Outstanding customer service doesn’t have to come from deep pockets and a 24/7 contact centre. In fact, according to the American Express Global Customer Service Barometer, small businesses are outstripping their larger counterparts in the customer service arena. Why? Because small businesses can offer a more personalized experience and more immediate action, writes Denise Parker.
Only if small business owners realize that good customer service requires input and effort, and act accordingly, are they rewarded with a worthwhile payoff: increased lifetime customer value and word-of-mouth referrals.
Here are the 5 habits your customer service should stand by:
- Plan for service. Whether they’re organising a seasonal event, thinking of an ad-hoc promotion or just handling the daily wave of enquiries, good small business owners schedule their customer service. Do you receive most enquiries during lunch times? Then plan to be available at those times. Your customers will appreciate your more immediate response.
- Record data, data and more data. Knowledge is key. We know small business owners especially are pressed for time, but it’s crucial that information is recorded in a centralised database and that knowledge is shared amongst employees. Effective entrepreneurs record information as soon as it becomes available, usually in a cloud-based repository, and distribute key information outwards. Information is no use if locked up in one person’s head (and he’s on holiday), or if it’s jotted down on a post-it at the office (and you’re on a business trip). Data shared in the cloud is accessible to whomever, whenever, wherever. At the end of the day a customer would rather speak to a junior support rep with all the answers they need, than to the CTO who doesn’t have a clue.
- Organize and prioritize.Successful small businesses organise their customer service rather than leave it to chance. Have supplier contact information and canned responses to frequently asked questions at hand.Assess and prioritize urgency. Keep track of enquiries that require following-up with external parties. Use smart technology such as Casengo to notify and alert you of incoming enquiries and pending cases. Good entrepreneurs leave nothing to chance or memory.
- Delegate, refer, or just say ‘no’. Over-promising and under-delivering is the fastest way to disappoint customers. If you over-commit to something you cannot feasibly deliver, you are not trying to compete with larger companies: you’re just showing you’re inferior to them. Either say no and avoid disappointing customers, delegate their question to the most appropriate person in the organisation, or refer them to a more appropriate vendor – they’ll appreciate the assistance.
- Be accessible. With today’s technology, you can route calls, respond to emails on your smartphone and chat in real-time from a tablet at the airport lounge. Today’s consumers want instant gratification, and if you can attend to this need, you’ll have the edge over your competition.
- Generate invoices and email them straight to your clients with invoicing software for small business.
Download the 2012 Global Customer Service Barometer PDF at http://www.tourismtattler.co.za/downloads/Amex_2012gcsb_us.pdf.
About the author: Denise Parker is the European Marketing Manager for Casengo, an Amsterdam-based tech startup providing social CRM software to SMB and enterprise clients. This social customer support software in the cloud helps companies to respond to their customers with greater ease and a human touch.