Running a small business can feel like having octopus arms. Daily operations sometimes dominate the narrative, pushing aside long-term strategy. Customer Service is a buzzword, but Customer Support is the practice of anticipating customers’ needs and going above and beyond to make them feel valued before any problems arise.
Providing a positive experience for your customers isn’t just common sense, it’s good business. Companies who prioritize customer relations report 60% higher earnings than those who don’t. So, what can you do as a small business to ensure that your customer support consistently outperforms your competitors?
1. Make Customers Feel Valued
Repeat customers are a company’s most valuable asset. Customer Support is an invaluable strategy when it comes to keeping customers around. It encourages 80% of customers to return to your business, and returning customers often spend more than first time buyers.
It’s the classic coffee shop scenario: are you more likely to return to a cafe where the baristas know you by name and start preparing your order as soon as you walk in the door, or a cafe where the barista doesn’t even greet you when you walk in?
Think of running your business as you would hosting a dinner party. Customers should feel valued from the moment they make contact with your business.
2. Focus on Customer Experience
Take time to identify all of the points of interactions customers have with your brand. This starts with outreach and marketing, continues through transactions and beyond. Mapping the pathway of customers helps you plan out points of contact and build retention.
Streamline your communications; email marketing platforms such as Mailchimp can be programmed to send automatic thank you emails to newcomers and special offers out to loyal customers. Strategically automating certain communications builds consistency and can free up more time for you to connect with those customers in a meaningful way.
3. Personalize Your Communications
Being a small business means that you have more direct contact and facetime with your customers. Don’t take that for granted! Large companies put a great deal of effort into replicating the personalized experience you have at your fingertips.
Spotify has gained a great deal of traction with their personalized customer emails. Whether you are operating a storefront, a mail-order company, or a software consulting service, pay attention to the direct interactions you have with customers. Send out special offers on customers’ birthdays. Anticipate their needs by paying attention to their preferences.
4. Hire a Flexible Team
You can’t be everywhere at once. Your employees are often the direct points of contact with customers, so hiring employees who have high emotional intelligence and are flexible and adaptive can go a long way towards building a solid foundation of customer support.
Hire individuals who display proactive tendencies; they should be excited about building customer relationships and be motivated to support customers before any problems arise.
5. Invest in Your Employees
Building positive relationships starts with your team. Employees who feel empowered and valued inherently have a greater stake in the success of your company.
Their workplace satisfaction builds authenticity into customer relationships. Having happy employees increases consistency and success overall, paying dividends in the strength and quality of your business.
6. Build Brand Ambassadors
You may have a small team, but that doesn’t mean you have to minimize your reach. Returning customers can also become ambassadors for your brand through positive reviews, social media, and word of mouth.
Establishing consistent and impactful relationships with those in your immediate circle pays dividends by bringing in new business with minimal effort.
7. Use Tools That Maximize Your Impact
Technology enables the message of your company to reach far beyond your immediate circle. Activating technological tools to engage different stages of the customer experience flow can lessen the pressure on your team and streamline the experience for customers, tailoring interactions with your company to the needs of each individual.
Resources such as LiveAgent allow you to streamline live chat, phone calls and communications on one platform, interacting with customers through your website as well as responding to social media threads.
Activating software that helps you sort and prioritize customer communications can help you make the most of your limited resources, simultaneously ensuring that no customer falls through the cracks.
8. Embrace Customer Feedback
Never underestimate the power of customer feedback.
These are the people you want to spend their hard-earned bucks on your products or services. These are the people you depend on to generate revenue.
And nobody can tell you what your customers want better than they can.
Online tools like SurveyMonkey allow even the smallest companies the ability to conduct professional looking customer surveys once every month or two. Send them out with newsletters or via social media. Keep them brief and multiple-choice based — make the process as fast, smooth and easy as possible.
It doesn’t hurt to throw a little incentive or two in either: offer a 10 percent discount or a free download (such as an ebook) to secure responses.
Consider sending out a brief follow-up email, outlining which changes will be implemented based on your customers’ insights. This will make them feel more valued and as if the time they spent completing your survey was well spent.
9. Be Honest, Be Accountable
Mistakes happen. We’re only human. Even the biggest companies make a misstep from time to time.
Still, it’s vital that any errors your tiny business makes are admitted, explained and apologized for. Customers won’t appreciate being blamed if they have no responsibility for any blunders that occur, and may well take their money elsewhere.
You have to be honest and accountable, no matter how high up the ladder the problems go. If customers have been left waiting for months for refunds, if their personal details have been exposed during a hacking attack or you simply cannot follow up on promises, don’t try to sweep it under the carpet.
Your tiny business can’t afford to appear dishonest or willing to throw customers under the proverbial bus in a crisis. Just make sure you learn from mistakes and develop strategies to prevent them happening again. Proper planning for potential errors is key: try to identify things that could go wrong and create solutions.
Solid customer support is indispensable to running a successful small business. Stand out from the crowd by building stellar customer relationships, increasing customer loyalty, and investing in your employees. Consider software that will help you streamline the customer experience and maximize your impact. At the end of the day, customer support is all about paying attention and being proactive. Think forward, build customer support into your business practices, and you will notice the impact on all levels of your operation.
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