Customer service is everything when running a business. Let me rephrase that: good customer service is everything when running a business, whether it’s a startup or a major corporation. Over time, consumers may not remember your company by what they bought from you, but they will certainly remember and associate you with how they were treated.
People tend to hold on to bad memories and bury the good ones. If a patron receives poor customer service, not only will they never do business with you again, they’ll tell their friends by leaving a bad review on Yelp, Google or on your social media page, which can leave a permanent stain on what was once considered your company’s pristine reputation.
Don’t put yourself or your company at risk. Know what it will take to give your customers the best shopping experience and be aware of how customer service affects sales.
Why customer service matters
1. It proves reputation is key
As mentioned above, depending on what product you’re selling, whether it has a shelf life or it’s a permanent purchase, you want your customers to feel good about their purchase and the way they were treated. You want them to trust your organization if they need to come back for repairs, or if they need a complementary item, in which case, an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell is imminent.
Making your customers feel comfortable is the goal. I know when I’m treated as a priority as a consumer and when I’m not. I remember a bad experience I once had at a pharmacy when there were about six people working there who all ignored me for about five minutes while I stood in line and waited for someone to finally acknowledge me. I couldn’t tell you which medication I needed, but I’ll always remember the less-than-standard treatment I received and it was disappointing.
I also remember when I had to call Amazon due to someone swiping a package off my porch. Without question or hesitation, they apologized for what happened (it wasn’t even their fault, they have no control over what terrible people do), gave me an instant refund for the product I ordered and offered to send it to me again. At a time when I felt extremely violated, they managed to make me feel so much better about the situation. Just having another understanding human on the other end of the phone being empathetic about the incident will always make me associate Amazon with a good and effortless customer experience.
2. It reveals your business’ internal morale
The degree to which you’re a responsible business owner is directly reflected in how your employees treat customers. The amount of training they receive and the instilled mindset of a positive attitude and environment should be demonstrated as soon as customers walk in the door.
Customer service isn’t just a manifestation of the business, it’s an expression of ownership and the amount of time and money devoted to hiring smart, responsible, passionate employees. It’s not enough for the team to believe in the product; staff members must be invested in the company’s mission, which should be to always treat customers with respect and that the customer is always right.
Hire a team you can be proud of, that will uphold the reputation of the business even in your absence. The best way to nip bad customer service in the bud is to properly train from day one and make it an ongoing process of constant improvement and growth, which will help the company thrive.
3. It helps people feel like a priority
It’s human nature to want to feel accepted, nurtured and comfortable and that’s how your customers should feel when they walk away from your store or click away from your ecommerce website. They needed something, so you not only provided it for them, but made them feel good about their purchase without the necessary pressure or disingenuous sales pitch.
After all, your business wouldn’t be where it is without customers, so show them how appreciated they are. If you start to see some repeat business, establish a customer loyalty program in the way of discounts, free shipping or birthday perks. Little nuggets here and there in the way of a reward will definitely offer incentives for customers to keep coming back knowing how well-regarded they are.
4. It builds retention
Speaking of loyal customers, repeat business can be very profitable in the long run. While it’s always nice to welcome new customers and prospects, consumers who keep coming back will take some of the pressure off trying to attract new people, especially during the slow times.
Repeat customers will still come around, especially if they believe in your product and don’t want your business to fail. They’re your advocates, your brand ambassadors. When the going gets tough, and in an unstable economy when you never know what can happen, the appreciation you offered to your loyal customers will pay you back and keep your company afloat.
5. It helps accumulate referrals
The beauty behind having satisfied customers is they tend to spread the word. Having people refer their friends and family to your business is a built-in marketing strategy. What goes around, comes around and truer words were never spoken than in the world of business.
When your customers are treated fairly and you meet all of their needs, they’ll be more motivated to speak favorably and widely about your business.
Another thing that will work in your favor are positive customer reviews and ratings. Make a habit of displaying your customer satisfaction testimonials by quoting them on the homepage of your website or on the back of your business card. Exhibiting customer happiness and ratings is a great way to attract leads to show what your business is capable of for your client base.
6. It makes everyone’s lives easier
Good customer service also means always being accessible. On your website, make your business address and phone number as prominent as possible if you own a brick and mortar store.
If customers call your business and it’s absolutely necessary to put them on hold, don’t keep them waiting for too long, or give them the option to call back if things are too hectic. Be transparent with them, they’ll appreciate that more than sitting on hold for 15 minutes feeling neglected.
Make it as easy as possible for customers to get in touch with you and to learn about your business. Consider including a FAQ page on your website just in case one of their questions is more general, in which case, they wouldn’t have to bother calling.
7. It sharpens the competitive edge
The worst case scenario would be that your customer felt they were being treated less than aboveboard and took their business elsewhere. And not just anywhere, to your competition. Ouch! For every bad experience a customer has, there’s always another company out there that vows to do better, and will, staking claim on your potential clientele.
Don’t let this happen to you. You know there are competitors out there, the goal is to be better, always. Stay one step ahead, offer better discounts, have systems in place to remedy a situation should things hit the fan. It’s always better to be prepared for the worst and know how to take care of your customers when things go wrong. They’ll remember you for it and gain more trust that you do have their best interest at heart.
8. It impacts conversion rates
Finally, good customer service will always increase the likelihood of making a sale. It’s not always guaranteed, and pressuring customers to buy won’t get you anywhere. But keeping the human-to-human sentiment in mind will help people feel like they’re not just there to make you money.
Good people want to help each other out. If customers associate your startup with good customer service and recognize that you’re making an effort to make their experience as pleasant as possible, they will want to buy from you and help get the word out about your existence.
At the end of the day, business is all about people helping other people succeed and flourish. It’s a virtuous cycle.