The question is simple: “Are you taking time to make sure the customer is at the heart of your brand experience?’’
Customer experience has to be a part of your company’s DNA. Great customer experiences are what set companies apart in crowded marketplaces because they create passionate and vocal customers. This competitive advantage is hard for another business to break down because they have to battle that existing business-to-customer relationship first.
Whether via service interactions, product quality, or overall brand, experience has become the deciding factor that determines whether or not a customer will do business with a company. In order to capitalize, small businesses and startups looking to grow must build a culture that cares about the customer. And to really succeed, there can be no fake-it-till-you-make-it.
Here are a few ways small businesses can realize tremendous success by putting customer success at the heart of their companies.
Care about your employees
If you want to build your brand through satisfied customers, you need to start by ensuring satisfied employees. When employees are happy and actualized, it compounds their desire to help others. Besides, a “culture of caring” has no limits: You cannot legitimately care about customers if you don’t care about the people serving them.
Develop a rapport with all of your customers
When you’re running a small business, it’s easy for your team to get to know its customers. Your customer demand is small and support agents can spend plenty of time diving into service inquiries. As you scale, however, that extra time will shorten. When your customer base grows, your agents will need to focus on efficiency as much as they focus on customer satisfaction.
Before this happens, be sure to take advantage of early opportunities to bond with customers. Your first users are probably your biggest fans and they’ll likely become customer advocates if you build a rapport with them.
Hire employees who are great communicators
Small businesses tend to have small service teams of about three to five people. And, in many cases, customer service isn’t the rep’s only job. For many small businesses, employees find themselves wearing different hats and performing a variety of tasks, including service and support. This structure can work, but it depends heavily on your employees’ skills.
You need to be sure you’re hiring people who are stellar communicators and great at working with people. They need to be able to understand customer needs and flexible enough to adapt to sudden change. Good customer service is an effective way to grow a customer base, but you need excellent support reps for it to work.
Focus on customer retention strategies
If you’ve just started running a small business, you may want to write this stat down. It can cost up to 25x more to acquire a new customer than it does to retain an existing one. This means improving customer retention is your key to increasing profits. You can develop a customer retention strategy that delights customers and encourages them to return to your business.
One commonly used method is a customer loyalty program that rewards people every time they buy from you. This incentivizes them to return to your business and avoid your competitors.
Define customer service vs. customer success
While these two things are related, they’re definitely not the same. Customer service is a support functionality, designed to answer questions and help customers through specific issues. Customer success, on the other hand, is a proactive movement designed to solve overarching challenges and build long-term success. Customer Success might seem like a nice-to-have for small businesses, but both functions are vital to a customer’s hierarchy of needs.
Let customer service shape your sales and marketing efforts
No small business can afford to take customer relationships for granted, and the best way to avoid that is to build them right into your sales and marketing strategies. Consistently excellent customer service gives you a unique selling proposition, repeat business, and most importantly, trust. You have a 60-70% chance of getting business from your existing customers compared to only a 5-20% chance of selling to new prospects. Customers have no idea how many channels a brand offers, and really don’t care. They just want to communicate on the one that’s most convenient for them.
Take advantage of social media for customer service
Social media is one of the rising stars of customer service mediums. Customers love using it for support because they can instantly report problems and automatically receive notifications on updates. Additionally, popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter offer in-app customer service tools, including live chat and AI. These automation features streamline the support process and improve the customer experience.
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Collect customer feedback after each interaction
Customer feedback is incredibly valuable when a service team is first starting out. Negative feedback shows what customers are trying to do and the roadblock that’s preventing them from reaching their goals. Positive feedback reveals your customers’ values and the aspects of your business they admire most. Analyzing this feedback can help you make important business decisions that extend beyond customer service. Marketing teams use this information to create effective campaigns that attract your target audience’s attention. Sales teams will identify timely opportunities to upsell and cross-sell, optimizing your odds for a repeat purchase. And, finally, product development can use this data to fine-tune products and address common customer roadblocks.
Always be asking
Customer engagement is an uphill battle. So when a customer comes to you for help, that’s an opportunity—they’re already listening, so now’s your chance to talk to them. At that moment, you have more of your customers’ attention. You can use that opportunity to not only provide great customer service or support experience but to make progress on other goals.
In summary, customer service is a team-wide effort. Don’t view it as a chore—view it as an opportunity to learn more about your own product.