Small businesses operators must find an edge when competing with corporations for the same customers. Even if your competition is not some Fortune 500 company located miles from your operation, one attribute you want to maintain is superior customer service. Happy customers are repeat customers and provide excellent word of mouth recommendations to the people they know. But dissatisfied customers can prove problematic, airing their grievances wherever they go, including on public message boards, Twitter and on Facebook.
You can offer the best products in the world, but if you are not selling what your customers want, then that will not matter to them. You need to know what your customers want and that comes from asking them directly. Surveys may work fine, but why not ask your customers face to face what they want or need as well as ask them what they would like for you to offer? Writing for Microsoft Small Business, Jeff Wuorio offers six tips on what to find out about your customers. Information gathering is one point Wuorio says should be ongoing. Showing empathy is important too; customers know when your employees simply do not care
Knowing your customers is essential, but sharing that knowledge with your staff is essential. Take what you glean from customer surveys, interviews and other information gathering opportunities and present it to your staff, offering useful tips on how to reach and serve your customers in ways meaningful to them. Training classes can be one way for you to convey to your employees how you want your customers to be treated.
Customers forced to wait for a manager to make a decision will soon grow frustrated and take their business elsewhere. Writing for Entrepreneur, Anne Houlihan advises small business operators to establish decision-making parameters for various level of employees. That can mean frontline employees would be given the authority to issue on the spot refunds for up to $100 while larger amounts would still require an expeditious manager review.
A key to providing superior customer service is having employees who go beyond expectations. But human nature is such that some sort of reward system needs to be put in place to recognize your top achievers as well as to compensate them accordingly. Even if your ability to dole out financial rewards is limited, you possess an unlimited amount of praise. Consider ways to reward employees without spending additional funds, including offering flexibility in work hours or tasks and special perks, such as preferred parking, an afternoon off with pay and perhaps a chance to work from home on occasion.