Manage Your Business
7 ways to improve customer service
Deliver customers better service to build loyalty
The following story is intended to help small business owners navigate some of the trickiest aspects of managing their business, brought to you by Chase Business Banking.
Great service is all about making customers' experiences as pleasant as possible, and even small improvements can have a big impact.
Try these seven ideas for delivering better service and winning stronger customer loyalty.
1. Help customers help themselves
Most shoppers want to research purchases before they buy and expect to find information about your business and products online. Design your website so that it's easy to spot product specs and prices. Do the same in your physical location, so that in-store shoppers can find answers to their questions or compare features of similar products side-by-side.
2. Train staff to make a great first impression
A customer's first person-to-person encounter should leave them feeling that you—or your team—know your products and services and are trustworthy, advises Craig Walters, a member of the Chase Online Activation Team who helps new business banking clients transition their accounts to Chase. Staff should be prepared to answer customers' specific questions about your products, or resolve their problems. "If you don't have an immediate answer to their question, tell them you'll research it and get back to them—and then do it, preferably before the end of the day," Walters adds.
3. Prepare staff to respond to difficult situations
Act out the more challenging scenarios that employees may encounter and coach them on how to respond. Their focus should be on listening to customers and empathizing with their frustration. An unhappy customer can't be turned around until they feel that they have been fully heard. Put an "escalation" process in place for involving a manager if the staffer cannot find a resolution.
4. Communicate clearly
Spelling out payment terms, return policies and other customer service details can help ward off customer service issues. If your business bills for services, emphasize payment terms; if you're a retailer, include a notice at checkout detailing your return policy. If you don't allow returns on certain items, inform customers before you close the sale
5. Make it easy to get in touch
Prominently post your contact information on your website and indicate the fastest way to reach a representative of your business. List customer service FAQs online to help quickly resolve the most common problems. Also, have a plan for fielding customer complaints, and designate someone to oversee these channels and respond quickly.
6. Track unresolved customer issues
Some tricky customer problems can't be fixed on the spot. For those cases, create a standard process for capturing details of the problem, working to address it and following up within a set time frame. Let customers know when to expect to hear back from you and keep to that deadline, even if only to update them on your progress. When you can't resolve a problem to the customer's satisfaction, get in touch to explain the steps you took, and offer an alternative or apology. Either way, the customer will likely be impressed by your good faith effort.
7. Seek feedback to guide future efforts
After closing a sale, ask customers if they were pleased with their experience. If you start to hear a pattern in the feedback, you'll know what to focus on—whether that's to sustain good practices or improve weak points. You can also capture feedback by creating a customer survey using free or low-cost online tools. Be sure to read these survey companies' tutorials on how to create and distribute a survey that yields usable results.
Laura Schreier is a Chase News contributor. Her work has appeared in CNBC.com, Banker & Tradesman, the Hartford Business Journal, and others.