Repeat after me – I heart my customers!

by on April 21, 2011

The importance of customer service for small businessesThe universe was conspiring for me to do customer service post. All in one day I…

Got such bad customer service, that I was just shocked. Flabbergasted. I was treated as though it was an inconvenience to have me as a customer. Plus, the lady on the other line also tried to make me feel stupid for not knowing their policies. I was steaming mad when I got off the phone

Then I got a post from one of my fav bloggers, Corbett Barr, talking about the importance of killer customer service and how many small businesses think they can get away with bad treatment. 

Then I went out for dinner to Vij’s, a Vancouver landmark, with some of the yummiest Indian food I’ve ever had, and hands down the best customer service I’ve experienced in the restaurant industry. Any of you locals out there know that to wait an hour (or more!) for your table is an absolute pleasure. Free appies, lovely wait staff at your beck and call, the owner buzzing around the restaurant greeting everyone and making sure you got to try every single complimentary bit of food being passed around.

So on to the topic of today… are you wowing your customers and knocking their socks off with your fabulousness? Your small business depends on this!

Your opportunity to get a leg up on the big boys

As small business owners and entrepreneurs, you have a major competitive advantage when it comes to how you treat your customers. You can give them that personable service that they would never get from a large corporation. You can make every single touch point as pleasant as possible. You can make impromptu decisions and address complaints and problems as you see fit.

No corporate policies to follow. No boss that needs to approve your actions.

You can let your friendliness, empathy and caring shine on, in exactly the way that feels good to you. And that’s a wonderful thing. Take full advantage of this opportunity.

Your customers are your life blood. You have to treat them right each and every chance you get, even if they are trying your patience, or making your life difficult. Rock your customer service no matter what. Follow these customer service tips and then repeat after me – my customers are not a burden!

Online marketing is digital customer service – do you have your bases covered?

Customer service does not just refer to telephone calls and greeting your customers in store. The internet has brought customer service to the digital world. Good customer service means that each and every touch point, whether in person, or online, is a positive one. Do you have your online service rocking too?

Make sure that you are…

  • Monitoring your social media accounts and responding to your customers as they interact with you. Twitter mentions? Check. Blog comments? Check. Facebook posts? Check. There is a great responsibility in terms of social media customer service, but also a wonderful opportunity to create raving fans.
  • Writing pleasant emails. Emails convey a tone and a feeling. Make sure they are friendly and charming. Make your customers feel warm and fuzzy.
  • Broadcasting your contact information. Don’t bury phone numbers or emails in your website. Shout them out and let you customers know that you want to talk.
  • Responding in a timely fashion. Corporations are notorious for taking weeks to answer emails (or never answering them at all). You’re not a corporation, so you really can’t away with this. In fact, it’s even worse if you don’t answer because people know that you are small and don’t have the “I’m a corporation” excuse. A lack of response makes it blatantly obvious that you don’t care.
  • Providing your customers the information they need. Is your website easy to navigate? Do your potential customers know immediately what you do? A poor user experience on a website = bad customer service.

Be wary of your competitive confidence

Many small businesses are in the lucky position of having no real competition in their market or industry. While this is great, it can actually cause problems when it comes to customer service. If you have all the customers you need, and you know that there is no one else people can go to, you might get cocky. You might not care how you treat your customers, cause, hey, they have no other choice.

When I told you guys about the bad service I got, this is exactly the position that this company is in. They pretty much have no competition.

A word of caution if this is your situation and you are not taking your service seriously. As soon as another competitor enters the market, your customers will take the opportunity to jump ship if given the chance. I promise you. Bad service will create a negative brand image that you will never be able to bounce back from, because you won’t be given the chance. The customer has already walked.

So take this chance to stop and think about your customers. Are you treating your them as well as you should? As you would like to be treated?

Give your customers the experience that a large corporation never could. Don’t be afraid to go the extra mile and provide an unforgettable experience. How do you, or will you, wow your customers? Let me know in the comments!

Comments, likes and tweets are always appreciated! Did I mention that I LOVE your feedback?

Image source:paytai / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Corbett Barr April 21, 2011 at 12:12 pm

Great tips and points Martina. I think you know my take on this (pretty much exactly as you laid it out here). I’ll just relay a story I heard from a small business recently that backs up all of this in a negative way.

