So you’re waiting for that big business boom to send profits through the roof so you can start living the good life. Well, no matter what you’re doing marketing wise and SEO wise, if you’ve forgotten about customer service, you can kiss the good life goodbye, because that big boom is never going to come.
Think about it: you could have the best industry experts at your disposal, the best logo, the best website, and the best coupons and offers, but if you treat your customers poorly, what do they care about any of the rest of that stuff? The truth is: they don’t.
Here’s the one thing that can’t be ignored or denied: good customer service is key to customer loyalty and satisfaction. Whatever your industry or location, you client has more choices when it comes to deciding who to do business with than ever before. Why would they choose you if you offer a train-wreck experience?
Wait, it’s the 21st Century and We Have the Internet. Is Customer Service Still Important?
We’d argue that it’s more important than ever for that very reason.
As many as 90% of people claim to use the Internet to research local businesses and determine who to hire or purchase from. And they aren’t just reading your website – they’re reading what others are saying about you. Depending on your level of customer service and the overall experience you offer, this can be a good thing or a bad thing.
When your customers have a great or horrid experience with you, guess what they’re going to do because it’s the 21st Century and we have the Internet? They’re going to Tweet about it, Yelp about it, update their Facebook status about it, or leave you a Google review. And you can bet that they’ll have a greater reach than you do.
If you really want to see your business thrive and boost profits, it’s time to take a good hard look at the customer experience you’re providing.
According to Bain & Company, the way that you treat your customers is even more important than the product or service you are providing them with:
A customer is 4 times more likely to defect to a competitor if the problem is service-related than price- or product-related. [Source: www.beyondphilosophy.com]
That’s right: customer service is even more important than the price and the product. Your customers are valuable, but when they receive bad customer service, they certainly don’t feel that way. And if they feel under-appreciated and like you don’t care about their satisfaction, they WILL take their business to someone who does care. But not before letting everyone else know about their experience.
What’s Good Customer Service Look Like?
People try to complicate things, but good customer service is as simple as following the golden rule – treat others the way you’d like to be treated. Make sure that each and every one of your customers knows just how much you value them, because without them, you have no business. In other words, Mom was right – it does pay to be nice. Here are some more tips to help you meet client expectations and gain more and more happy, loyal customers:
#1 Provide quick and helpful service
Even the most patient among us wants access to help when we need it. Now obviously you may not have the funds or the staff to provide 24 hour support, but the quicker you can respond to customer inquiries, the less likely that customer is to go to another company that offers the same product or services.
We’ve seen customers rant on Yelp and other review sites and give businesses a 1-star rating, without ever actually doing business with them. Why? Because they contacted customer service, fell through the cracks, and felt like they were ignored. Whether it was intentional or not, that’s business lost, and others will read that review or at least see the effect of it on the overall business rating.
Now, speed shouldn’t be a trade-off for usefulness. If you can’t provide effective and helpful support right away, wait until you can! You can always send an email letting the customer know that you’re working to quickly get the information needed to support them and that you will be contacting them shortly with a solution.
#2 Be where your customers are
We all have different lives, different schedules, and different preferences for receiving help. Why only offer your customers one way?
Do you know how your customers prefer to be helped? By offering several methods for a limited time, you should be able to gather some data showing what your typical customer prefers, by documenting how many choose one method over another.
You may not need to invest in a TikTok or start a company forum; studies show that the majority of customers still prefer a phone number to call, an email address to contact customer service, or a live chat. So do some experimenting and see what resonates with your customers.
#3 Listen to you customers
We know it’s not an innovative or original idea, but have you tried listening to your customers? Not all ideas or suggestions that come from customers will be beneficial or even practical, but you can learn a lot about what your company or brand is missing or could improve upon by listening to your customers.
Sometimes you can be too close to the brand, or too stuck in the business-running side of things to see what may be obvious to customers and potential customers. Listen and observe your customers and you could learn a lot about what people want and how to best deliver it to them.
Don’t Forget To Ask Your Customers for Reviews & Referrals
Now that you’re ready to knock customer service out of the park, how can you make sure you’re getting great reviews and referrals that reflect the amazing customer service experience you provide?
