Companies that know how to nurture their customers have more success than those who just sell them a good product. Here is how you go about it.
Customer service includes a whole range of measures – often intangible – which improve customer satisfaction and make customers want to come back. These measures have to do with the way the product is delivered. Customers often choose the services of an SME precisely because they know the customer service will be better.
A pleasant environment
Do customers have access to customer parking? Is the entrance to the store or business marked clearly and in a welcoming way? Do they get a coffee when they come in? Is the waiting room or reception area clean and well-lit? Have you thought about an activity to occupy their children or other people with them? Companies who pay attention to these details will put customers at ease and customers will have a good first impression of the products or services they are about to be offered.
Speed of service
Ideally, customers should have initial contact with a company employee within 90 seconds of their arrival. After two minutes, this is a failure. On the internet, if the page does not come up, customers do not wait for more than a few seconds before moving to another website. On the phone, you should avoid long menus of options and placing customers on hold, always giving them the option of speaking to an operator. If the company has an answering machine, it needs to make sure that it will call the customer back “on the same day” or “within four hours”. An excessively long wait is perceived as a sign of indifference.
Say it with a smile
Consumers should get the impression that you are interested in them and that you are trying to solve their problem or to find them what they are looking for. To achieve this, they should be dealing with friendly, smiling staff. You can provide your employees with a certain number of instructions, such as SHGT (smile, hello, goodbye, thank you).
The little extras
A customer who is greeted by name, who is spontaneously offered his or her favorite table at a restaurant, whose voice is recognized on the phone or who has an item put aside while he or she decides, will have the feeling of being made welcome.
Good service does not stop with completion of the purchase. If customers are dissatisfied, they should be able to exchange the item or get a refund--without wasting time or spending money. Apple applies this principle very well: when there is a problem with a device, the company takes it back immediately (even if this means coming to collect it for customers who have AppleCare insurance) and repairs or exchanges it within a few days.
Going the extra mile
An entrepreneur wishing to improve quality of service can send his or her customers a questionnaire. But make sure you do not contact them this way too often, as it could irritate them or convey an unprofessional image. Here are the questions to ask them:
- Are our staff polite when they serve you?
- Do you get the impression you are taken seriously?
- How do you assess the service you receive over the phone?
- And on the internet?
- Are your complaints settled quickly and politely?
- How could we improve our service?
Sources: Small Business Marketing Kit For Dummies, Barbara Findlay Schenck, John Wiley & Sons Inc, 2012; Purple Cow: Transform Your Business by Being Remarkable, Seth Godin, Penguin Group.