small business customer service

Small Business Customer Service Questions from SOHOVictoria

Recently, I had the absolute pleasure of speaking on a panel at Victoria, BC’s first Small Office, Home Office Conference, or SoHoVictoria. Joining Scott McDonald, Digital Strategist for Butchart Gardens and Rod Philips, co-founder of Liquify.ca, we were tasked with answering business communication customer experience related questions posed to us by the audience. A really fun and engaging group with some great small business queries,  three of which I wanted to share with you.

How can I provide exceptional service while still running my business?

Simply, you can’t. (Sidenote: I may have gotten in a little trouble with this answer but bear with me). I’m not saying you can’t provide a customer experience that won’t blow your customer away but rather you need to better understand your goals. A business can’t provide exceptional service because that is defined by the customer and is far too ambiguous to be measurable or a goal. What you can be is consistent in your service delivery while managing your business priorities. Focus on being consistent, addressing concerns, following up on interactions, issuing surveys or customer feedback forms, listening for opportunities to engage, and using a CRM (customer relationship management) system. These are things you should do as part of your business. To take it that extra step, look at where you can add value along the customer’s journey with you. Stan Phelps (a former guest on The Upsell Podcast) recommends introducing a lagniappe or “a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of a purchase.” This is a great step to take once you already are consistent delivering the service your customers deserve.

We provide great customer service, how do I let more people know that?

Have you ever been to a party and there’s that guy that keeps talking about how great he is and all the great things he does? He just won’t stop talking about himself. Is that the kind of guy that attracts or repels people? It’s OK, we know the answer. You don’t want your business to be that guy so don’t brag about how great your service is. First of all, every business will tell you how great their service is, so you’re standing out anymore than a “he said, she said” situation. Second, let your customers rave about you. If you are indeed providing service that is worth boasting about, it adds far more weight if it comes from others rather than yourself. Customer quotes on your website, retweets of their praise…these are ways to tell your service story without being the annoying guy at the party.

I’m the one answering all my emails. I’m afraid that if I outsource, the service will decline. What do I do?

This is a conflict between loss of control and hiring for fit. To expand your business, you will have to hire. To be successful, you’ll have to empower your employees to take on and excel at their jobs. The other side of this is hiring the right person, not just to fill a role or put a bum in a seat because you need someone. There are soft skills you just can’t teach: empathy, compassion, and leadership for example, that will just get ignored if you don’t really think about who you’re bringing on. Sure you can teach them the job and the tasks that must be checked off to fill a day, but will they treat your customers how you want them to be treated? That comes from better understanding your customers and the kind of person that will work best with them. My dad told me the story of Dirty Bird Scrap Car and Truck Removal where the owner had two trucks, but drove both of them because he would rather hold back on expanding his business than hire the wrong person.

And when you do hire that person to take on such things as your email, a key to any change in your business is communication with your customers. If you decide to change anything, it’s important you keep your clients in the loop, including whether it’s someone new who is answering their emails.

For a little extra help, here are a couple of sample questions put together on Entrepreneur.com to help find that right person:

Let me know if you have any business communication or customer experience questions you’d like to share.

 

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