As an advocate and resource for small businesses across the Miami Valley, I try to practice what I preach when it comes to restaurants, contractors, stores in my home life. Normally, I find customer service in small businesses is warm, personable and very accommodating, more so than the service you’d expect with larger chain businesses. But earlier this month, I was so put off by the response I received from two small businesses that I prompted to pull together this post.
I fully believe that good customer service is at the heart of success for most independently owned businesses. In fact, many of you became entrepreneurs and forged your own path so you could offer the personal touch rather than following a script provided by corporate headquarters. Maybe I’m preaching to the choir, but a reminder of how important, and how easy, it is to make positive, good connections with customers is never remiss. I’m offering my four suggestions below. Hopefully you are already doing all of these things!
- Let your customer know that you appreciate their business, each and every time they call. My negative experience I mentioned earlier basically amounted to a contractor telling me he wasn’t interested in my business. And he wasn’t very nice about it. I’m glad he’s so overrun that he can turn away my business, but he should have done so in a polite manner that leaves me feeling like he wants me to call again in the future. We all have our busy times but we should never burn bridges in any business transaction.
- Return phone calls and other correspondence in a timely manner. Obviously running your business and producing a product has to be your first priority. But you need to also find the time to return calls and touch base with your customers. We’ve all had the experience of leaving messages and hoping to hear back. It should not be the responsibility of the customer to track you down to give you money! Find a window of opportunity each day to make connections and return calls or messages. It will benefit you in the end.
- Make sure everyone on your team shares the same message. If your grandmother answers your phone during the day while you are out doing service calls, make sure Grandma is as familiar with the business as you are or give her a pad and pencil so she can take messages for you. Everyone who speaks for your business needs to present a united front and share the same info so your customers leave satisfied that you are credible and professional and not a mixed up mess.
- Follow through is so important. I recently signed a contractor for lawn care service. I did my due diligence and talked to several different companies in my area. I settled on one that was in the middle price range but provided the best customer service. After their first visit, I received a follow-up message from the tech who sprayed my grass. And I received a message from the guy who serviced my account and made the sale. That is good follow through- I was left feeling like they appreciated my business and they wanted to know if there was anything else I needed from them.