It’s no surprise how often we come across customers preferring to take their business to a small firm in preference to a large company with the same product or service. Once a smaller outfit has demonstrated the quality of its products and services, it can often become the preferred option between itself and its, seemingly intimidating, competition. Quite simply people take note of, and respond to, the high level of personalised customer service that successful smaller companies often provide.
Customer relationships and customer service that takes into account your customer’s individual preferences, and acknowledges them as a person, can be critical to a small firm’s success. Smaller companies typically have a proportionally smaller customer base, this can allow you to create a customer experience that acknowledges your customer as an individual in small but meaningful ways.
You can never take your existing client base for granted as a small firm; incorporating a few simple details into your work culture can reap tremendous benefits for your business.
Provide personalised service
Look at your own experiences as a customer, notice how much a personalised approach and a relationship with the vendors your prefer adds to your experience. It might be a certain car mechanic, who turns a routine service into something less than an inconvenience, with a sense of humour and a cup of tea. Maybe this approach applies to your favourite hair dresser who knows you by name and remembers the haircut you prefer. In any event many of us have been known to go further, or even wait slightly longer to receive a service, or buy a product, from a vendor whose relationship with us is at least slightly more than mere transaction.
Be aware of your customer’s preferences and habits. This can help you personalise your service to each particular customer. Anticipating a regular order from a customer, for example, and contacting them before they have to make the request, is a great way to let your customer know they are important to you.
Creating special deals and arrangements for long standing and regular customers is another way of acknowledging their importance to you. Be aware though that these gestures should never be overtly intrusive, the point is to make your customer’s experience easier and more convenient, not to overwhelm them with unwanted offers.
Have a well-trained team
In the final analysis a personalised touch can only be provided by a person with good people skills. The difference between what is perceived as mere solicitation and being helpful is often the person making the gesture. Being sociable and at the same time appropriate to a business relationship can be a tricky balance that doesn’t come easily to everyone. Educating your staff in these skills not only creates a value addition for the customer, it reflects in increased and repeat business for your firm.
Giving your staff the freedom to initiate special offers and discounts to regular customers makes them feel involved in these initiatives and adds to motivation. Another added motivation could be acknowledgement of great customer service provide by a staff member in the form of bonuses and appreciative mention in team meetings. You can turn the entire experience of customer service into a positive experience for both your customers and your staff, creating a happy workplace. Happy workplaces create many wonderful benefits for you employees, customers and frankly most of all to you, in increased business and productivity.
Use complaints as an opportunity to grow
Research consistently shows that a majority of your customers don’t complain, they take their business elsewhere. That’s why it’s critical that when a complaint is made, you take it as an opportunity to address the issue and keep a customer. A well-handled and satisfactory resolution of complaint can actually see an increase in your customer’s loyalty, they are even likely to provide your business with considerable word of mouth publicity among other prospective clients.
Under-promise and over-deliver
Resist the temptation to promise your customer the moon just to seal the deal. Be realistic in what you commit to and work hard to exceed that commitment. For example, if you promise delivery within three business days and make it in two, your customer is likely to be favorably impressed and extremely satisfied. Make sure any refunds or returns, which can easily lead to negative perceptions, add to your customer service by being easy and cheerfully executed.
Set up a feedback process and be open to it The best way to make your customers feel like you care what they think of your products and services is to invite their feedback directly. Have a suggestion box on-premises that allows your customers to leave them anonymously. Surveys mailed out to select customers and ones that they are invited to complete on your website are also a great way to gather feedback.
Be seen to be taking in the feedback you receive and acting on it, there’s no point in inviting feedback if it doesn’t bring about some changes. Showcases the changes made in products, procedures, and services due to customer feedback. This will ensure that even customers not involved in initiating the feedback become aware of your attempts to respond positively to customer input.
Go beyond basic expectations and set your business apart
Small businesses have to be seen to be providing service that is unique and exceptional, to compete with bigger companies offering similar products. Set yourself apart by making sincere gestures and out of the ordinary efforts an everyday part of the services you provide your customers. Take on board any specific departures from the norm in your customer’s orders and see if you can successfully address them.
Anything from ordering in a special delivery that meets your client’s needs to altering a product sufficiently, to address a customer’s unique requirements, will bring you gratitude and loyalty that translates into additional business. These simple exceptions to everyday process, if they are possible for you to deliver, will greatly enhance your reputation with your customers and you are sure to expand your customer base with the resulting recommendations.