People everywhere want to feel like they are contributing to something bigger and like they are part of a group. Asking for referrals helps meet that need and helps boost your business simultaneously. But don’t assume that satisfied customers will go out and refer on their own. Unsatisfied customers are much more likely to share their experience on their own initiative. The customers that had a great experience with you might need a little push.
Word of mouth is still the best way to build business, and if you ask a happy customer to refer your business, you make them feel important and valuable to the business. It’s a win-win. Not only will this help build loyalty with that specific customer, but you’ll also end up with more loyal customers as a result of the referral. It’s contagious.
Studies also show that referred customers are 18% more loyal than customers gained through another method, and they tend to purchase more over time. So make “the ask” for referrals a normal part of your customer service experience.
Of course, we can’t forget about the ultimate referrals: online reviews. Reviews hold a lot of weight, both in terms of search rankings and customer decisions. In fact, 89% of 35-54-year-olds trust online reviews as much as personal referrals.
So what’s that mean for you? It means you should definitely work on getting more reviews for your business.
The secret to more reviews is the same as the secret to more referrals: You’ve got to ask. 76% of people who are asked will leave a review.
Of course, if you’re struggling with getting reviews, there are things that can help. For example, you could reduce the amount of time between the service and the call to action, and consider a way to make it easy for your customer.
Some business owners find success through platforms like GatherUp, or by leaving behind cards and including links to their GBP listing and other review sites in their email signatures. See what works best with your customers.
And while you’re at it, why not ask your satisfied customers for testimonials that you can put on your website and social media pages? When you put testimonials and reviews directly on your website, you don’t have to worry about platforms like Google or Yelp deciding which reviews to filter and which ones to show. Your customers will see them all.
What Should You Do if You Get a Negative Review?
According to the latest BrightLocal Local Consumer Review Survey, 91% of customers say positive reviews make them more likely to use a business, while 82% say negative reviews make them less likely to use a business. So if your customers are saying good things about you, then you’re golden; if they’re leaving negative reviews, you need to make it right.
But it’s not necessarily the negative review that could hurt business – it’s how you respond to it. The worst thing you can do is ignore a negative review or simply move on.
In the words of Scott Stratten, best-selling author and president of UnMarketing,
“It’s not usually one thing that makes you leave a company; it’s a combination of issues and no resolution, or no satisfactory resolution to those issues.” [Source: “Unselling” Brainfluence Podcast With Roger Dooley]
Remember, you want every customer to feel like they matter, because they do! Ignoring a negative review and leaving your customer with their frustration is not how you show someone they matter.
The best thing to do when one of your customers feels they have received bad customer service is to address it quickly and calmly, and try to make it up to them. The good news is that 70% of customers will do business with you again if you make it up to them.
How do you do that?
If your customer complained online by leaving a negative review or comment on your Yelp, Google, or Facebook page, it’s important that you address it online so that other customers or potential customers can see that you care enough to try and make it right. Do NOT ignore the negative review and simply hope it will go away. Instead, express your apologies for the negative experience, emphasize that it is not a standard experience for your customer, and ask them to contact you directly so that you can make it right.
In other words, let them (and everyone reading the review going forward) know that their satisfaction matters and that your goal is to provide excellent customer service each and every time.
One thing you’ll certainly want to avoid is a back-and-forth online. Never argue or get defensive. This will not only upset the customer further, but it will make you look childish and unprofessional to anyone considering doing business with you.
Taylor Hill, one of the founders here at Spark Marketer regularly reminds business owners, “Do you want to be right or do you want to win?” If you’d rather be right, be prepared to lose customers.
Don’t Ignore the Things That Matter Most: Get Customer Service Right
So, how does your business stack up in terms of customer service? Whether you’re feeling pretty proud or pretty defensive right now, it’s a good idea to periodically stop and give this area of your business a good look.
Quality customer service is something that requires daily effort and practice, but just like you condition your body, you can condition your business to intrinsically provide top-notch customer care. So take the time to motivate and train your employees, and always be looking for ways to make the customer experience a good one.