With increasing costs for small businesses, from electricity price hikes to higher rental costs, it is becoming more important than ever to keep expenses under control and maximise sales. Customer service is a key part of any business, and there are now a host of exciting innovations that small business owners can take advantage of. There are also some fundamental tenets of customer service that should not be lost in the race for profit. A peruse through any online customer review site, from reviews of restaurants to energy suppliers such as Ovo reviews, will give clear indications as to what customers expect from a particular business.
Customer service has come a long way since face to face contact was the only way to do business. Today, customers expect, at the very least, an online presence in the form of a company website. Depending on the business, customers may also expect to be able to view special offers, make reservations, find out more about the business’s credentials and access various other services from the comfort of their desk or sofa. Many people use smartphones and tablets, and business owners should be aware of how they can make this technology work to the advantage of their customers while also seizing an opportunity to promote their business.
For any business to succeed, they also need to be aware of their customer base. And while companies have long handed out feedback forms for customers to fill out, there are now a growing number of ways in which businesses can measure and analyse their customers’ experiences. Online review sites should be kept track of and steps taken to improve any areas found lacking in negative or mixed reviews. Businesses can also provide incentives for customers to provide direct feedback, such as entering them into special promotions or competitions. Follow up surveys, where a company calls the customer back to inform them of progress on a particular issue, is an invaluable way to improve customer loyalty and relations.
Several tools in the management information toolbox are available to small businesses. Dashboarding, for example, is the process of combining data onto a dashboard screen to give an overview of company performance. It is also a resource for real-time customer service – while on the telephone to customers, employees can have instant access to a range of customer enquiries and be able to provide consistent and accurate information. The amount of information that can be contained in a dashboard should be concise enough to not be overwhelming or difficult to navigate, but at the same time should be comprehensive enough to cover all common queries. Depending on the business, this might include prices, product availability, special offers and promotions, maps, transport information, contact information, and up to date competitor information.
Role playing games and activities can be useful ways for employees to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. Coaching sessions, where employees are shadowed and their performance analysed, are also good ways for constructive feedback to be passed back to the employee. Employees may not realise that they are failing to inform the customer of a particular offer, or there might be room for improvement in their phone manner. Comparing examples of “good” and “bad” calls can provide employees with the knowledge to provide a more effective service.
When it comes to productivity, there are a whole range of measures and statistics that can be employed. With regards to customer service, it can be helpful to measure factors such as sales conversions, take-up of special offers, customer satisfaction and net income per employee.