Good customer experiences just don't happen - you have to make them happen. Here are the steps for easily managing customer service to make every interaction a positive one.
Running a business would be so easy if not for those pesky customers. You know, the ones who also keep your business afloat and without whom you wouldn't be able to survive?
But, wow, those customers are not always right. Some yank at your locked doors even when you've clearly closed up for the night, and they may be snippy and rude to even your sweetest employees.
You probably have at least one problem customer who perhaps believes she was royalty in a previous life and is therefore entitled to discounts... all the time... on everything.
And yet, keeping your customers happy and making them feel respected and valued is absolutely critical.
One angry customer can reach thousands of people through a Facebook campaign about your perceived failings. Besides, if you're like most business owners, you truly do want to please your customers and give them a good experience. Giving them that good experience is probably easier than you realize.
Do: Welcome Feedback
Encouraging your customers to give you feedback has two major benefits. One, it shows them that you really do want to please them and that you're willing to make changes if necessary.
And two, feedback can give you hugely valuable information. You need to know if customers are displeased with the state of your bathrooms or if a certain employee is routinely rude to everyone.
Don't: Expect Customer Service to Just Happen
Hopefully you've hired a great staff and trained them on everything they need to know. They're smart and they've got common sense, so surely they know how to treat the customers, right?
But unless you're running a psychic reading business, your employees can't read minds. If you don't coach them on how to handle customer service scenarios, each employee will have to guess at the right way to handle every customer interaction.
When your employees act inconsistently, your customers have inconsistent experiences.
That inconsistency won't stay secret for long once your customers start writing and reading online reviews. Learning that your business treats customers differently is bound to annoy or even anger people.
Do: Create Customer Service Guidelines
To encourage consistency and make sure that your employees know how you want them to handle customer service, create a short set of guidelines for them to follow.
Using customer feedback and employee input, put together a list of the most common scenarios that employees face and write out a step-by-step guide for dealing with them.
For example, say that you run a gift shop. You sell decorative teapots that are very popular, but a store down the street sells their decorative teapots for $10 less. Your guidelines might lay out what your employees should say when a customer complains about the prices. Maybe you would like them to be sympathetic but explain that your teapots are hand-painted, which is why they cost a little more than some others on the market - and that quality is what makes your teapots unique.
Write out sample scripts for a variety of customer issues. When someone complains about long lines, maybe you would like your employees to say something like, "We'll be with you in about 5 minutes - thank you so much for your patience!" Be sure to include guidelines about what employees should do if customers ever make them feel unsafe or uncomfortable in any way.
Don't: Make It Too Complicated
Your customer service plan should be simple enough that all employees can understand it, and so straightforward that they can't misinterpret anything.
Instead of writing something like, "Mitigate a customer's dissatisfaction by escalating the problem to a supervisor," use language like, "If [X] happens, first try [Y] - then, if the customer still seems upset, politely offer to bring over the manager on duty."
Do: Train the Staff
Posting copies of your customer service plan in the break room doesn't constitute training. Gather everyone for a team meeting and go over the plan step by step.
If you're willing to stretch your dramatic muscles, try acting out a few scenarios. Play the role of a few different versions of difficult customers and let your employees respond to them. This really works to give your staff the confidence to deal with real world situations.
Be sure to ask your staff for their feedback. If they deal with customers more than you do, they may have ideas or suggestions that you might not think of yourself.
Do: Use Customer Service to Grow Your Business
Now that you've systematized your customer service program, it's time to capitalize on all those positive customer experiences and use it to grow your business.
Use an automated system like ReputationStacker to gather useful customer feedback and to get you more positive reviews on sites like Google, Facebook and any other online review site that's important for your business.
The Final Don't: Don't Make Customer Service Harder Than It Needs to Be
Systemizing the way you approach customer service costs you nothing but some employee training time, and it can revolutionize the way you do business.
Create a written plan that tells every staffer just how to handle common customer scenarios in a respectful and consistent way. Your customers will notice, and their public feedback will reflect their appreciation.
Use ReputationStacker to collect that feedback and build your business, bringing in more customers for you and your employees to dazzle.