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One of the easiest ways to differentiate your business from others in your industry is to make customer service a priority.
Every business likes to think that they have good customer service, but there is an enormous difference between good customer service, and truly exceptional customer service. And your customers can clearly tell the difference.
Fortunately, crafting an exceptional customer service strategy is not all that difficult. The simple fact that you even care enough to read an article like this one shows that you’re likely to do well with the information I’m about to share with you.
There are a number of customer service principles that help buyers at all stages of the sales cycle feel valued and cared for. In this article, I intend to cover each one of these in detail.
Without further ado, here are the 7 pillars of exceptional customer service, and some information on how to implement them into your business.
Customer service starts before you ever interact with the customer.
In fact, the best thing you could do is deliver every part of the buying experience so perfectly, not a single customer would ever need to contact you in the first place.
Of course, we all know that’s not realistic.
Still, you should seek to solve problems before it ever reaches the point where a customer would need to contact you.
Pay attention to the messages that you do receive, and look for patterns. Are there common questions being asked? Common complaints that you’re receiving? What issues seem to pop up over and over again?
It’s worth investing in solving these repeat problems, and squashing them before they ever arise. Even something as simple as making a piece of information more clear can do wonders to clear up complaints.
When you make excellence a core port of your business in all aspects, problems become rare. You can then afford to go above and beyond for the customers that still have genuine problems, as these cases will become increasingly rare.
When problems do arise, or you know that they’re about to, be proactive in helping the customer.
Start solving their problem before they even know that they have one. Be upfront and honest with them, and explain what you’re doing to fix it.
For example, my employees occasionally get two orders mixed up, and send the wrong item to the wrong person, due to the wrong shipping label being put on the box. When we get a message from one buyer notifying us of this issue, we contact the other customer straight away. We explain to them that they’re about to receive the wrong package, which they’re welcome to keep and use for whatever purpose they desire. We also let them know that we’re overnighting their correct item, and giving them extra store credit for the trouble.
Being proactive shows the customer that you care about making things right, and puts them in a much better mood. They would rather have the facts than be surprised with a negative experience – and then have to contact you to fix it!
When customers do need to contact you, it’s vital that they’re able to do so easily.
Customers shouldn’t need to search for a method of contacting you. Include contact information in all of your emails, and give clear instructions on how to get in touch.
Ideally, you’ll have multiple methods of contact, to adhere to the customer’s preferences.
While email is always a bare minimum, having a phone number or live chat option available is a huge plus (and will likely lead to higher conversions as well.)
Live chat in particular is growing in popularity, and you should seek to implement it on your website as soon as possible!
If you want to impress a customer, get back to them quickly.
Anything longer than a day is a problem. The best companies can respond to an email in a matter of minutes.
Seriously, use response time as a metric to track the quality of your customer service, and actively seek to improve it.
People often feel better from a customer service interaction if they receive an unwanted response quickly, than the response they wanted to hear, if it takes a long time to be delivered.
The use of pre-written templates for common customer inquiries can be a great way to improve response time. Just be sure when you’re using templates however that you take the time to make them personal for each customer contacting you!
Which brings me to my next point…
Never make the customer feel like you’re reading off a script.
Your customer is a real person that took the time out of their busy lives to contact you, with the faith that you’ll care enough to solve their problem.
Customers will appreciate the feeling of having another real human from your company take their issue into consideration, think about it, and do their best to help them.
This does not mean that you shouldn’t use templates, or that you have to write every response from scratch. It simply means that you should take the time to address customers by name, respond thoughtfully to their inquiries, and let some of your own personality shine through as you write back to them.
It’s easy to quickly become bitter and hostile towards customers, especially when they seem to be acting unreasonably.
I understand it – people can be jerks. And it can be very hard to be respectful towards somebody who is acting like a jerk – especially when the issue isn’t even your company’s fault.
However, it’s important to respect the customer’s feelings, and try to see things from their point of view. You may think it’s unreasonable that the customer is yelling at you because the postal carrier delivered late, but the customer genuinely feels like this shouldn’t have happened. They legitimately felt like they needed the package to arrive.
Even in the most bizarre of cases, their feelings are real. They may not be rational, but that is how the customer truly feels.
Try to be empathetic when dealing with emotional customers, and consider how they may interpret things. This does not mean that you have to make exceptions or bend your company policies, but that you always interact with them in a respectful manner – even if they aren’t being respectful to you.
Finally, you must actually be able to deliver on the promises that you make to the customer.
This means setting realistic expectations from the very beginning, and following through with them at all costs.
Be consistent with your solutions. Never leave customers doubting whether or not you’ll actually deliver.
It is bad enough to disappoint a customer once with some sort of problem. It becomes exponentially more drastic if customers are let down a second or third time.
If you want people to recognize your brand has having great customer support, it’s vital that they trust you’ll make things right when problems arise.
Exceptional customer service isn’t hard, but it does require both a well-crafted strategy, and a leader that actually cares about their customers.
In this article, I’ve shared the 7 pillars of building a truly exceptional customer service strategy. I hope you enjoyed this list, and you’ll remain conscious of these customer service tips as you build your small business.
I’d love to hear how you plan to implement one (or all!) of these within your company. And of course, if you have any tips of your own that you’d like to share, please do us all a favor and leave them in a comment below.
Here’s to our customers!
– James McAllister