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When you run your own small business, you very soon realise the value of looking after your customers. A pleased customer can be your best sales person and can help secure repeat businesses. If you consider the cost, time and effort that it takes to conduct business development, customer service and retention should perhaps be an equally big focus.

Your product or service alone might not be enough to differentiate your business. A time may come when a competitor comes and offers a better service or product than you or offer better prices. In increasingly competitive business environments where customers are spoilt for choice, your customer service practices can become one of your business’ greatest differentiators. Investing effort into building lasting relationships with your customers can form the foundation for your business' growth and success.

Here are some tactics that you can use to offer excellent customer service:

1. Make yourself reachable and be responsive

If you have ever tried phoning a customer care line and had to wait to for what felt like hours to speak to an agent, you will understand the frustration of not getting timely service. It is very important that your customer feels that your commitment to them extends beyond the sale and that you genuinely care about their needs. It is also vital that your clients must be able to reach you within reasonable hours, and that you respond to them as quick as possible. What is urgent to them should be urgent to you. If you cannot attend to the situation immediately, acknowledge receipt of the message and let them know that you are working on the situation and indicate by when you will revert to them.

2. Ask for feedback

Your customer may not always have the confidence to give you feedback, so you might need to ask for feedback. You may think that your client is satisfied with your service and offering, but you can never be sure. Even if you feel that your customer is unreasonable or that your service was good, it is in your interest to find out what the reason for this is in order to resolve the issue.

3. Listen to your customers

When it comes to handling difficult customer situations, wisdom often comes with time. When dealing with customer concerns and complaints, it is sometimes good to listen and allow your customer to vent. Listen to them with genuine interest and ask questions to understand where they are coming from before proposing a solution.

4. Apologize

Apologising to a customer and taking responsibility does not necessarily show weakness or that you have made a mistake. It rather shows that you are dedicated to offering excellent service, and want to remedy the fact that your customer is not satisfied with the service that you have offered. If the situation allows for it, you can follow this by an explanation of what happened and outline what you are doing to resolve the problem.

5. Don’t neglect your online presence

Large businesses are actively investing in an online presence, and have been doing so for years. In order to ensure that your company is perceived as professional and demonstrates the ability to deliver and can compete with larger companies, it is very important to give attention to your online presence and how this is perceived by others. Although your website content will vary according to the nature of your business, it is important that your website is easy to navigate and has all the information that your customers may look for, without making it too copy heavy. Your website must also be mobile friendly.

In addition to your website, you must have a social media presence on the platforms that are best suited to your business, depending on whether your business is B2B or B2C facing. Not only is it important that you actively use your social media channels to communicate to your customers, but also so that you closely monitor your social media to respond to any comments or complaints.

6. Be energetic

We all know that we are attracted to work situations in which we are energised and motivated instead of being drained. Likewise, your clients will enjoy working with you if you are positive and energetic in your intercation with them. Be genuine, be positive and be attentive to always motivate your clients, despite the thousand other things that are distracting and worrying you. Always focus on the customer!

Take some time this weekend to think about your customers and how you can improve the way in which you interact and create value for them. Never loose perspective of your customers – they are the reason that your business exists in the first place.

Sources:

Tips for Imprving Customer Service http://smallbusiness.chron.com/tips-improving-customer-service-1093.html
Customer Service - http://www.smetoolkit.org/smetoolkit/en/content/en/57970/Customer-Service
6 Advanced Small Business Tips to Improve Customer Service - https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2015/01/6-advanced-small-business-tips-improve-customer-service.html