Customer service. The white whale of retailing: forever chased, rarely caught.
Poor customer service costs businesses $75 billion a year. That staggering bill comes straight out of business profits. So why are companies still so blasé about customer service?
You need to keep your customers coming back. Here are 10 must-know customer service tips to make that happen.
1. The Price of Happiness
Here’s a fact: good customer service comes with a cost.
So why are so many businesses in denial of that fact? They see the costs of customer service as an unpredictable loss instead of a business overhead.
If you plan to provide good customer service, you should budget for it. That gives you the space in your business costs to build robust customer services and allows you to manage the cost of things like returned items. You’ll improve your business by accepting that customer queries are a reality, not an aberration.
2. Quick Off the Mark
If your customer encounters an issue with their purchase experience, then they’re likely frustrated already. Poor responsiveness is the best way to compound that frustration into something more.
That’s why responsiveness is so key to the customer experience. When your customer hits a problem, their experience goes from smooth to laborious. You’ve essentially given them the job of resolving the issue — not exactly what they came for, is it? On top of that, they’ve paid for the “privilege” of fixing the problem.
The quicker you resolve the issue, the sooner they’ll be shot of having to deal with it. That makes for a happier customer than one who’s been stuck dealing with an issue for weeks.
Make sure your customer service channels can maintain short turnarounds for dealing with customer problems. There’s even a benefit in it for you. A complaint resolved in a few days is cheaper than one that drags on.
3. Now You See Me
To a customer, there’s nothing more frustrating than digging through a company website to turn up their contact information. This is especially true when you’re an angry customer.
Make your help channels obvious to all visitors. You should also have as many help channels available as is practical for your business. This should at least include email, a contact number, and social media pages.
4. Take the Fight Out of You
Run a business long enough, and you’re almost guaranteed to receive negative feedback at some point.
Some of it will seem unfair. Even when it is fair, it can be tempting to defend yourself and clap back at a customer who’s talking your business down. But it’s rare that retorting to your customers in this way will turn out positive for you.
By all means, address and deal with negative feedback in a civil manner. But never let the temptation to go to war get the best of you. Some of the most enduring examples of bad customer service come from companies who didn’t know when to set their feelings aside.
5. Ahead of the Game
It’s just like the expression: a stitch in time saves nine.
By pre-empting your customer needs, you can stop customer service issues ever developing. For a business that knows its customers, this should be a trivial process.
Some of the other items on this list boil down to this same principle. They’re about prevention, not mitigation. But you can also anticipate customer needs by simply listening to them.
6. Customer, Help Thyself
We won’t say all customers have initiative, but some definitely do. By providing a detailed help section on your website, you can help your customers resolve their issues without them ever needing to contact you. That saves both of you the back-and-forth of the customer service process.
As a customer, it’s a relief to resolve an issue without having to commit time and energy to the problem.
7. The Social Network
If a brand is a company’s face, then social media may be its voice.
Social media offers the single most direct link between you and your customers. It allows a customer to engage with you like never before. Even better, it’s a tool you can use to resolve customer complaints on the spot. That could save you both the time and effort of going down the rabbit warren of a customer complaint process.
Social media also offers a fantastic opportunity to get out ahead of negativity. And by that, we don’t mean “get into fights”! By engaging in conversation, you can resolve issues and make your perspective clear before those issues have a chance to grow larger.
8. Embrace Reality
In short: don’t make promises you can’t keep.
It’s better to be realistic than to inflate customer expectations. If you won’t restock a product before a certain date, then don’t tell your customers the opposite. If you can’t meet a shipment commitment, then don’t leave your customers thinking you will.
Setting realistic expectations achieves a few things. First, it softens the impact of disappointment. Second, it shows you’re an open and honest business. Third, it allows customers to make the right decision for them.
Sometimes setting expectations will result in losing business. But it’s harder to win back goodwill than it is to win back business.
9. Give Something Back
Customer service doesn’t stop at fixing problems. Companies are now waking up to the fact that rewarding customer loyalty is as powerful a customer service tool as anything else.
Customer loyalty schemes make customers feel that they’re valued. That can drive positive word of mouth and customer retention even when they do encounter service problems.
By offering customer rewards, you dampen the blow of any service issues your customers might encounter. You redevelop your image into something more like a friend. When a service drops the ball, you get angry. When a friend makes a mistake, you forgive them.
10. Sweat the Small Stuff
Not every query and question you receive will be a customer service priority. Even so, you can establish a reputation for openness in your brand by answering even non-essential questions.
The subject of these questions can range widely. Ethics and sustainability questions are two common examples, as are data security questions.
FBA coaching can help you manage customer comments, questions, and complaints to provide an open communication channel for your visitors.
Customer Service Tips to Up Your Game
These customer service tips should up your online retail game. By reframing customer service as a business essential — not an optional luxury — you can bring your customer service game to new heights.
Looking for more tips for business success? Check out our business section here.