Retail 101

How To Have Great Customer Service

It’s a fact as old as time: having great customer service is essential to your business, especially if you’re just starting out. There are a ton of reasons why having good customer service is essential, so make sure it’s a priority in your business.

Reasons to have great customer service:

  • It’s considered the standard in North America. (We’re looking at you, France!)
  • People will think positively about your business.
  • People remember bad customer service for a long time, and talk to their friends about it. Just like the Warren Buffet quote, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
  • Treating people poorly will fill you and your employees with shame and dread. Good customer service is also good for your mental health.

So how do you make sure your company is giving people good customer service?

1) Always Have A Good Attitude

satisfied customer giving good review

This is mostly a matter of instinct. Follow the golden rule, make sure you’re treating customers with the same respect you want to be treated with. If you can follow this one, you’ll pretty much be good. People expect brands’ attitudes to be like a perfect, angelic angel.

Customers want you to:

  • Listen patiently
  • Never say anything rude
  • Offer solutions to their problems
  • Always be willing and happy to engage

Unfortunately, some customers do not have these expectations for themselves. As anyone who’s worked a day in customer service knows, there are some insanely rude people out there. Any business owner is going to have to come up with specific methods to deal with the particularly atrocious customers. One of the best ways to put out fires before they start is to realize:

2) Customer Service Starts Before You’re Speaking To A Customer

come in we're open sign customer service

We tend to think of customer service as person-to-person interactions businesses have with customers. However, customer service is largely a vibe, and your business gives off vibes before anyone ever speaks to you.

People are looking to be mentally soothed when shopping, this is the time in their lives for them to use their hard earned money to solve a problem they’re having. Whether that problem is needing a massage to relax or a cuter flashlight, when people are customers, they expect things to be easy.

Customer service starts by making sure every step for the consumer is as easy as possible. If your business is online, that means having a professional looking website, full of brightly colored photographs that clearly explain what your product is. If your business is a product, this means having packaging that helps the customer know exactly what they’re getting.

Providing information clearly and upfront is an excellent customer service skill, and that’s why it’s also essential to:

3) Set Crystal Clear Policies That Are Openly Listed

clear water just like clear customer service policies
No muddy waters when it comes to your businesses policies.

Remember the difficult customer we were talking about earlier? Of course you do. You have terrible memories of them seared into your mind. Anyway, one of the best ways to deal with difficult situations that arise is to reference your business’s policies.

If you can point to a list of policies that the customer clearly had access to and was aware of before they made a purchase, you can divert the negative energy the customer is pointing at you towards the rules. Most people are generally aware that businesses have set policies, and a chunk of customers will accept this.

Expert Move: Have 1 or 2 generous policies that ingratiate people to you. From free shipping and returns to a happiness guarantee, generous policies make customers feel validated and wanted.

Double Expert Move: Have a secret policy that you’ll make exceptions under the right circumstance. Have a loyal customer that misses an appointment? Don’t charge them a cancellation fee the first time. Have a first time customer that missed the return window? Let them do it anyway; it might be worth the dopamine hit they’ll associate with your business from now on.

4) Have A Quick Response Time

man on tiny racecar signifying fast response time

If you can have same-day responses to all your customer inquiries, you’re doing great. If you respond within a couple hours, you’re amazing, and if you can pick up the phone or chat box immediately, you’re godlike. Just make sure you’re providing quality responses, speed doesn’t mean anything if your customers aren’t satisfied with your answers.

Although a surprising amount of companies don’t respond to customer service inquiries at all, don’t join the ghost brigade. Responding promptly to customer calls and emails is really just part of having a good attitude. It’s not polite and professional to delay getting back to customers, and they’ll remember they had a bad experience.

5) Train Your Staff Consistently

three darts in the bullseye representing consistent staff training

Every entrepreneur needs to accept that no employee will care about their company as much as they do. So even if all this customer service stuff seems second nature to you, your staff will have to be trained.

How you train them will largely decide your corporate culture. Do you want relaxed artist types, like American Apparel employees? Do you want bubbly and perky employees like Trader Joe’s workers?

Part of making customers feel comfortable involves creating a consistent customer experience. People want to know that no matter whom they’re speaking to at your company, that they’ll have the same type of experience and the policies will be enforced in the same way.

6) Listen, And Ask For Feedback

child listening to tin can, representing listening to customers and asking for feedback

At the end of the day, we all just want to be heard. People want their experiences validated, and their opinions understood by those around them. This includes interactions we have in a corporate environment.

If you hear the same complaint or comment from multiple customers: pay attention! Maybe it’s a comment you’ve already thought of and decided you won’t be addressing, perhaps it’s coming from an uninformed place, but no matter what, it’s giving you valuable insight into what your customers are thinking.

Additionally, most people will not offer feedback without being prompted, so if you aren’t actively asking for feedback, you’re missing out on the bulk of your customers’ opinions. Make sure you have some way of getting customer data through surveys, polls, or even just informally by asking.

Having great customer service is key to the longevity of your business. Yeah, Tom Cruise is a good actor, but also being insanely nice to everyone he meets isn’t hurting his career. If you cultivate a positive and responsible attitude around your business, you’ll show current and prospective customers that you’re the real deal and that you know what it takes to grow an established business.

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