Customer service is a core competency in successful small businesses. SMB owners correctly assume that exceptional customer service experiences contribute to repeat business and increased customer loyalty.
But in many instances, businesses have focused their efforts on the implementation of customer service systems and mechanisms rather than emphasizing customer service at the personal level.
According to Richard Shapiro, president of the Center for Client Retention and author of The Welcome Edge: Unlocking the Secrets to Repeat Business, ""Too many companies don't understand that while delivering excellent customer service is one of the key ingredients for repeat business, it's that special personal relationship with one customer and one associate that provides the link between customer satisfaction and customer retention. The service delivered by frontline associates must be viewed as the first step in the journey of loyalty."
With that in mind, Shapiro suggests several customer service strategies to help SMBs improve loyalty in their organizations.
- First Impressions. It's essential to equip all of your company's frontline associates with the ability to make an exceptional first impression since customers often form their opinion of your organization within the first 10 seconds of contact.
- Customer Appreciation. Individualized appreciation goes a long way toward customer loyalty. When frontline associates thank customers in a meaningful way, it tells customers that you care about their business.
- Company Culture. Culture has a trickle-down effect in business. By treating your associates and employees as family members, customers notice – and you create a culture in which it is natural for your associates to treat customers the same way.
- Value-Added Interactions. Many times, responses to customer questions are restricted to answers to direct inquiries. Train your team to go the extra mile by giving customers additional information and value-added insights into the product or service.
- Frontline Hiring. Great customer service is grounded in a genuine desire to help people. Although industry experience is useful, it's just as important to hire frontline workers who have a history of helping others. The more willing your workers are to help your customers, the more effective they will be at translating customer service into customer loyalty.
- Listening. If given the opportunity, many customers freely offer cues that can be used to deepen their relationship with your business. For example, "I just moved here," or "This is the first time I've ever been in your store," are verbal cues your associates can leverage to initiate conversations and generate more meaningful service experiences.
- Recognition & Rewards. When you notice specific associates are delivering highly personal customer service experiences to your customers, it's important to recognize their efforts and reward them for their performance. Even small recognition initiatives will communicate volumes to the rest of your team.