One of the biggest opportunities for small businesses is to provide better customer service than larger competitors. Why is stellar small business customer service so important? Consider these statistics:
- Nearly 80% of customers have pulled the plug on an intended purchase based on poor customer service, according to a survey by American Express.
- A Glance report revealed that more than 90% of customers who have a negative service experience with your company will avoid giving you repeat business.
- When a customer has a negative experience with your business, it takes 12 positive experiences to make up for it.
To understand what constitutes excellent customer service, you must first know what to avoid. By upsetting or annoying your clientele through common errors when serving them, you can end up sending them directly to your competitors.
Here are the top 5 customer service pet peeves to avoid like the plague:
Failing to answer consumer questions
According to Harris Interactive, consumers say companies don’t adequately answer their customer service questions half of the time. Never ignore customer concerns or fail to provide a convenient avenue for them to ask questions. By responding promptly and honestly to feedback and queries, you’ll gain competitive advantage over the other half of businesses that aren’t getting this point right.
Separating customers from a human touch
Few experiences are more frustrating than getting stuck in an endless loop on the phone that leads from one recorded message to another, with no way to speak to a real person. In fact, an American Express survey found that around 7 in 10 people will hang up the phone on your business if you don’t provide an option for them to talk to a live person. And be sure that they can reach someone quickly (in two minutes or less), since three-quarters of customers feel it takes too long to reach a human voice by phone. No one wants to hear the cringe-worthy recorded message, “Please continue to hold.”
Providing inconsistent service
Here’s a shocking statistic: 99% of customers feel that companies are inconsistent in meeting their expectations. Clients need to be able to rely on your business, which means everyone who works for you needs to be on the same page in providing a high level of consistent service. Be sure to offer the necessary training to new hires, regularly manage expectations, and enforce accountability around this critical business deliverable.
Being treated with indifference or rudeness
In his book How to Win Customers and Keep Them for Life, Dr. Michael LeBoeuf found that the top reason businesses lose customers relates to poor treatment. Whether it’s you as the business owner, one of your managers, or an employee who mistreats your customers, the result is the same: it hurts your bottom line. Emphasize to your employees that a positive attitude is critical when interacting with customers, and that indifference or rudeness will not be tolerated.
Not being recognized as an individual
ContactPoint Client Research discovered that employees only ask for the customer’s name 1 in 5 times. Yet great customer service is about building relationships, and personalization is an important part of the equation. By getting to know your customers and recognizing them as people, you’ll build rapport and trust, which can lead to repeat business and referrals.
Turning it around
It’s smart to encourage customers to contact you directly with feedback about their experience with your business — particularly if they’ve been subject to customer service pet peeves like these five above. If you can solve customers’ problems with a solution that ultimately makes them feel good about the service they received, you may avoid a negative tirade on a customer review site.
What’s more, research shows that you can sometimes make up for poor customer service if you take the right action after the fact. Lee Resources reports that if you listen to a customer’s complaint and resolve the matter in his or her favor, you’ll get repeat business 70% of the time.
You can make this whole process easier with the help of Womply Customer Feedback, a technology platform that allows your customers to contact you via text rather than through a more public forum like Yelp. You can also use Womply's new customer feedback tool, Get Reviews, to improve customer service and encourage your best customers to promote your business online. To try out these tools as part of your customer service strategy, request a demo.