The best strategy for building sales in a difficult economy isn’t lower prices—it’s loyal customers. Smart business owners cultivate strong customer relationships by focusing on great customer service from the first touch. In fact, providing exceptional customer service is the top tactic that businesses are using for the upcoming holiday season, according to AT&T’s newest survey of small businesses.
Providing good service boils down to one basic principle: Treat customers the way you want to be treated. This top-down philosophy starts with the way you treat and train your employees, and it can help keep customers coming back when times are rough.
Here are five ways to strengthen your customer service and keep your business strong.
1. Educate your employees
Good customer service is a team sport. One weak link in the chain can lead to a negative experience that affects your business and your bottom line. Educate employees on your rules for customer engagement. You may want to begin with a set of simple rules, such as be courteous, listen carefully and be prepared to say “yes” rather than “no.” The best way to teach is by example. If you treat your employees well, they’ll be more likely to treat your customers well, in turn.
2. Seek opinions from your customers
After you and your employees, nobody knows more about your business than your customers. They can be your biggest fans or your harshest critics. Ask them how you’re doing, what they like about your business and what they don’t like. This isn’t about collecting compliments, so open the channel to all customers. Negative feedback can be especially helpful, though it can be a little uncomfortable. So put mechanisms in place for anonymous feedback, such as a “Contact us” button on your website.
3. Treat your best customers better
While all customers deserve to receive courtesy and respect, your long-term and loyal customers merit treatment that goes above and beyond. Special offers, loyalty programs and appreciation events can help give your best customers something extra. Far from alienating new customers, these programs demonstrate that loyalty has its rewards.
4. Admit mistakes, then make them right
Nobody’s perfect, and your customers probably understand that. If you make a mistake, acknowledge it, apologize and then move quickly to correct it. Use the opportunity to improve your business processes and let customers know what actions you took to prevent the mistake from happening again. Customers may feel more comfortable doing business with you when they see that you took the problem seriously.
5. Say “Thank you”
The key to customer loyalty can be embodied in two simple words: Thank you. Nothing else sets the tone for your relationship with your customers better. Essentially, every “thank you” says, “I appreciate your business and I won’t take it for granted.” And it can be just as powerful whether it’s delivered in person or on a printed page. E-mails, invoices and advertisements are all opportunities to let your customers know how important they are to you.
Providing good customer service is integral to any successful business. Taking care of your customers helps encourage them to continue buying from your business through good times and bad. Let AT&T help you build a website that supports your customer service goals.