How to Improve Your Customer Service on a Budget
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Here’s a common misconception: only big companies need customer service. The truth is, excellent customer service is essential for every business regardless of the industry of scale. In fact, the smaller the business is, the more critical customer service becomes since they can’t afford to lose customers.
Not only that, it is important for the growth of your business too. Recent statistics show that 84% of companies that make an effort to improve their customer service quality report a significant increase in revenue.
The challenge, though, is how to achieve that even with a limited budget. In this article, we are going to share our tried-and-tested ways that you can do so while keeping things affordable at the same time.
Make Customer Service a Part of Your Company’s Mission
Each business has objectives. Make providing the best customer service possible one of yours. In this way, you (and your employees) will be constantly reminded of it in everything you do. After all, customer service shouldn’t be a responsibility limited to a single team. It should be a core value that ties your business together.
Create a Strategic Customer Service Goal
Do you still remember the goals you had when you started your business? You probably aimed to get a certain number of customers or sales at first. It’s not a surprise if your goals eventually evolved over time, shifting towards refining various aspects of your business. For instance, you might have wanted to increase your productivity or your employees’ job satisfaction levels at one point.
If you’ve done this before, then you are probably aware that such goals can further be broken down into sub-goals. They can be actionable items that you can concretely work on.
For instance, suppose you are going to create a customer service goal. Don’t just say “I want to improve my business’ customer service”. State how you plan to measure your progress as well. Following our example, it can be stated as: “I want to increase the star rating of my business on review sites”. It can then further be broken down into: “I want to get 10 five-star ratings this month on this review site. I also want to get ten recommendations on my business’ Facebook page.”
This gives your customer service goal a clearer path that can prevent you from making costly detours.
Picture 1. Make executable goals
Focus on One Problem at a Time
In relation to the previous tip, you can also opt to resolve one particular issue as a goal. There are times when you simply have to do some spending to meet your customer service goals. If that’s the case, then we recommend focusing on the most pressing issue first.
Going through customer feedback can reveal what that is. Do you notice any recurring themes? For instance, are your clients complaining about shipping delays? If so, then you might want to focus your resources on dealing with that first. You can probably consider investing in a warehouse management tool or hiring a part-time employee to help you pack your orders during peak days.
This will be more cost-efficient than attempting to resolve multiple issues at a time. It can also create a sense of significant improvement for your clients when in fact, you only really tweaked one thing.
Focus on One Customer at a Time
Be customer-centric. Being a business owner requires having the ability to tackle multiple issues and tasks at the same time. However, this doesn’t mean that you should rush your customer interactions as well. There are times when it’s better to slow things down, especially when it comes to dealing with your customers.
For instance, are you packaging an order right now? Then try to focus on that first before responding to another client’s query. You can also consider how you can improve this particular customer’s experience while you’re at it. Can you offer a small freebie? How about shipping this order a day earlier than planned?
This is such a simple thing to do and it costs nothing at all, but you’ll be surprised at how often a lot of us forget to put this into practice.
Picture 2. Don’t rush interactions with customers- stay focused!
Put Yourself in Other Peoples’ Shoes
You’ve probably heard this advice before, especially when you’re just starting your business. Curiously, though, it is only mostly applied to dealing with customers. Hence, we challenge you to consider it from a different angle. Don’t just put yourself in your customers’ position. Instead, keep this rule in mind whenever you’re dealing with other people as a business owner. This includes interacting with your employees, suppliers, partners, and more.
For instance, a recent survey reports that 69% of employees strive to work harder whenever they feel appreciated. They tend to make an effort to provide a better customer service experience too.
In another report, this time published by Inc., it was found that maintaining good relations with your supplier can provide better service to your customers. After all, the chances of receiving consistently high-quality raw materials or finished products in a timely manner are increased.
Mind the Details
Here’s a piece of advice that better applies to customer interactions: mind the details. Give each engagement a personal touch. Here are some helpful tips:
- Address your customers by their name. Don’t hesitate to tag your customers on your social media responses. Use their name in email communications. Address your customers by name every time you have a chance to do so because it creates a more pleasant and personal experience.
In fact, according to a study published in the journal, Brain Research, it has been found that our brains respond in a very positive manner whenever we hear our first names compared to other names.
- Send personalized replies. Another tip is to send out personalized replies. We understand that your business will eventually reach the scale when this won’t be possible anymore. If you must automate your communications, then take your time to compose non-generic auto-replies at the very least.
- Consider doing something handmade. Finally, put a little personal touch on everything you ship out. It can be as simple as writing your customer’s name on your thank you cards by hand. Such small acts can go a long way.
Make Your Business More Accessible
One issue that commonly leads to customer frustration is lack of access. It’s one thing for a customer to receive a defective product, or experience shipping delays. These issues do happen. However, it’s entirely another issue if they can’t reach you to complain about it.
Fortunately, it doesn’t cost much to extend your communication channels online. Place your email on your website. Share a phone number. Enable direct messaging on your social media profiles. More importantly, set aside sometime each day to focus on customer interaction.
Be a Problem-Solver
It’s easy to feel defensive and react negatively after hearing a customer complaint. We put a lot of love and care into our business, after all. However, it will significantly increase your customer service to face each feedback as a problem solver.
Set a protocol on how to handle customer complaints to make sure that your employees will deal with these issues the same way you would. It can be as simple as requiring three steps: apologies, fix the issue in the most ideal way possible, and follow-up.
Turn Errors Into Opportunities
Speaking of fixing issues in the most ideal way possible, we have asked customer service experts on the factors that set apart good customer service from an excellent one. The responses we got were unanimous. Good customer service is expected while excellent customer service can take your breath away. It’s a form of engagement that goes above and beyond the usual standards.
Surprisingly, the easiest way to do this is right after an issue. Turn these errors into opportunities to show your customers how much you’re willing to give to ensure a memorable shopping experience. Now, we’re not saying that you should do something extra with every order. You’re still running a business and not a charity, after all. But it is a necessary cost for orders that fell behind your client’s expectations. It may also seem like an unnecessary expense at times, but it will actually prove more profitable and cost-efficient in the long run.
Hire the Right People
Finally, don’t forget that talent and culture are cost-efficient investments towards improving your customer service. Think of each hire as someone who can double as a customer service agent. If you really think about it, this last step wouldn’t really cost you anything, since you’re planning to hire a new employee anyway, right? Unlike big corporations that need a large workforce, small businesses can focus on quality over quantity when adding people to their teams. Ideally, each hire should serve as an exemplary representative of your business. Quality customer service would simply naturally occur without much effort.
Investing in excellent customer service is ideal, but not a requirement. There are a lot of ways to improve the customer experience your company provides even with a limited budget. Serving each client with kindness and thoughtfulness is a good start. Creating a culture with customer service at its core is another.
Don’t forget to look into your customers’ feedback to gain clues on how to further improve your services as well. Finally, be on the lookout for opportunities to show your customers how dedicated you are to providing the best products and services possible. Such instances usually reveal themselves in times of crisis. So it would be wise to face each challenge with a problem-solving mindset instead of a defensive one. Good luck!
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