When you started your business you considered suppliers, competitors and the prices you would charge. Did you give equal attention to customer service? As you plan your new business, or make improvements to an existing business, customer service should always be one of your biggest priority items.
Customer service should never be an afterthought.
No matter why you started your business and no matter what your business is, you must give your customers good service and make them feel that you appreciate their business. The best time to make customer service plans is before you have your first customer. If you are already in business and do not have a good customer service in place, then now, right now, is the best time to make customer service plans. We have all heard the saying “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” You cannot afford to fail when it comes to providing good customer service.
You take time to plan the products and services you will sell and all other aspects of running your business. You must also take time to plan how you will serve your customers and make doing business with you and your company a pleasant experience. When you do this, customers will want to do business with you over and over again and they will want to send their friends and family members to do business with you.
Good customer service plans take into account the fact that you need to:
- identify customers before the sale
- give customers a good experience during the sales process
- make customers feel appreciated after the sale
- resolve customer problems after the sale
- make it easy for satisfied customers to refer others
Identify Customers Before the Sale
One of my favorite expressions is, “there is a lid for every pot.” When it comes to your business, this means that no matter what product or service you have for sale, there are customers who would like to buy it. The trick is to identify those customers and market to them. One of the best ways to start with good customer service is to make customers feel they are important to you by the way you market to them before they become customers. You do not have to be everything for everyone. You can be a specialist and make customers feel as if they are special, valuable and important to you. People who are a good fit for your products want what you have to offer, are willing to buy what you have to offer and are able to buy what you have to offer. When you identify these customers and market to them, they feel special when it comes time to make a purchasing decision. They know that you were looking for people just like them, and not merely for anyone with money.
Give Customers a Good Experience During the Sales Process
Most people have had the experience of a cashier who did not want to be at work, a waiter who didn’t want to be bothered, a doctor who was too busy to answer questions and other customer service nightmares. One of the things that all customers can agree on is that no one wants to do business with a company that makes them feel bad while the sale is happening. After all, if a company makes you feel sad and unhappy while you are making the purchase, imagine how awful things will be if there are problems later! It is important to make your customers feel good while you are making the sale. This means you should smile at your customers. give them the support, words and actions they need to feel as if each sale is special, important and valuable to your business. When a customer feels good during the sale process, they are more likely to give you repeat business and refer others.
Make Customers Feel Appreciated After the Sale
There are as many ways to make a customer feel special and appreciated after the sale as there are businesses and customers. The secret is to find one that works for you, your business and your customers. Here are a few ways to show appreciation after the sale. Select a few of these to use with your business and your customers. If none of these will work for you, use them as inspiration to create some after the sale customer service plans of your own:
- send a handwritten thank you note a week later
- after 90 days, contact your customer to see how things are going
- send customers a blog article that will be of interest
- mail customer gift cards or coupons for products and services they may be interested in having
Resolve Customer Problems After the Sale
No matter how wonderful your product or service, things will inevitably go wrong on occasion. When they do, how you handle the problem may well determine the success or failure of your business. If you do not have one in place, create a plan that will guide you and your employees in handling customer complaints. Unlike many entrepreneurs, I have never believed “the customer is always right.” I do believe that customers should be treated with courtesy and respect. This means that if a customer calls with a question, problem or complaint, even if not justified, you must find a way to treat the customer with courtesy and respect. Create a customer service program that makes arrangements for refunds, changes and conversations to help customers after the sale.
Make it Easy for Satisfied Customers to Refer Others
When customers are happy with your service and the way you treat them, they will refer others who can or should use your products and services. Take time to look at all the ways customers can get in touch with you and make sure they are easy to use. For example, does a real person answer the phone? If not, does someone check the recordings on a regular and frequent basis to respond to customers? Be sure to be courteous and answer the phone before too many rings. Make sure your website gives your phone number, email address, phone number and a mailing address so that customers can see it easily to provide it to potential customers. Do not make it hard for customers and prospects to get in touch with you.
Social networking sites are increasingly becoming part of customer buying decisions. Take time on a regular basis to make sure all your social network accounts are:
- up-to-date with information from you
- free of offensive material from your, your employees or contributors to the site
- are monitored so that customer concerns, complaints and comments are moderated and receive appropriate responses
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