Most small business owners know that excellent customer service is the key to a success in any sector. They will tell you that their customers are their #1 priority, but customer experiences often paint a different picture. As Friedrich Engels put it, “an ounce of action is worth a ton of theory.”
One Story: The mother of a local cable company customer had recently passed away. The customer, Ann, called the cable company to shut off services at her mother’s home and close that particular account. Ann explained the situation to the representative who in turn, responded with a scripted answer. “I would be happy to help you with this problem, but to gain access to the account, I will need to speak to the account holder,” he replied. Angered by the rep’s poor listening skills, Ann answered by asking him if he had a direct line to heaven and then demanding to speak to a manager.
A supervisor was able to help Ann close her deceased mother’s account, but the damage was done. Ann and several of her family members closed their accounts. On top of that, the company earned a small-town reputation for being cold and uncaring.
This story and so many others highlight the effect that excellent customer service or lack thereof can have on a business’s success. Ann is not alone. In fact, research shows that over 80% of customers have left a servicer because of just one customer service experience.
So, what, if anything can a small business owner do to make sure that customers like Ann don’t end up frustrated on the phone with your representative and decide to connect with a competitor? The key lies in the company’s ability to manage incoming calls in a way that leaves the customer feeling as if all their needs have been met.
Fact: Not everyone is cut out for customer service. Because receptionists and others managing inbound calls are the first contact point for customers, they have such a direct influence on whether or not a customer-client relationship continues. Unfortunately, these are the same workers who are often overworked and overwhelmed.
Businesses should have a well-trained staff that understands the dos and don’ts of customer service, even if it means hiring professionals that can provide exceptional service. Customer service should never be left up to a multi-tasker. Instead, it should be front and center.
Sometimes this means hiring an answering service to take calls for you full-time, 24-7. Other times, the product that is needed most is an overflow service that takes all the calls that your full-time staff is unable to handle. And then there are businesses that only need after-hours support to cover calls that come in when the office is closed.
What is most important is to provide accessibility and a staff that can deliver appropriate responses that are both accurate and timely.
One way to make sure accessibility is on point is to beef up technology related support as well. This can come in several forms including mail fulfillment and web intake.
Discovering services by industry can be a great place to start, especially when trying to decide which internet or tech-based products are needed the most.
Obviously, this short list of tips in no way encompasses all of the considerations a business needs to reflect upon. When deciding on the best way to vamp up the level of customer service you provide, it’s important to take a hard look at needs. Not just yours, but also those of your customers.