Last year I established my own business. Like most small business owners, I spent (and continue to spend) a great deal of time reading and researching the best practises, tips and smart ideas to ensure my business succeeds. What amazed me is the lack of focus regarding the importance of actual Customer Service. Much of the content I have read was focussed on sales & numbers! Having spent over 22 years working for one of ‘the big four banks’, customer service and satisfaction remains one of the main differentials when Customers were selecting a Bank. My former employer was an organisation who provided regular training and programs to enhance and improve the standard of their Customer satisfaction and service standards. This focus has put me in good stead for my new venture as a business owner. So let me share some of my lessons with you.

 1. Respond. It really is a simple step, but some businesses fail to look after their existing clientele. Whether the Client is in your store, is on your social media page, or sent you an email, they are looking for your acknowledgement. Clients will contact you for different reasons, questions about your product/service, complaint, or maybe a referral opportunity. Whatever the reason you must respond to them. Put simply, if your Client contacts you, answer them! I acknowledge that sometimes it’s not always practical to respond immediately, but ensure you do. If you use social media, be sure you check it regularly or have notifications set up when a client posts a comment or question on your wall etc. Failing to acknowledge social media comments (whether good or bad) gives the impression of not caring about your customer. Not returning calls is poor business behaviour. Imagine a builder who failed to return calls for a client who had recently moved into their new home. Unbeknown to the builder, this client was planning to build an investment property; needless to say another building company constructed the client’s investment property.

2. Listen. Your business success is dependent on your Clients. What are they saying about your brand? Are they happy with the new features on your product? How was the service they received last time they were in your place of business? You can listen in many ways. Of course the simplest is to have a face-to-face conversation, but you can also conduct surveys or search for conversations on social media. Whatever form you use to listen to your Clients, you are creating opportunities to improve your products/services based on the opinion of the people using your business. Remember, without Clients, you don’t have a business.

3. Be Personal. How about emails, how many times have you sent off an email to an organisation or company and got the standard company line response? Frustrating isn’t it. I have another personal experience to share with you. I use Freshbooks for my business, and came across a situation that I couldn’t find answer for amongst their FAQ, so I sent an email. Imagine my surprise, when a personal and prompt response was received – acknowledging my question, explaining the process for my query was being developed, providing me with a work-around in the meantime, and expressing best wishes for my business success. What did I do next? Respond publically via social media that I was just as impressed with Freshbooks programs as I was with their customer service. Providing that ‘Personal Touch’ can turn satisfied customers into “raving fans!”.

4. Respect. Your client is a person, and it is important to treat them as such. I love to share the story of a former team member, whose customer service always stood out. When she was looking after a client nothing else mattered – other than that client! She would ignore the distractions around her (including other colleagues), and give the customer her undivided Attention. Whatever the customer needed assistance with was her priority. Customers loved her for it and it allowed her to establish a great rapport with them. They didn’t feel like a number or a sales target, they felt like a valued client.

This is by no means an exclusive list, but there are many other behaviours that Customers like to see from their chosen service provider, but there is a few common aspects that could ensure your business stands out from your competition. After all, Customer Service defines the ongoing relationship between the Client and the Brand. Every business needs customers, and if your service is lacking your business will fail to progress. Take the time to listen to your customers, engage with them, show respect and being personal will highlight a point of difference between your service and that of your competitors. Remember the customer is number 1.

Related: How to keep your clients coming back.

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By Sam SpenceFounder & Principal Executive Assistant, Executive Virtual Associate.

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