Businesses may refer to them as customers, clients, patrons, shoppers, consumers, purchasers, or something different. Whatever name they choose, it describes the people they need for their business to survive…and the ongoing need to level up customer service.
All other things being equal, such as product, quality, and price point, customer service is what sets competitors apart. Consequently, it takes great customer service to bring people in, entice them back, and keep them loyal. That’s the stuff successful enterprises are made of.
Businesses that believe their customer service is delivering everything they can should beware of complacency. This is one part of doing business that requires constant feeding and attention. Customer desires are always changing, and businesses need to keep pace at a minimum — and set the pace if possible.
Even businesses that think they’re at the top of their customer service game should be looking for ways to level up. Here’s how they can serve their customers even better.
1. Adopt a continuous improvement model.
Customer service is a long game. It’s also one that touches every single internal business process, from setting prices through service after the transaction. That means it touches every tool used along the way.
Businesses should continuously assess their online scheduling software, customer data collection and management systems, and automated phone systems. And they should do so through a customer-centric lens. Does the business put the customer first in everything it does?
There’s a reason why this model is called “continuous” as opposed to “continual.” The former is uninterrupted while the latter occurs periodically.
Businesses tend to look at these systems only in annual reviews or while planning, when they should be business as usual. If a customer calls with a problem and it’s resolved, that experience should inform the next one. The information about the issue and the resolution needs to be shared with all staff to level up customer service across the organization.
Continuous improvement across the board, from appointment scheduling to payment systems, is vital to customer satisfaction. A business stands to lose 63% of customers who think they had a poor experience. Put the customer first everywhere in the business, without interruption, and improve service every day, all the time.
2. Make customer service training systematic.
There are a couple of key factors in stellar customer service. One is that everyone in the business should know how to deliver it and focus on doing so. Second is that customer service practice is always changing, which means the people delivering it need ongoing training.
Require customer service training to some degree in every employee position, from front of the house to back.
Often, individual employees are working on their own with their own customers. How is individual input shared routinely among all employees so they can all improve how they deliver their services?
Great customer service isn’t as easy as just being polite and accommodating. Solving customer complaints and issues involves asking the right questions, which not everyone knows how to do. Companies can’t count on the customer being able to express a problem, which makes questioning crucial to a good experience.
Businesses should provide ongoing, routine training on the mechanics of customer service. At the same time, they need to systematically use real customer service issues to continuously improve delivery. Managers must devote time to coaching, mentoring, and rewarding good practices.
Making customer service training systematic in a business supports that customer-centric focus. There are myriad customer service training tools even the smallest businesses can use to teach their employees how to build relationships. Use the right ones often and deliberately. Doing so will move customer satisfaction in the right direction.
3. Make the business more accessible to more customers.
Making a business more accessible to more customers means opening the doors to a much larger pool of prospects. However, accessibility goes far beyond making those doors wider or constructing wheelchair curb transitions. It also involves more than a business’s physical space.
Physical space considerations include button-activated doors, braille and audio wayfinding systems, and consistent flooring. Although laws prohibit most denials of service animals, businesses can go further. They can provide water, snacks, and relief areas for these animal helpers as well.
Customers who tend to be accompanied by children will appreciate kid-friendly spaces. Those who find children disruptive appreciate it when common spaces are designed to keep kids from disturbing them. As a result, when done cleverly, businesses can make customers in both camps happy.
Businesses should provide print and online forms and information in more than one language. Employing bilingual employees or subscribing to language translation services will likewise improve service to non-native speakers of English. To better accommodate the visually impaired, employees could learn how to use WhatsApp and its accessibility features.
Differently abled people make up a significant portion of our population. Being differently abled doesn’t mean they aren’t consumers…with money to spend! Businesses that accommodate those differences may find themselves opening their automatic doors to future loyalists.
We can always do better!
Regardless of what a business is doing right now to serve customers, it can do better.
Unless a business is the only one of its type in town, it’s going to need to find ways to be competitive. Going above and beyond in its customer service efforts will distinguish it from the others. And that will make all the difference.