This particular software company I know recently got an inquiry from a dissatisfied customer asking for a refund shortly after the customer bought the product. A cavalier customer support person decided that this customer was being unreasonable by asking for a refund so quickly, so the support person gave a couple of helpful suggestions and then referred the customer to a policy that stated no refunds were allowed in this instance.

BIG MISTAKE in this case. You never know who you’re talking to, and it turns out that the customer had a big following online as well as the ear of another bigger company that had been supporting the smaller software company with free advertising. The customer made a huge stink about the service he received and the software company lost its hard-fought free advertising arrangement. Was the daily stream of hundreds of customers lost really worth hassling someone over a ~$100 refund?

We’re in a different world now. Everyone has a platform. Companies can’t get away with quietly screwing over customers (even the annoying customers who might not be right). The customer is always right now more than ever.

Of course, like you I think there are dozens of other better reasons to treat your customers right, but stories like this should make those on the fence think twice.
Corbett Barr recently posted..Ask the Readers- Why Do Most Websites Fail

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Martina April 26, 2011 at 10:50 am

Thanks for stopping by Corbett! This is a terrific example of how delivering poor customer service can have so many repercussions. It’s simply not worth it, no matter how nasty or unreasonable a customer might be. Anything can be made public with just a few clicks. And so often, customers just want to be heard and recognized. I don’t know how many times in previous jobs I have a turned a complaint into raving compliments about how the situation was handled. You just gotta own up and let the customer feel cared for.

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Fred Leo April 28, 2011 at 8:56 am

Great story Corbett. Small business owners need to be aware of this. Online criticism can kill their business. Therefore, be nice and helpful to everyone.
Fred Leo recently posted..Do You Need a Business Plan

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Fred Leo April 28, 2011 at 8:54 am

Great advice Martina. Two in particular struck a chord – pleasant emails and providing phone numbers. These are very important. To this day, I still smile while writing emails. This is a trick that I learned to make my emails more friendly.

Making your phone number available is also important and one that I need to implement on my site. In this online world, we are so hesitant to provide our phone numbers, but this is an excellent way to encourage people to contact you.

-Fred Leo
Fred Leo recently posted..Do You Need a Business Plan

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Martina April 28, 2011 at 9:43 am

Hi Fred,
I love your smile tip! Awesome :) Yes, the phone number thing is something that alot of businesses shy away from. But I know that for me personally, if there isn’t a phone number on a business website, it’s a red flag. If contact info is hidden, it communicates that you don’t want to be in touch with your customers. And who wants to buy from a business like that?

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Jody urquhart April 28, 2011 at 7:50 pm

It make me shiver to hear stories of service like this! Yet it happens to me all the time. I lived in a small town where the grocery store had awful service and overcharged. The minute competition arrived they renovated.lowered prices and trained for good service. It was too late …they didn’t survive two years later

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Martina April 29, 2011 at 10:48 am

Hi Jody,
Thanks for sharing this example. Perfectly illustrates how a lack of competition can play a role in customer service. And fixing things only when competition enters the market? Well, that simply doesn’t work. Cheers!

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ruzanne May 2, 2011 at 5:28 am

Hi Martina! Like you, I heart my customers, though they’re not many. :) But what I’m most thankful about is your post saved me like 30 minutes of “reminding” my team who are assigned at customer service. Your pointers are the ones often overlooked as they deal with customers, particularly because they’re VAs and working for the business owner. I always tell them, “be a pleasant reflection of the clients; that’s what VAs are supposed to do.” Again, your tips here would be cool to poke them and stay motivated. :) Would love to read more here. Until then!
ruzanne recently posted..How To Find An Outsource Team Manager

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Martina May 2, 2011 at 10:39 am

Hi Ruzanne,
So glad the post was timely for you! You’re right, finding ways to motivate your staff to provide top notch service is very important. And simple training is very effective too. Many people don’t realize the repercussions of their behaviour, or they don’t take the customer service role seriously enough. As long as you make it a priority in your small business, and ensure that all your staff are on board too, you’re bound the reap the rewards!

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