Customer satisfaction a function of customer service

Caron Beesley

As business owners, we’d all like to think of ourselves as providers of great customer service. As small business owners in particular, it’s quite possibly your biggest differentiator. After all, how often is it that you walk into a national chain restaurant and are greeted by name, handed your favorite drink and made to feel like part of the family?

But delivering great customer service is also about knowing how to handle problems, respond to and resolve issues — something at which agile small businesses can often excel.

If customer satisfaction is your goal, then great customer service will get you there. Here are three simple things you can do to embed customer service into your business philosophy and day-to-day operations:

Listen and learn. Listening is key to effective customer service and it can also help boost your profitability. Here are two ways to prove to your customers that you’re listening — and tips on how to make it count:

Everyday customer interaction: Show you’re  listening to your customers by taking notes or repeating back what your customers say. Listen to their words and tone. Observe their body language. Provide them clear and concise communication. Ask clarifying questions to gain understanding before you provide a response. If you can’t respond immediately, be sure to provide a timeline for your response and make a note in your calendar to do so. Follow up, confirm the resolution and check for customer satisfaction and completion.

Facilitating feedback: If you don’t have a reason  for face-to-face interactions with customers, look for ways to stay in touch and show you’re listening and eager to keep the lines of communication open. Follow up with a customer after a sale to prove to your customers you want to hear  from them. Hand out in-store or post-sale surveys to find out what they’d like to see from your brand. Stay active on social media. Customer service is, after all, about meeting the needs and expectations of customers as defined by customers. By soliciting feedback and using that information in making decisions, you’ll find new ways to ensure your business is relevant to them and hopefully open new lines of profitable opportunity.

To provide effective customer service, you must know what your customers want, provide it to them on a consistent basis and ask them how you’re doing.

Look for ways to treat customers as you would like to be treated. Remember, how you and your staff communicate with your customers is just as important as what you communicate. Remember that your customers want to see the sunny side of you and your business, so have your filter on and put yourself in their shoes.

A good way to instill this attitude among your staff is to do some simple role play in which they act out a few scenarios that involve easygoing and difficult customers. Observe how they handle the situation and coach them on areas to improve. For example:

How are customers greeted? Put them at ease and make them feel comfortable. This sets the tone for the rest of the transaction.

Demonstrate that your customers are valued: Let them know you think they’re important. Your sincerity makes them feel good about you and the organization.

Ask how to help your customers: Find out what they want. It’s important that each customer encounter makes them feel satisfied.

Don’t challenge disgruntled customers: Listen, reassure them that you’ll escalate or act on their complaint and follow through until resolution.

Help customers: Help them get what they want. Make it easy for customers to locate or obtain the information they need. Answer their questions in a timely manner.

Carry customer service across all your customer touch points. Remember to carry through on your customer service goals wherever your business has a presence. This means both offline and online.

More than ever, social media has become a systematic part of your customer service model. If you have a presence on such sites as Facebook, Twitter and Yelp, be sure you’re actively listening, engaging, monitoring and responding to your customers online.