Today’s consumer looks vastly different from the consumer of a decade ago. Mobile shopping and social media marketing have changed the way people buy. Over twenty years ago, when Amazon first opened its cyber doors, retailers we’re bracing for an apocalyptic end to brick-and-mortar retail. But, in 2017 retailers are still performing and Amazon has even announced exploring opening brick-and-mortar furniture stores—a surprise move from a solely e-commerce company. What keeps small business retail from being swallowed by online vendors? The X-factor. Putting customer service tips into application on your sales floor.
Ask any customer the number one reason why they prefer to go into a store over buying through mobile. A typical answer rings around the line of, “If the product doesn’t work, then I’m S.O.L.”
On average it takes 12 positive experiences to account for one negative experience, according to a report by Ruby Newel-Legner. Whether this bad experience is happening through cyber purchasing, or in your store, is up to you. Training your sales team with customer service tips tilts the odds in your favor. Engagement should happen through multi-channel servicing with customer service at the forefront of that service.
Small business owners don’t need to get discouraged. Customer engagement and loyalty are the means of long-term brand success. A recent mystery shopping survey conducted by the E-Tailing Group showed that only 10 percent of online merchants made the cut for stellar service. CRM (customer relationship management) software can enable small businesses with the same edge that the big guys use. If your sales team is trained with excellent customer service training, then you have the advantage. Customers walking in are greeted with smiling faces and an informed sales team. Your online efforts are backed with analytics and customer profile data that enrich their online experience with your brand.
Follow these customer service tips to sharpen both fronts.
Use a CRM Software
Customer relationship software can streamline your sales tactics. A powerful app for small business can automate contacts, projects, business management, and handle your social and mobile CRM.
For example, CRM software can gather social media data like recent posts and customer activity and automatically add them to your contact profile. This saves you time. Instead of burrowing through social media sites to find your customer base, you will have instant access. You can view what customers are saying about your brand online.
Using software likes this not only saves you time by automating many of your customer relationship tasks, it gives real-time feedback into customer responses and insight into how your marketing campaigns are performing.
Continuous Customer Service Education
Companies spend billions on customer education. Consumers have more agency now more than ever and are empowered with mobile review sites. The classic trope of customer service is, “That an informed customer is our best customer.”
Education is an investment in organizational development. The more you can learn and teach a customer about the product, the more inherent value the product is preserved.
Benchmark Outside of Your Industry
Studying your competitors is important but don’t compartmentalize your line of sight only in your industry. If you are a pet retail business, judge your customer’s expectations off of companies like Starbucks and Apple. For a customer, there is no distinction in expectations between your mom-and-pop business and the big guys when it comes to all forms of customer service.
Meaningful Customer Portals
Do your customers have to ask to answer questions for which the answer should be obvious? An annoyance for today’s consumer is contacting customer support to get an answer to a question that should be provided on a FAQ. Use your website as a teaching tool that is constantly updated. Is your customer self-service portal up to date, or was it written years ago by a web developer?
Are your business’s blog and newsletter answering customer questions? Social media posts, blog publishings, and newsletters need to be evocative, not boring. Give your customers a reason to read them.
Empower Your Employees
Your brand needs standards for customer service tips like timeliness, quality, and amicability. However, setting standards doesn’t alway prepare for every outcome. Your sales teams need autonomy to work with customers. Explore different approaches with your team and enable them to make key decisions. This empowerment will energize your employees and help make customer relationships more organic.
Develop Thick Skin
It used to be that retailers needed to swallow their pride every once in awhile by repeating the mantra, “The customer’s always right!” This happened every so often when a disgruntled customer walks into the store. This still happens. But now retailers are also sifting through social media feedback and review sites to handle dissatisfied customers. Not every customer is going to have an amazing experience and some people are just hard to please.
Responding to a customer complaint online through social media should be friendly, apologetic, and should aim to amend the customer’s grievance. Don’t take it personally, ever.
With mobile access comes robust opportunities to anticipate customer behavior. Spend time learning what your customers want and need before they tell you. This allows you to provide proficient service. Using CRM analytics can build richer profile data and will inform you on how to best serve your customer. This gives small business owners deep insights into their customers. Use this data to demonstrate your business’s ability to furnish a customer’s every need—one-stop-shop.
A Walker study just published the finding that “by 2020 customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator.”
Customer experience starts with engagement. Whether it’s having a selfie frame for customers to take pictures with in your shop or creating your own brand hashtag, customers want to interact with your brand. They want to have a meaningful experience. This again happens at two levels. The first is in your brick-and-mortar shop. A brand that has a familial atmosphere encourages customer engagement which turns into customer retention. Next, offer opportunities for your customers to ‘share’ this positive experience via social media.
By taking the communal approach you not only build brand loyalty but you can learn more from your customers.
The Personal Touch
With all the ease of access that software applications provide it is easy to get caught up in the benefits of automation. Don’t solely rely on automated email responses, FAQs, or chatbots. Sometimes, sending out snail mail responses for “thank yous,” birthdays, and the holidays goes a long way. Customers who are desensitized to digital marketing responses really appreciate a handwritten card.
With this being said, don’t neglect customer service on social media. Respond to customers that post on your page, or tag your business in a post always merits a personal response.
Validate Customer Concerns
Getting defensive with a customer will always result in a loss. When a customer becomes upset or a disagreement occurs the best approach is empathy. Understanding why the customer is upset and showing them you know how they feel will often defuse the situation. This is the first step in fixing the problem.
Empathy is stronger than an apology.
We hope these customer service tips help your sales team continue a successful path. Remember, that having the opportunity to engage with employees is one of your strongest advantages. Good luck!
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