Customer satisfaction is an elusive concept for every business, be it a huge corporation or a small startup. Companies have spent millions compiling statistics, research, interviews, focus groups, etc. trying to determine the magic formula for a loyal customer and repeat visitor.
Every client is different and therefore will be pleased or disappointed by a myriad of personal exchanges and outcomes. Needs are different for every customer. A single person generally won’t have the same needs as a business. A small business will most likely have different needs than a large business. There is one thing in common for everyone though; they expect exceptional customer service from the business they are dealing with.
Exceptional Customer Service Tips
Every person wants to feel important, and like their needs and issues are being met with sincerity and competence. Customer service in the past meant greeting a customer when they walked in and addressed any concerns or questions in person. We are immersed in an almost entirely digital world. It is guaranteed while you may understand why your online business is unique and important; and you or your company are the right person for the job, that’s hard to tell for an average consumer.
If your company is entirely online, whether a startup or an established corporation, you can’t risk a bad customer experience. According to this American Express study  (PDF) having exceptional customer service and satisfaction not only correlates to existing clients spending more money; it also means attracting new clients. Loyalty, word of mouth, and satisfaction are things that can sometimes make or break a business. A good reputation is important for growth and success. That’s why the customer experience should be one of if not the most important keystones of your marketing platform.
Start Off On the Right Customer Service Foot
If a potential customer has received no personal recommendations from a friend or colleague, they open up their computer, search for the product or service they want, and start to narrow down the data to find what might work for them. While your website or app might be sleek and beautiful, engaging and easy to use, people will still have questions. Your team may be impressive and come with high accolades, people will still have questions. An individual embarking on a new career path they might not be familiar with yet, will appreciate customer service the most. For instance, someone trying to grow their small business online with a mobile app or website design would appreciate feeling welcomed and encouraged the second they open your page.
This is where the opportunity to provide exceptional customer service experience from the very beginning first presents itself. A live chat option can be immensely helpful. It has the personal touch of speaking to a real person with the convenience of distancing yourself from a product you aren’t fully invested in yet. It makes a customer feel heard and acknowledged without the pressure of feeling the need to buy or upgrade. Often just a simple live chat icon somewhere visible on the page helps let the customer know right from the second they discover your page, you are willing to help.
Not all businesses implement live chat and not everyone needs to. However, having a Contact Us tab or a FAQ link viewable when first browsing a site is important. The customer has only begun to consider your business, and they already feel important and appreciated. Which is hopefully how you want them to feel!
A customer is interested in your business. They hopefully want what you are selling. You have already answered most of their questions with a help option of some kind. If it is an item they are buying you need to make sure the entire process is seamless. A person shouldn’t have to select purchase, enter in their card information, and then find out the item is out of stock or discontinued. Purchasing an item already decided upon shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.
For an online service such as design, app building, marketing, etc. alongside a website that shows your work and success; accessibility is key. For an optimum customer experience, you need to be accessible. Respond in a timely manner. It’s infuriating to submit a question online but not receive a reply for three days, or worse an automated message that addresses zero concerns. After all someone is paying you for a service.
If you are a larger start up company and can’t keep up with all the communication, hiring a third party site, a part time assistant, or even an intern can help. A customer who feels as if his needs are met during the process is more likely to use you for all their needs in the future. And as their business grows, so does your likelihood of good word of mouth from them to their colleagues, friends or family.
Recognize and Engage Feedback
It is reported that 88 percent of customers look at other reviews  when deciding to buy an item or commit to a business. Of those over half will take some sort of positive action whether it is visiting the website or searching for further content.
Whatever social media your company utilizes; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., it is important to acknowledge a customer or client’s recognition, either good or bad. It takes an instant for someone to post a status or tweet an opinion about a company. It takes an instant for hundreds of people to see it. A business looks engaged and invested when they respond publicly to a compliment or complaint.
Alternatively, a poor response or none at all can tend to gain momentum, and can forever link your business with a poor opinion in a reader’s mind. Responding positively will be seen by others and place your brand in their mind for future choices. It doesn’t hurt to remind the public of your business and likability. And often times it pays off with recognition and appreciation when businesses treat their clients as a priority. And let’s be honest, it feels good as a client to be endorsed by a company you’re working with.
Problems will happen. Things will go wrong. The most important part of a small online business is personal engagement and creating loyalty. Whether it is questions or complaints, to build a superior customer experience you need options. Some clients don’t have the time to call in for a simple question or issue.
Other clients might not feel comfortable typing all their concerns and questions online. The most important thing is a response, preferably an engaging response. A person shouldn’t have just one choice on how to reach a company. Ideally, there should be a social media option, an email option, and/ or a direct phone contact option. Live chats and additional strategies are added bonuses. When someone is dissatisfied they often just want recognition, an explanation, or a product exchange or refund. Providing a prompt and concerned response can settle a dispute and convince a customer they are valued and should keep their business with you.
As your customers grow and change, grow with them. Staying on top of their evolving needs is important. Once you’ve developed a client following and a method for attracting new business you are on the path to a successful future. Having a loyal client base means you get to take the kinds of innovative and exciting initiatives for the direction you want your company to head.
Customer Service  Photo via Shutterstock