Recently I had the privilege of listening to a client as he wrestled with a high street bank over an issue of getting an account set up. The bank had apparently lost the original paperwork and were insisting he visit them again. He got passed around the houses via the ‘Customer Experience’ department where staff failed to accept responsibility and continued to ask the same questions. He was offered compensation for his time of around £60. Not bad considering he’d spent 3 hours getting the situation sorted and had to visit another branch, in another town to repeat the documentation process. Meanwhile, his own charge out cost is over £200 per hour! We’ve all similar stories I’m sure.

 

Somehow I doubt anything will change though in light of his customer service experience which pinpoints again why we enjoy working with smaller businesses.

As a smaller business you are closer to the coal face and can make changes readily if required. We like to say “you don’t have a big ship to turn around”. Used wisely this provides a huge competitive customer service advantage in today’s marketplace as we all know it takes four times more effort and resources to build new customers rather than service those already known to us.

 

Here’re some pointers that may make a difference to your customer service standards:

  1. Consider the real worth of each customer or each product sale to ensure you are prioritising your most profitable customers first.
  2. The customer journey is a marketing term that encourages businesses to identify the stages where a customer interacts with your business so that you identify particular motives or needs at each stage so that you can consider priorities.
  3. If you get complaints remember there’s always an element of truth in it; strive to make sure your end impression is as good as your first impression.
  4. Remember business marketing is no longer just down to the department, it involves everyone from the initial meet and greet to the payment of the invoice by the accounts department.
  5. Ensure teams work together. By adopting real team alignment, you ensure everyone is aware of the bigger picture. This avoids the blame game and encourages everyone to be accountable beyond the typical ‘it’s not my job so why should I bother’ approach.
  6. Have a system whereby any staff member can pass leads on. Be proactive on this; reward them if necessary, it will also ensure staff feel valued.
  7. By identifying customer pain points, you can build measures in to ensure problems are solved quickly and effectively. Have a strategy for dealing with complaints, ensure teams know how to expedite issues and how to keep appropriate management informed, this is particularly relevant in a digital world where bad news travels fast.

 

With regard to customer service business needs to take a broad approach:

  1. Don’t blame the customer for mistakes or issues. There will be times when issues arise that cause you no amount of headache. Don’t fall into the trap of using your “good” customer relationship as a sounding board, you may find you lose that customer for good.
  2. Don’t dole out impersonal treatment either. Every customer is a person, each facing stresses and strains. Ensure your staff are personable but professional and make sure older valued customers as such. Set up procedures to ensure all staff are aware of relationships and train them in appropriate handling.
  3. Similarly do not upset customers, they make for very loud foghorns! Even if you feel people have not been unfairly treated make your unhappy customer a top priority and don’t stop until you can part amicably. You may not win them back, but you will know you’ve done your best and they in turn will hopefully not drive others away.
  4. Finally don’t employ blockers. Staff that protect department heads from issues or opportunities can be invaluable but make sure they are actually protecting your interests. You may miss a golden opportunity by having an over-zealous blocker, are they always the right person to make the judgement call?

 

You may wonder why as marketers we talk about customer service. Well, good service results in good business, and that’s got to make everyone’s life easier surely. How do you tackle customer care and ensure teams are fully on board?