3 Ways to Improve Customer Service That'll Help Increase Your Profits
All businesses rely on customers, new and current, to help them grow and become successful. If no one’s calling and buying your products or services, your business isn’t going to be profitable and you’ll be closing your doors sooner rather than later.
But before you look at adding a new product line or investing in some splashy marketing to help get the word out about what you offer, take some time to look internally at how your business handles customer service. More often than not, it isn’t a flaw with the design or function of a product, how it’s priced, or even the market you’re targeting that leads to struggling business. It’s how you treat and interact with your customers, the life-blood of your business.
To help improve your relationships with customers and increase profits, here are 3 things you need to integrate into your customer service process for success:
Talk to Your Customers
Before you can even begin to understand where to start to improve your relationships and results with customers, you must first know what they need and want from your business.
And you can only really do this by talking to them.
Conduct surveys with a cross-section of your customer base. Sending surveys out to 20 percent or more of your current and former customers may give you a return of between 5 and 10 percent of all customers. This will give you a good amount of people to work with in beginning your interviews. From the returned surveys, sort them into groups based on the responses - Happy customers, upset customers, and customers who could go either way.
Select several in each group to talk with on the phone, via a video call, or even in person if possible. Ask them not only about what you’re doing right as a business, but also about what you’re doing wrong and what you could do better. While it may be difficult to talk with customers who are especially unhappy, they can provide some of your most valuable, instructive feedback on how you can improve your customer service process and experience.
Take notes or record the conversations if possible, and don’t rush them. Let the customer lead the process and talk as long as is necessary to give you the feedback you need.
Do your customers want an easier, more reliable way to contact someone? You may need to set up a new quick-response department to handle these customer requests, or dedicate an email address and phone line for these types of calls.
Are your customers feeling they get the runaround when they call your customer service line? Take some time to audit and understand your call flow chart and see if there’s a more efficient, less frustrating way to escalate requests or handle incoming calls.
The more you listen to your customers, the more ideas you will get on ways to improve the customer service experience and build better relationships with the people you rely on the most to grow your business.
A key component to providing quality customer service is making sure everyone who interacts with customers is properly trained and skilled. Having all the fancy tools and process documentation in the world won’t make a difference to customer experience if the people providing that customer service can’t do their job well.
To provide the best service to your customers, your front-line reps need to have:
Empathy & patience: It’s just a fact of life that some customers will be angry when they call. They may even yell. Your customer service reps must be able to empathize with the customers’ situations by identifying how they’re feeling and responding with care to defuse the situation.
Adaptability: Every customer is different, and every customer interaction is different. Your reps must be able to identify the mood of your customer and steer the conversation accordingly and politely.
Clear communication: Your reps must be clear in their discussions with the customers and check frequently for understanding. For example, you don’t want your customer thinking that they’re getting a free month of service when really it’s just the first visit that’s free - Big difference in customer expectations! Make sure your reps check that the customer understands any changes that are being made to any services or accounts, and don’t hang up the phone without checking that the customer is satisfied.
Time management: Customers will appreciate it if your reps work directly with them until a solution is found to a problem. However, allowing a rep to spend an entire shift working on one customer’s problem isn’t an efficient use of anyone’s time or resources. Your reps must be willing to stick with a problem until it’s clear that they’re not the one who can solve it, and they then politely hand the customer over to someone who can spend more time with them.
Knowledge: Your customers trust that your employees know your product or service really well. This knowledge should be conveyed in interactions, and your reps need to know where to turn if they don’t know the answer to a customer question.
Thick skin: Customer service isn’t always easy, and it can result in hurt feelings if a rep takes a customer criticism too personally. Your reps need to be able to respond to customer feedback politely and empathetically without taking it to heart.
Ultimately, your customers do business with you because they trust you. This trust isn’t earned easily and, if broken, you could be in real business trouble. Whenever you come into contact with a customer, from the first time they ever contact you to the last interaction, make sure your focus is to help, not sell.
Show your customers that your product or service will provide them real, tangible benefits, from the time savings while cleaning their shower with your cleaning spray all the way to fixing that leak in their roof if you’re a contractor. Focus on how their lives will be better after using your product or service, not on how great you are.
When training your customer service reps, be sure they’re always asking the customer what their problems and needs are first, and suggesting products or services second. If you reps jump right in by talking about how great your new widget is without knowing what your customer’s needs might be, your customer will be left feeling as if they’re just an opportunity to make a sale and not that they are valued.
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