by Ali Brown
Even if you have a sound business plan, smart, dedicated employees, and an award-winning product, all those positive points can be negated by bad customer service. Companies work hard to bring in customers, but once they have them, not all businesses do everything they can to keep their customers. Sometimes customers leave because they feel ignored or assume that the company doesn't really care about their issue.
Customer service isn't just about making people happy. It's also about dealing with complaints, which are almost inevitable. In order to build (and keep) your customer base: it's critical that companies follow the three C's: communication, courtesy, and criticism.
In order to keep your existing customers, you need to offer extra value and communicate that value clearly so your customers understand why they should choose you over the competition. You might write a blog post or newspaper article about how you're adding value or include a promotion in an email newsletter to your customers. (You do have customer's emails, right?) Maintaining an up-to-date and accurate database of customer's contact information is invaluable. Make sure that their names are spelled correctly, because there's nothing more insulting (and impersonal) than getting an email or postcard addressed to the wrong name. Lastly, be sure to follow through on any promises and thank your customers on a regular basis.
Courtesy costs you nothing, but it pays off far more than an expensive marketing or advertising campaign. When a customer calls, they want to feel that their questions or concerns are being addressed and that you value them as much as (and hopefully more than) their credit cards. Make sure that whoever is answering the phone is polite and friendly. Remind them to smile, because that will naturally make their voice sound more cheerful. Also, be sure your customer service reps call customers by their names (no one likes being treated like a number). If they don't know how to pronounce someone's name, make sure they ask.
Accepting criticism is never easy, but this feedback can help improve your business. The best way to deal with a critical or irate customer is to listen, acknowledge the issue, and let them know what you're doing to fix it. Most successful companies respond to complaints quickly and also track of complaints so they can monitor any patterns or reoccurring issues. Once you discover a mistake, work on preventing it in the future. Of course, there are some customers who will complain regardless of what you do, so sometimes it's best to cut these customers loose and refer them elsewhere. Hopefully these are the exceptions.
Good customer service is all about building relationships and making sure customers come back to you. Offering exceptional service will do more for your company than discounts, sales gimmicks, or price slashing. Yes, they can sometimes be difficult, but they are the lifeblood of your business and you must move mountains for them. As soon as a company stops focusing on their customers, it's curtains.
© 2009 Ali International, LLC
Self-made multimillionaire entrepreneur and Inc. 500 CEO Ali Brown is devoted to creating financial freedom for women globally through the power of entrepreneurship. To learn how to create wealth and live an extraordinary life now, register for her free weekly articles at www.AliBrown.com