When it comes to customer service, a personal touch can make all the difference. Customers don't just want it; they expect it. And as a small business, customer relation management is an area where you can have the opportunity to really shine. It doesn't matter whether you're a retailer offering in-person services or a B2B company with a dedicated call center. There are plenty of ways to leave a lasting impression on your customers.
1. Remember and use your customer’s name.
Personalization in customer service shows that your team cares about your customers and their concerns. One simple but effective way of how to personalize customer service is to address your customers by name.
Whether directly in-store or indirectly, through mail or email newsletters, consider encouraging your customer services team to use customer names (and share their own) to personalize even the most distant interactions.
2. Consider how nonverbal communication can convey tone.
When it comes to customer service, nonverbal communication can be just as essential as verbal communication – especially as more and more interactions shift online. Smiling faces in a product demonstration, animations featuring faces just as diverse as your customer base, and customer support knowledge articles written in your brand’s tone are just a few ways that you can help bring empathy to the customer experience.
At my marketing studio Tote + Pears, we have teams dedicated to infusing nonverbal cues into brand assets across our clients’ digital platforms, as well as our own. People value consistency. By accounting for both verbal and nonverbal communication in your customer service materials, you can give your customers that and more.
Consider providing a range of communication channels so that each customer can connect with you in the way that suits them best.
3. Implement a loyalty program to encourage customer engagement.
Loyalty programs can encourage repeat business and provide valuable insights that can help increase customer engagement.
Simple programs that offer a customized experience – like giving out paper punch cards (“Book 10 workout classes and your next one is free!”) or an “on the house” program where employees are able to provide discounts or products like free dessert to regular customers – can be used to help keep customers coming back to your business.
For a more sophisticated option, consider setting up a digital loyalty program, like Fivestars, Belly, or LevelUp. These programs provide reward management and data and analytic tools that highlight customer behaviors which can be used to improve customer relation management. For example, the system may give you insights into customer favorites, and you can use that data to create tailored marketing campaigns and enhance their shopping experience.
4. Offer multiple ways to access customer service.
When it comes to providing exceptional customer service, it's important to recognize that everyone has their own preferences for seeking assistance. Some customers prefer the speed and convenience of live chat, while others prefer to communicate via text or email. Still, others may opt for direct messages on social media platforms or traditional phone support.
Consider providing a range of communication channels so that each customer can connect with you in the way that suits them best. By offering this level of flexibility, you can ensure that each interaction is meaningful and satisfying across all customer service channels.
5. Humanize customer service interactions.
Have you ever interacted with a customer service representative where it felt like they were reading from a script? It can be frustrating when you feel like they aren't really listening to you.
When customer service reps take the time to engage in personal interactions with customers, it can make all the difference. Consider having your customer service reps start a conversation – for example, they can ask customers about the weather or weekend plans. This will help to humanize the customer service experience, and in turn, may encourage the customers to be more patient with the reps.
6. Leverage customer data to personalize interactions.
Customer data can be a powerful tool to personalize interactions and elevate the overall digital customer experience. Customer relationship management (CRM) and help desk software like FreshDesk, ZenDesk, or Zoho Desk give your customer service representatives access to a wealth of information like call records, purchase history, communication preferences, and even personal details like birthdays. They can use this information to address customer concerns more effectively and swiftly.
Make sure that you keep all customer data secure and prevent unauthorized access. Being transparent about how you leverage customer data can be the key to building trust, getting their consent (which is required in some locales), and earning their loyalty.
7. Keep transitions smooth.
Sometimes, your customer service employees have to hand a customer off to a manager, another representative or a different department, either in person or by phone or online. Making sure these transitions go smoothly can help keep the customer from feeling like they were left hanging.
In-person, consider having employees explain the issue to the manager before leaving. And on the phone or online, try having employees explain what they're doing (“I'm going to transfer you to Steve in our accounting department”) and consider giving the customer a direct phone line or email address to use if they get cut off.
8. Make recommendations based on past purchases.
New data and analytics tools are launching daily, offering ways to enhance personalization.
Own an e-commerce site? Try using data and analytics to enhance your digital customer experience by offering site visitors product recommendations based on their interests or past purchasing habits. Run a brick-and-mortar store? By utilizing information about past purchases and geolocation services, you can alert your customers of special promotions when they’re nearby.
Customer service is an important part of running a small business. By adopting these eight strategies for personalization, you can be well on your way to nurturing long-lasting connections with your customers.
A version of this article was originally published on October 27, 2016.
Photo: Getty Images