Someone once said that sales without customer service is like stuffing money into a pocket full of holes–and I couldn’t agree more. From my own experience, I’ve been able to grow my company’s conversions by 250 percent just by talking to my customers. Undoubtedly, understanding customer service can make you better at business. With that in mind, here are 10 customer service lessons every entrepreneur should learn.
1. Listen to your customers
As an entrepreneur, customer service is one of your biggest assets. The biggest mistake any business owner can make when it comes to customer service is to assume that they understand what the customer wants. Instead of approaching a customer with a list of scripted questions, simply ask how they use your product or service, what they like, and what they don’t. Then listen. What you gain–if you’re willing to listen without judgement–will be invaluable.
2. Keep your promises
Promises are a very big deal to customers. It doesn’t matter if they’re made by a front-line representative or by the CEO, customers expect promises to be kept. If your company does a poor job following through on anything from promised upgrades to a cancellation policy, you’ll lose customers and public trust very quickly.
3. Find the tools that provide the best service
Customer tracking and service can’t be done on sticky notes, but being tempted into buying the cheapest customer relationship management (CRM) software can be just as problematic. Instead, think about how to best empower your employees to give the service your customers deserve, and buy a CRM (or any other tool needed) that is designed for your business model, staff, and customers. Your customers and staff will thank you for it.
4. Treat your customers as individuals
This lesson relates specifically to disagreements with customers, and it can be a difficult one to learn. Too many entrepreneurs are so narrowly focused on what it’ll take for their businesses to succeed, that they fail to notice when exceptions to established policies are necessary.
Perhaps a customer is asking for something that’s against your policy. Maybe a customer wants a refund that you normally wouldn’t grant. Before you simply say “No,” consider the cost of the exception compared to the lifetime value of a customer. While you can’t give every person out there a discount, ask yourself if it’s worth it to win this argument at the cost of losing business.
5. Avoid an online marketing ‘fail’
In our hyper-connected world, it’s inevitable that someone’s going to say something nasty about you on social media at some point. That’s just the reality of being the public figurehead of a customer-facing company.
What’s important, though, is how you handle it. Whether it’s you or another staff member, make sure that the person in charge of your social media accounts is cool under pressure and focused on building trust and goodwill. Responding appropriately when these situations occur is one of the best ways to avoid an online brand failure.
6. Be available to your customers
You probably already know that having a customer service hotline that operates 9–5 on weekdays won’t cut it anymore. But what you may not know is that customers expect you to be available on more platforms than ever before. If you rely only on online forums or don’t have a real-time chat or email service available, it’s time to offer better service to interact with your customers where they are.
7. Hire employees on attitude and skills
When you hire someone into your business, it’s important to ensure that they not only have the skills to do the work, but that they have the right attitude. You only ever want helpful, friendly people working for you. When you hire people with a positive, cooperative attitude, you’ll be much better positioned to offer the kind of customer service that will stand out in your industry.
8. The way you treat your staff will reflect in their delivery of customer service
Simply put: you can’t treat your staff poorly and expect them to give amazing customer service to your clients. As an entrepreneur, you should consider your employees like you would your customers, and strive to give them an amazing experience every day they come to work.
Creating this type of atmosphere doesn’t have to be expensive. Simply making it a point to say thank you for great work can go a long way towards building employee confidence. But if you make it a point to treat your staff the way you’d like them to treat your customers, they’ll pass that “wow factor” on to everyone who interacts with your business.
9. An effective complaint handling system will make customers feel valued
Seven out of ten people will do business with you again if you handle their complaint in a favorable way.
Even if you can’t fulfill a customer’s every desire, make sure that they at least feel heard. Whether it’s a letter, a returned phone call, or even an email, make sure to give them personalized message and to inform the customer about how the concern was handled.
10. You can’t control what you don’t measure
When you’re trying to provide the best service possible, the proper measurement of your efforts is essential. Just as you wouldn’t deploy a landing page without tracking its impact on sales, you should have systems in place to understand how your service is going. Survey software can supply important data points, as can follow-up emails, and random sampling outcalls.
Customer service isn’t an area that can be overlooked in any business, no matter how high quality your product or service is. By learning these 10 lessons and applying them to your company, you’ll find yourself on your way to making a great impression on customers, and growing your business as a result.
What’s the biggest customer service lesson you’ve learned during your time in business? Let us know in the comments below!
This post was originally published in April 2015 and has been updated to provide more recent analysis and tips.