All about customer service and customer loyalty

In small business, customer service is one of the main things to get right if you hope to survive. Keeping customers happy and earning positive word-of-mouth advertising is very important to both your company’s reputation and its success. As we’ve mentioned before, the increasing ability to express opinions of service quality online through networking sites, blogs, review websites like Yelp, and messageboards only makes it more important to keep customers happy.

Why’s that, you ask? Do a quick calculation to consider the weekly, monthly or yearly purchases of a particular customer, and multiply that value by the number of years you believe they’ll be returning – how’s that for a picture of the importance of pleasing customers?

Personalize your customer interactions

It’s important for each customer to feel catered to and taken care of when dealing with your company. Personalize your interactions as much as possible, always offer assistance and have a good attitude. Customers absolutely must have a positive experience and leave satisfied.

A Calgary plumber let us in on his little secret to superior customer service. After each service call, he jots down a few notes about the customer – whether it be the dog’s name, the children’s names and interests, or the new company that the customer is starting up. At the next visit, all it takes is a quick peek at the notebook and our plumber is able to offer very personalized and thoughtful service to the customer. This type of service can help to encourage repeat customers.

When your customers talk – listen

Get feedback from your customers any way you can. Ask them why they choose to do business with you, or why they choose not to, and how you can improve. Surveys, comment boxes and contact information are great ways of getting customer feedback.

Often, restaurants and fast-food chains will hold contests and giveaways that are tied to a customer survey. These can also be a great way to not only give recognition to superior employees, but also motivate employees to earn good feedback. For example, Boston Pizza offered a customer survey tied to a giveaway contest, where customers could sign in online and rate their experience at the restaurant, including the quality of service provided by their server. Managers received survey results and posted statistics, like the best-scoring server, to motivate employees to reach this goal the following week.

These tactics can also help you understand your company’s strengths and weaknesses and help to find areas of improvement or innovation. Quotes may also be used (with permission, of course) in ads and marketing campaigns to show positive customer experiences and testimonials.

Stay in touch

In order to retain valuable customers, and encourage repeat purchases, touch base frequently. A newsletter, flyer or similar promotion can be a great way to stay connected. You want to put your company name in their minds so that you’re the first one they’ll think of the next time the product or service you provide. For example, a chimney-cleaning company may call back after a specified time period to remind customers that their chimney’s due for another cleaning, or a hairdresser may email to remind the customer that it’s time for another colouring, while also mentioning the current promotions available. Another idea may be a thank you note that’s emailed to customers after a product or service is provided.

React appropriately to complaints

If customer complaints do arise, remember to remain calm, listen carefully and avoid being defensive. Take some training on how to deal properly with unhappy customers, and train your employees on these techniques. Always remember that the customer comes first, and do whatever you can to rectify the situation, whether it’s providing a discount, refunding their money, providing coupons for their next visit, throwing in an extra product or service for free – anything that you can do to make the customer happy. Put yourself in their shoes, apologize and take responsibility for the situation. Consider ways of improving these issues so that similar complaints don’t occur in the future. And don’t lose heart! It’s still possible to give your customers a positive experience, even out of a negative one.

More on customer service:

Customer service lessons learned from CBC’s Marketplace

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