What businesses need to know about customer service
by Peter Switzer
Most businesses start and grow on the back of the founder’s great customer service. It’s driven by passion for the product or the service and the customers who decide to patronise the business.
Let’s look at the strategies you can adopt that are neither costly nor time-consuming, but will help build your brand and maintain your reputation as an excellent customer service provider.
Keep in contact
Keeping in touch with your customers is a sure-fire way to stay top of mind, provided you’re not spamming them with unnecessary communication. Consider simple yet effective avenues such as birthday cards, loyalty cards offering future discounts, or a weekly or monthly newsletter informing them of new products or service innovations.
Also utilise social networking tools to connect with your customers – in this web-based world, you could be missing out on valuable exposure if you don’t take advantage of Facebook and Twitter.
David Haythorn, general manager of operations at real estate group Raine & Horne, says visitors to their website can send a property listing to their Facebook profile, or to their Facebook friends.
“[Our brokers are] keeping in touch with their clients through Facebook,” he says. “People transact on a property once every five to seven years, but people are constantly reviewing their mortgage, so it’s a more up-to-date way of giving clients [timely] information.”
Make yourself easy to do business with
If your business doesn’t have a shop front, ensure your contact details can be clearly found on your website, including a phone number.
Also, consider automating responses throughout the sales process. For example, if a customer sends an email, automate a response thanking them for their enquiry and give an approximate time for someone to contact them.
Fulfil your customers’ needs
Create a personal way of connecting with the customer, whether that be through personalised, follow-up emails with special discounts or suggest new products they may enjoy – and be sure to communicate you value their business and ongoing support.
Take note of ModelCo’s CEO, Shelly Barrett’s strategy that caters to customers’ needs, but also has a direct impact on sales: “We recently introduced what we call the ‘SMART Service Steps’ of selling which encourages our beauty advisers to sell across the range and create customer loyalty through our VIP Program – where we hold information on a database which enables us to target them with offers and new products that we think would interest them, based on their sales history.”
An effective customer retention strategy for Cairns-based mortgage broker Mark Turnbull, founder of Horizon Financial, is his rewards system for referrers and existing clients, called Horizon Rewards.
“A rewards points system where existing clients, accountants, referrers, financial planners, etc. can earn certain points – without an actual cash payment – is our little way of saying thank you very much to our existing clients and referrers for staying with us.
“We also set up a system where clients can log into a website and check the progress of their loans so that’s been excellent.”
And I know a guy who a few years ago when iPods were new would send them to business customers after doing a good job for them. That was a cost but he certainly had people raving about him!
Have a feedback mechanism
Feedback is the breakfast of champions. One hotel I stayed at recently sent me an email politely asking me to answer an online survey on my experience – no stone was left unturned, from the service of waiting staff, the time it took for our bags to arrive to the room, to the quality of the bathroom products, and many more.
This is essential to ensure you’re delivering to customers and is a great way of working out where you need to improve any weaknesses in your business.
If you sell products online, offer the option of feedback, especially at the end of the purchase, so that customers have a forum to make suggestions or compliment the service. Follow up once the product has arrived so you can monitor the entire sales process and its effectiveness.
Also you need to ask people — customers and staff — if they are happy to talk to others about how good your business is. Happy customers will do marketing for you, for free, via referrals.
No matter what type of business you are in – it pays to give the same level of service to your customer as you would have them give to you. In the end, it’s your business that wins.
Important information: This content has been prepared without taking account of the objectives, financial situation or needs of any particular individual. It does not constitute formal advice. For this reason, any individual should, before acting, consider the appropriateness of the information, having regard to the individual’s objectives, financial situation and needs and, if necessary, seek appropriate professional advice.
Published on: Monday, December 20, 2010blog comments powered by Disqus