Starting a small business or startup is hard work. Aside from having to come up with ample resources and finances to fund your endeavours, you also need to start building and cultivating a strong customer base to help keep you going. But, how can you do that when you have such limited resources to begin with? Regardless of the size of your business, one concept always holds true across a wide range of industries: providing excellent customer service is the key to success. However, the definition of excellent customer service is arbitrary and subjective based on the type of business you’re running.
The following customer service do’s and don’ts for small businesses are the cornerstone for creating positive experiences for your customers and expanding your customer base.
Do’s and Don’ts of Customer Service for Startups
Starting and running a business is a learning process. As such, there are a few things you should know when it comes to offering top notch customer service as well as handling feedback and complaints. While you might not have the same level of manpower as larger corporations in your industry, showing your customers that you’re there for them when they need you is guaranteed to earn you major brownie points.
With that in mind, here are a few vital do’s and don’ts to help you improve your customer service techniques.
Do: Work on Building a Strong Rapport with Your Customers
Engaging in back and forth communication with your customers is a great way to grow your brand and make it more well-known. In fact, if you’re primarily an e-commerce company with a focus on online sales, then you need to communicate this to your customers. Use special promotions to encourage them to purchase products or services online. Many established brick-and-mortar businesses have embraced online marketing tactics and even offer the same items they have in-store at discounted rates if purchased online.
What’s more is that in most cases, companies even waive shipping fees as long as the items are shipped to a physical store location rather than a private residence. This, way, you get the best of both worlds—customers pay less for goods and services and you can still interact with them online and in person!
Do: Give the People What They Want!
Social media has provided people with multiple platforms to voice their opinions and air their grievances with a company. It’s important to take the time to peruse these comments, respond to each and every single one of them, and make appropriate changes where possible. Listen to your customers and implement changes to your business model as you see fit. If a customer is led to believe that you offer certain products or services that you don’t actually have, make sure to tactfully correct them to avoid further confusion and disappointment from other customers as well.
Do: Go Above and Beyond Your Customers Expectations
Following the well-known Kano Model entails learning to listen to what your customers are saying and what they aren’t saying. Predicting what your customers want based on their previous purchases and feedback is tricky, but if it’s done right it can also be very rewarding. Going above and beyond for your customers proves that you’re a proficient business owner and that you care about cultivating strong customer relationships simply by offering excellent services and products. An example of this is offering new and existing customers additional perks and incentives with their purchases to encourage them to continue supporting your business.
Do: Embrace All Feedback, Even the Negative Comments
The saying “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” applies perfectly to the business and marketing world. With more and more social media and company review platforms popping up, customers have more avenues than ever to leave comments and complaints. Ignoring the negative comments and only replying to the positive feedback is a huge mistake that a lot of businesses make. You should, in fact, reply to all comments, even the negative ones for two reasons:
- It shows that you care about your customers and improving your business practices to meet their needs.
- It’s a great opportunity to dispel any misconceptions about your business and respectfully tell your side of the story, while also working to resolve the issue at hand.
On that note…
Do: Treat Your Customers with Respect, Even if You Disagree
Another well-known saying that applies here is “be the bigger person”. Don’t let negative feedback, criticism, or one person’s bad experience compel you to lose your cool with a customer—especially not in a public forum. This won’t bode well for your business. Stand your ground, but be respectful about how you go about it. Apologize to the customer because they had a bad experience and own up to any mistakes made by your business or employees. Pledge to do better in the future and if appropriate, offer them a discount or special promotion to make up for the problem. Some customers—not all—will be understanding and respond kindly to this and even appreciate the effort. Take a win wherever you can.
Don’t: Patronize Your Customers
There’s a fine line between accommodating your customers’ needs and patronizing them. Walking that line can often make you feel like you’re on an unsteady tightrope. You never know how customers are going to react to what you have to say. It’s important to keep your head on straight. Don’t assume they know everything about your business, but also don’t assume that they don’t know anything about your business either. Rather than explaining things to them right off the hop, start by asking them if they have any questions about your business. This will give you a good indication of what they’re looking for, what they want to know, and what exactly you should explain to them. Basically, don’t make your customers feel stupid because this will just turn them off right away.
Don’t: Make False or Grandiose Promises
Even worse than arguing with customers online is making promises you can’t actually deliver on because it might momentarily appease them. This will just escalate the situation to a level you’re probably not prepared to handle and it’s a great way to lose customers. Don’t take on more than you’re prepared to handle because that can get extremely overwhelming fast and it’ll just upset your customers when they don’t get what they were expecting.
3C Contact Services is your frontline defense when it comes to offering top notch customer service. For small businesses, customer service is a vital lifeline that must be properly implemented to ensure your survival and success. Let us help you build up a strong customer base through our proven acquisition and retention methods. Contact us today to learn more!