It’s All About the Experience.

Customer is king. As a small business owner, we know that to be true, but what about the people we have working for us? They are the face of our business. They represent us. Do they know the importance of their every interaction with our client base? Have we properly trained them on one of the most integral parts of business – customer service?

As the New Year begins, take the opportunity to step back and evaluate your business’ front line. Since the client is ultimately “boss”, below is a basic customer service refresher course.

• Listen and make eye contact. – Listen to the customers’ words, tone, body language, and how they feel. When you can discern what’s most important to the client you’ll know the best way to handle them and make/keep them happy.
• Empower employees to make decisions. – “Yes” is a powerful word. “I don’t know, let me call my manager” is not. Look for ways to make doing business with you as easy as possible. Based on your business model, find a dollar amount for returns, refunds and discounts that employees (educated on the ins and outs of your business) can authorize without slowing down the sales process and risking a scene by a disgruntled customer. This frees up the managerial team to focus on the bigger picture. It also gives your employee some sort of “ownership” in the business and creates a more “all for one, one for all” mentality.
• Be proactive, not reactive. – Sure customers buy products and services, but whom will they buy them from? Repeat customers are buying an experience and solutions to their problems. Provide a positive experience by anticipating needs and always offering a solution in lieu of a problem. Learn clients’ habits so you can anticipate why they’ve entered your store or called you. Those little touches make all the difference in the world.
• Go above and beyond. – Status quo doesn’t gain repeat customers in this day and age. Find unique ways to set yourself apart from your competitors while making the customer feel special. Discover what makes you different and capitalize on that. Notable offers and incentives are great, but even small things like offering clients a beverage while they’re shopping or wifi access while they’re waiting will set you apart from the competition.
• Ask for feedback. – This is good for your business on multiple levels. If you engage customers and provide them a forum to give feedback most likely they will. Two types of service get feedback – excellent and horrible. Sadly, customers expect mediocre. If the forum you provide is social media driven (i.e. Yelp or Facebook) the rest of your customer base and their peer group will see. This is ideal when you’re receiving five star comments. But, what if it’s negative feedback? It’s a perfect opportunity for you to showcase your customer service skills. Respond publicly to their comment on the social platform and offer to make it right. Do it with kindness, dignity and respect. The customer will not only give your business another chance, but their peers may join them if they hear you follow through and keep your word.

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