large, loyal and long-term customer base. Customer care is all about building enduring, positive relationships with your customers.

The benefits of  good customer care

81% of customers are willing to pay more for a better customer experience andyhanselman.com

Embracing the importance of customer care brings with it a number of benefits.  For example:

  • Build loyalty and repeat custom. Offering good customer service is a key element in gaining loyalty and repeat business from your customers.
  • Lower costs and higher sales. Don’t forget it costs far more to acquire a new customer than it does to keep an existing customer. In addition, an existing customer is likely to spend significantly more than a new customer “statistically speaking, the cost of acquiring a new customer costs 5-10 more than retaining an existing one. Not only that, but repeat customers spend on average, 67% more” Chartered Institute of Marketing
  • You don’t need a big budget. As you’ll see from our tips below, you don’t need a big budget to offer quality customer care.
  • Gain competitive advantage. Offering your customers a positive experience can give you an advantage by differentiating you from your competitors.
  • Win referrals. Happy customers are far more likely to recommend your business to friends and acquaintances

Tips for building positive customer relationships

Customer care is about building positive, long-term relationships by offering the best service possible to your customers. There are plenty of ways small online businesses can develop their customer service offerings.

1. Communicate with your customers regularly

Communicating regularly with your customers shows them they are valued. The interactive nature of the web lends itself brilliantly to direct engagement with customers. It is the ideal environment in which to develop customer relationships by keeping in contact with customers through social media and email.  For example, simple things like sending  customers an order confirmation and dispatch email makes a big difference to how customers view  the efficiency of your service. And, using social media platforms is a great way to keep customers informed of new developments and exciting offers, helping build interest and loyalty in your business.

2. Encourage feedback

Enabling your customers to engage in tw0-way dialogue through opportunities for customer feedback is important. Your customer feels their opinions matter and you gain valuable insight into how your product or service is viewed and how it could be improved to increase customer satisfaction.

3. Respond to all of your customers

It is important that you respond to all your customers. No matter how small or insignificant the query may seem to you – it will be important to your customer. Not being responded to is probably one of the most frustrating things a customer can experience. As a small business it is not always possible to answer a query immediately, but try to make it a priority to respond as quickly as you can. In the meantime it is a good idea to acknowledge your customers query and let them know you will get back to them as soon as possible.

4. Deal with customer complaints quickly, efficiently and pleasantly

Nobody likes dealing with negative feedback or complaints. However it’s important that you address them as quickly and efficiently as possible. Listen to your customers’ grievances and deal with them professionally. Customers will stay loyal if their complaint is dealt with satisfactorily. Indeed, it can work in your favour since  “Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4 to 6 people about their experience” .

5. Good manners cost nothing

Don’t forget whenever you are communicating with your customers to use simple, old fashioned good manners. Give your customers your full attention and don’t undervalue how a simple and genuine please and thank you can make all the difference to how a customer feels about their experience. Give your customers the service, care and attention you would expect to receive yourself and you won’t go far wrong.

6. Be consistent, make sure all team members are singing from the same song book

It is important to make sure it’s not just you engaging in a high standard of customer care. Make sure any one else responding to your customers are fully briefed and on-board with what you expect from them in terms of how they communicate with customers. Customer care must be consistent – no matter who it is from your business that is responding.

We would love to hear your own experiences and thoughts on this post, so please do leave a comment.