Correction appended July 9, 2013
The secret to a loyal customer base is no secret at all: Great customer service will bring them back every time. Here’s what you need to know.
Whether it’s a bored demeanor, a dismissive look or just plain rude behavior, sloppy customer service spells disaster faster than just about any other business transgression. People complain about bad customer service with the same level of vitriol usually reserved for taxes and presidential elections.
But bad customer service is no joke. According to Micah Solomon, customer service consultant and author of “High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service,” it can kill your reputation and devastate your bottom line. But here’s the thing: It can also spell opportunity for savvy business owners looking for a way to differentiate themselves from the competition.
We live in an age where a business can thrive or die based on how it understands and approaches customer engagement. In an article on Small Business Computing, Solomon says there are three groups of people who determine whether or not customers do business with you.
- People with whom customers interact at your company
- People whom customers know in real life
- People whom customers know and trust online
He notes that a poor experience with any of these pivotal players could result in a big boost in business— for your competition.
Here are the four key components for providing outstanding customer service, and you need to score high marks in every one of them.
A Quality Product or Service
Do you want to buy or be served junk? No, you don’t, so why do that to the customers who provide your livelihood? The best way to reduce customer complaints is to provide high-quality products and services.
No one will care how good your products are if you do a poor job delivering them. Customers appreciate care and attention, and they tend to resent it—vocally—if it’s not in evidence. They also vote with their feet.
(MORE: The First Step to Real Growth)
Time is Not on Your Side
Consumers are not a patient lot, and the digital age hasn’t improved things one bit. On the contrary, customers weaned on the Internet won’t wait around for you to get your act together. “Expectations of what is timely are really changing,” adds Solomon. If you can’t deliver what customers want when they want it, they’ll move on rather than waste their time.
Be Prepared for Things to Go Wrong
Have a process in place to deal with issues before they arise. And here’s Solomon’s secret: Fuss over customers like a mother would over a beloved family member. Why? Because when you genuinely—and that’s the key word here—fuss over a distraught customer, he or she will tend to self-diffuse, and then resolving the issue becomes much easier.
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of Small Business Computing. Follow Lauren on Twitter.
Due to an editing error, an earlier version of this story mentioned that there had been no jetliner crashes in the U.S. since 2009. The sentence has been removed.