22 Nov 2012
By Tannette Johnson-Elie
Many businesses are scrambling to get ready for the holiday shopping rush by sprucing up their stores, hiring extra staff and stocking up on inventory. Nothing stands out more this time of year like good service, particularly for small businesses, where the owner often is on the front line of establishing trust with customers.
Customer service is vitally important during the busiest shopping season of the year when lines are long and patience runs short as finicky consumers scramble to find the best bargains of the season. For small businesses and entrepreneurs that want to see increased sales and profit margins, good customer service must be something they strive for. When executed well, customer service can help a company differentiate itself in the market and gain a competitive advantage over competitors.
There’s good reason why businesses should go the extra mile to delight their customers this holiday season. Research shows consumers these days have little patience for bad service and that more are shopping online where they are finding better service.
A newly released Customer Service Audit by ClickFox, a customer analytics company, found that more than 60% of consumers intend to do the bulk of their shopping online this year, and the reason why is that they believe e-commerce companies deliver better service than brick-and-mortar establishments. The survey was highlighted in a post Tuesday by Direct Marketing News.
In light of such findings and now with the holiday shopping season upon us, here are some tips to help small business retailers and entrepreneurs to stay ahead of the game when it comes to customer service.
Build trust with your customers
You start building trust by creating your niche in the market and owning it. When you become a leader in your market, people view you differently. When they sense that you are knowledgeable and you understand what they want and are able to meet their needs, they will trust you. They become loyal customers who will buy regularly from you and refer their friends.
Communicate with your customers
Communication is vital to the lifeline of any business. It’s important to dismantle barriers to communication. When people feel valued and respected and that you genuinely care about their needs, they will feel more comfortable about their shopping experience. The key is to make it easy for customers to interact with you and your business. Consumers like to buy from people they know. If you build relationships first, sales will follow.
Develop your staff
Provide training and mentoring to newer employees and create a detailed customer service manual and develop a protocol for how to resolve customer complaints.
Allow customer comments on your company’s website
This can be accomplished by asking customers to comment about their shopping experience with your business during recent visits and how they interacted with your employees. You might also consider hiring a customer research firm that gathers information about customers to help you gain insight on customers’ needs.
Don’t forget to have fun
One of the easiest ways to boost employee morale and to create a festive atmosphere within your business is to allow people to have fun. Give your employees an opportunity to be creative and break up mundane tasks. A little humor can go a long way in making work fun for employees and entertaining customers in the process.
In a tough economic climate where consumers are shopping around for the best value for their buck, businesses can not afford to just render lip service to customer service. In an age where consumers air their complaints online, especially against big brands, new opportunities await those small businesses that take the extra step to delight customers.