10 Customer Service Tips That Will Improve Every Business
Customer service doesn't come easy to everyone, in fact, the term customer service can make some small business owners weak in the knees (especially some creative professionals who may not be the most people-savvy). Not everyone is good with people and that's understandable, but customer relationships are the most important thing in a small business, and good people skills are crucial in setting you apart from your competition. Here are some some helpful tips on how to treat your customers best:
1. Always respond within 24 business hours.
Most people expect to do business between the hours of about 8am to about 6pm, Monday through Friday. The most important thing is to be responsive. Never keep your customer waiting more than 24 business hours (except weekends of course). Nothing says 'I don't care about you' like taking days to respond to a question or problem. Definitely don't keep your clients waiting. If at all possible, try to respond to clients only during business hours as it looks unprofessional to be emailing them late in the evening or early in the morning. You never know if your email will alert the recipient and wake them up or interrupt dinner.
2. Keep it professional.
In any interaction with your customer, it's important for you to be professional. For example, always write emails using proper grammar. And while it's ok to have fun and be friendly, avoid divulging too much information. Never talk to them like you would your besties and definitely don't tell them about your problems. I don't especially love the term "leave your problems at the door" as we are all human, but I do believe it serves any business and their customers well to keep it cool and professional at all times. Be on your best behavior.
3. Be on time.
This one is truly non-negotiable. Whenever you have a meeting with your client either in person or via phone, be on time. Nothing says unprofessional and inconsiderate like wasting a client's time by being late. Of course life happens, we get flat tires or the babysitter's late, just take the time to call to let your client know you'll be late (obviously try to never have to do that). It helps to always allow yourself more time than you need to ensure you won't be late.
4. Engage with your customers.
Get to know your customers. Get to a point where you care about them on a deeper level. This will be much easier with some customers than others, and it depends on the nature of your business, but if you show genuine interest and care for your customers, it will lead to a rewarding relationship for both parties. A lot of people want to do business with someone they feel truly understands them and has their best interests at heart. No one wants to feel like it's all about money. It helps to take a vested interest in your client's success.
5. Do what you say you're going to do, and on time!
Always follow through on your promises. The first thing is to be honest with yourself on how long a project or task will take. After you have thought through your time commitment, communicate it clearly to your client and ask for the time needed. It may be tempting to want to promise a new client the sun and the moon but this will only lead to disappointment.
Give yourself more time than you need to complete a job. That way, if you do finish early, you will have exceeded the expectations! If you do end up not being able to finish the project within the deadline, be open and honest with your client and let them know. People are usually pretty forgiving if you communicate with them in an open and honest way.
6. Always make your customer feel special.
The best professionals make their customers feel unique and special. Never treat them like just another customer or just another job. Make sure your process is fun! It can help to add personal touches like a handwritten thank you card or a gift basket when appropriate. Each customer has chosen to support you by hiring you or purchasing your product. Each has special story and deserves to be handled with the utmost care and attention. It helps to remember that you are not doing them a favor by working for them, they are doing you a favor by hiring you.
7. Embrace challenging feedback, rather than getting angry or defensive.
Never, ever, ever be rude to your clients. Even and especially if they're rude to you. Remember, it's business. It's easy to take things personal when it's your hard work they may be unhappy with, but at the end of the day, it's just business.
There simply WILL be times when your customer isn't happy. People tend to think that challenging feedback means everything is bad. They avoid wanting to hear it and people avoid wanting to give it because no one wants to hurt anyone's feelings. But I'm here to tell you that you should embrace the difficult feedback. Take it to heart enough to learn from it but don't let it bring you down.
Embrace the customer that tells you why they're unhappy and see it as something you can learn from. These incidents will give you the opportunity to show your customer how wrong they are! Do what it takes to make them happy. If you can't. gracefully thank them for their feedback and assure them you will use it to make changes to move forward. Get a thick skin, because you're going to need it!
8. Have difficult conversations in person or via phone.
If your customer seems unhappy, whenever possible, talk to them. Emailing, or even worse, texting, can lead to misunderstandings as to the tone of what you're saying. When there is a conflict, it's best to sit down and discuss it. Too much can be misinterpreted through writing, and speaking in person is much more efficient. It's best to do a phone call, a skype call, or an in person meeting when there's something difficult or lengthy to discuss. Assumptions and miscommunication can kill your customer relationships. Make sure you take the time to seek understanding.
9. Try to understand things from their point of view.
Definitely try to get in your customers' heads. Be sure to hone in on the reason they purchased your product or service and always be thinking of ways your product or service can best suit the needs of your current or future clients. The key is to produce something that will solve their problems and will make their life better. The more you can understand those needs, the better. Also, if a conflict should arise, put yourself in their shoes. Take the veil of emotion out of the equation and truly make an effort to see things from their point of view. Ask a lot of questions to gain understanding. Remember, there is always two sides to the story.
10. Make sure they leave happy.
Most of the time, your customer will do business with you and it will be fun and easy for all. If things didn't go as planned, or worse, if they weren't happy with the service or product, do take the time to ask them why and what you could've done better. Most people will appreciate that you are showing genuine care for their experience and will appreciate it. Even if things didn't work out, hopefully you can curtail hard feelings by showing them you are sorry it didn't work out. If things did go well, be sure to ask them for feedback of their overall experience anyway. This will let the customer know you care and it will teach you a lot about your customers' point of view and experiences with you. Remember to be humble.
What is the most challenging customer service situation you've experienced, and what did you learn from it? Leave us a comment below!