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Boost Your Small Business with Exceptional Customer Service

When you think of exceptional customer service, what comes to mind?


Is it outstanding service by a waitstaff in a restaurant?

Do you want a fair price for your auto repair?

You may believe customer service is your vendor providing their product or service by the agreed-upon deadline.


The truth is that each customer’s needs are different, and the impact of poor customer service affects each individual differently. It is prudent to err on the side of caution to keep customers happy.


In the competitive realm of small businesses, exceptional customer service isn't just a practice—it's a pivotal strategy that can distinguish your business from the rest. In this blog post, we'll explore essential "do's" and "don'ts" of customer service, tailored specifically for small business owners who aspire to exceed their customers’ expectations. Whether you’re just starting out or looking to refine your approach, these actionable tips will help guide your efforts in building strong, rewarding relationships with your customers. By understanding and implementing these practices, you can ensure your service is not just satisfactory but genuinely exceptional.


Understanding Your Customers

Do: Make it a priority to understand your customers deeply. This means gathering data about their preferences, behaviors, and feedback. Use surveys, direct customer interactions, and social media analytics to gather this information. Sometimes, just listening carefully is sufficient to understand the customer.

Don't: Assume you know what your customers want without backing it up with data. Assumptions can lead to misaligned products or services and dissatisfied customers.


Communication Skills

Do: Ensure that every communication—whether email, a phone call, or a face-to-face meeting—is clear, courteous, and timely. Positive language and a friendly tone can make a significant difference.

Don't: Ignore the importance of tone and timing. Responding too late or with a negative tone can escalate conflicts and deter customers from returning.


Meeting Deadlines and Expectations

Do: Always be clear about what you can deliver and when. If there are delays or issues, communicate these to the customer as early as possible. Reliability builds trust. Most customers are ok with issues as long as they have information. Bad news gets smelly the longer it sticks around. Communicate early and often.

Don't: Over-promise and under-deliver. Failing to meet deadlines or fulfill promises can severely damage your business's reputation.


Feedback, Resolution, and Handling Dissatisfied Customers

Do: Welcome feedback of all kinds and treat it as a valuable resource for improvement. When a customer is dissatisfied, address their concerns promptly and efficiently. An apology and a quick resolution can often turn a negative experience into a positive one.

Don't: Ignore or dismiss complaints. Avoiding or delaying responses to customer issues can compound frustrations and may lead to negative reviews and lost customers. Recently, I utilized a vendor who was heading toward missing our deadline. It was not discussed until I said, “Hey, are we still on track to meet the deadline?” My question was not followed by an answer specific to my deadline but rather a barrage of complaints and excuses about his team’s efforts and vendor suppliers. Not helpful.


Educating Your Customers

Do: Provide your customers with all the information they need to make informed decisions. This could be through detailed product descriptions, informative blog posts, or even training sessions for more complex services.

Don't: Overload customers with technical jargon or unnecessary information that could confuse and deter them. Customers want you to be the expert. Gauge your audience and deliver the amount of information they need.


Fair Pricing and Ethical Practices

Do: Keep your pricing strategy transparent and aligned with the market. Conduct regular competitive analyses to ensure your prices are fair and justifiable.

Don't: Exploit customers by setting unreasonably high prices or incorporating hidden fees that can surprise and alienate them. I grew up with the phrase, “Pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered.” A customer who gets a fair price and quality product or service will always return. A customer who gets a quality product or service but feels ripped off will not.

Recently, one of my young daughters took her car into the shop to have the brakes checked. She was given a huge quote and an emergency prognosis. Only to get a second quote and learn they were trying to get over on someone who they believed didn’t know the difference. She received the services needed and will not give her business to the scammers.


Loyalty and Relationship Building

Do: Develop a customer loyalty program that genuinely rewards regular customers. This could be through discounts, special offers, or early access to new products.

Don't: Promise benefits that you cannot sustain. The rewards you offer must be realistic and continue to provide value to both the customer and your business.


Leveraging Technology

Do: Utilize technology to improve customer interactions. This might include online booking systems, customer relationship management (CRM) software, or chatbots to provide instant customer support.

Don't: Let technology take over the personal touch. Ensure there are always options for customers to reach a human representative when needed. Am I the only person stuck talking to machines that never understand who I need to speak to in an organization? I am often heard saying loudly, “Can I please just talk to a person?” Automation is awesome, but only if it aids efficiency.


Conclusion

As we've explored, exceptional customer service encompasses a range of practices—from understanding your customers' needs to leveraging technology wisely. By following these do's and don'ts, you can build a customer service strategy that meets and exceeds expectations, fostering lasting relationships and driving your business success. Remember, in the world of small business, every customer interaction counts. Make each one an opportunity to show how much your business values its customers.

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