You can’t run a successful business without happy customers. And while it may be impossible to please everyone all the time, there are some actionable techniques you can use to significantly improve customer satisfaction.
Simply being friendly isn’t enough anymore. To provide the best service possible, you need to take steps to actually understand your customers. Below are 12 actionable steps you can take to improve the overall experience for your customers, thus improving your profits.
Ask Your Customers What They Want
You can’t provide the best service possible without figuring out what that would mean to your customers. To do this, you need to regularly ask your customers both how they enjoyed their experience with you and if there’s anything you can do that would make their experience better.
The simple act of asking can make your customers feel like your business truly values them. You can also gain some valuable insights into improving your customer service in the future. Consider employing short post-transaction surveys, or even annual or quarterly surveys.
Measure Satisfaction Over Time
When measuring customer satisfaction through surveys or similar research, it’s important that you measure these factors over a significant period of time. You can’t just do one survey, see that your customer satisfaction rate is 75%, and decide that you’re doing a great job.
If your customer satisfaction rate normally sits around 85 percent, then 75 percent isn’t so great after all. But if it’s normally lower than 75 percent, then this number would show an improvement. So, if your company has made any changes recently that could impact customer satisfaction, having those earlier numbers is imperative to find out the effectiveness of that change.
Make Changes Based on Responses
Not every suggestion that a customer makes over the course of your research will necessarily help you improve your customer service, but you could certainly uncover trends that may help you make some necessary changes to your business.
If you notice, for instance, that many customers mention they’ve been unsatisfied with shipping times or the usability of your website, you should probably look into those matters. Or if you make a change, such as choosing a new shipping company or supplier, and you notice that overall satisfaction has decreased since the change, you could draw conclusions from that as well.
Respond to Customers Quickly
When customers come to you with a comment or concern, you need to respond promptly. There are several different ways customers can reach out to you, including through a phone call, email, or even social media. But the one commonality in all of these formats is that you need to act quickly when they do reach out. Research compiled by KISSmetrics in a 2013 infographic suggests that the majority of customers expect a response within a day at the most, whether they contact you via email or social media.
The good news is that a response doesn’t need to be a full solution – it can simply be acknowledging their message.Don’t leave them wondering if you got their message for days. If they think you’ve ignored them, they’re more likely to post their negative comments on review sites or other public forums. And, of course, you should also respond to positive comments or questions as quickly as possible.
Have a System in Place
In order to respond quickly and actually resolve issues in a satisfactory way, your company needs to have a designated system for responding to customers. Don’t wait until a problem arises and then leave your employees scrambling to come up with a solution. Designate a specific person or persons to respond to emails or social media, for instance, and come up with solutions to common issues so employees know how to properly handle such situations.
Take Complaints Seriously
When someone complains to you, it means they had a bad experience with your company. Even if you don’t believe your company or employees did anything wrong, it doesn’t change how that experience made them feel. So instead of getting defensive when a customer complains, especially via a public forum, it’s important to actually hear them out and apologize.
Provide Regular Updates
If a customer complains or asks a question that you can’t answer right away, avoid just telling them you’re working on it and leaving it at that. Keep in contact with them throughout each step of the process.
For instance, if a customer has a problem with an online account, you should contact them immediately to tell them you will notify your company’s tech department of the issue. Then you should let them know again when you know how long the process might take, and follow up with them again once the problem has been corrected. Make sure they’re satisfied with the solution and see if there’s anything else you can do for them.
Avoid Long Wait Times for Phone Service
Customers dread having to call a company to make a complaint or ask a question. The long holds and seemingly endless transfers almost always lead to a negative experience. So if you can set up a system for handling phone calls that doesn’t include an excess of hold music, your customers will be that much happier.
According to the ninth annual Accenture Global Consumer Pulse Survey, the average hold time for customers who call businesses in various industries is 56 seconds, but a significant number of customers are likely to hang up after just 40 seconds. So whether you need to hire more people to answer phones or just have a better system in place for doing so, making those changes could lead to more satisfied customers.
Listen to What Others Are Saying
Even though someone hasn’t specifically contacted you, they may still have comments or potentially valuable insights you can learn from. You should always keep an eye on sites like Yelp and your business’s social media mentions to see what people are saying about your business. Set up a Google Alert or use a similar tool to see if people on other sites have mentioned your business. Respond when appropriate, and simply learn from the rest of the comments you see.
Give Customers the Best Value Possible
Of course, customer service doesn’t just mean listening to customers and being friendly. Customers also want to get a good product for a good price. You can smile as much as you want, but if the customer doesn’t feel like they received value for their transaction, they’re unlikely to patronize your business again. So if you receive a price break on supplies or services, consider passing those savings along to your customers instead of just keeping the extra profits.
Take Extra Care of Loyal Customers
All of your customers are important. But if you have certain customers who have been with your business for a long time, it’s important to pay extra attention to them. Simple things like remembering names and other personal details can make them feel extra-appreciated and thus more connected to your business. Since loyal customers have spent more money with your company and are more likely to refer others, remembering a name or offering a small discount can both be great investments in your company’s future prosperity.
To provide the best service possible, you have to make sure that your entire team understands your mission. Hire employees who understand the importance of customer service and provide comprehensive training to your entire team regularly. When you receive insights from your customers and choose areas to work on, you need to make sure all of your employees understand the changes and enact them properly.
Customer Service Photo via Shutterstock
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