Customer Service: Leveraging the true value of your customers

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It seems obvious to say that customers are essential to a business’s success, but it might not be as obvious that the customer’s power lies in much more than just the purchase of your product or service. The true value of a customer to your business encompasses the following factors.

Influence

Every customer has a social and professional circle of individuals or businesses that are influenced by his or her opinion of a product or service. A positive experience can see that customer recommending your business to friends, colleagues, and family, while a negative experience has the power to turn off potential customers from interacting with your business. This is even more of a factor in the age of social media, where a customer’s reach is extended and their review will always be visible.

Repeat business

It is more expensive to attract a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer. A customer’s first impression of the business will often determine whether or not they will return.

Feedback

A customer’s response to a product or service is an invaluable learning opportunity for business owners. Positive reviews can help you understand what you are doing well and how the customer benefits from doing business with you. This will help you focus on the product or service you should be concentrating on. Negative reviews help you identify what is not working and where you can improve in the future.

The best way to ensure that your business benefits from the true value of your customer is to provide a positive experience through excellent service before, during, and after purchase of your product or service.

Here are a few tips that can help you provide excellent customer service in your business.

Know your customers

How can you provide excellent service if you don’t understand your customers’ wants and needs? You will need to narrow down who your target customer is and what your product or service offers them. When you understand the relationship between your target customer and your product or service, you can begin to build a relationship between the customer and your business by personalizing their experience. It is also important to know the preferences of your existing customers, so that you can take personalization one step further on their return. For example, if a customer asked for extra pillows on their last visit to your hotel, ensure extra pillows are placed in their room prior to check-in on their return visit. For smaller businesses in the tourism industry, remembering a customer’s name or some of the activities they took part in on a previous visit will help to create a more personal interaction with that customer.

Knowledgeable and friendly staff

Your front-line staff is largely responsible for a customer’s first impression. Train your staff in customer service best practices. Set guidelines for staff to follow when interacting with a customer—teach them to be friendly, show respect, be patient, be attentive, listen carefully, communicate clearly and concisely, remain calm at all times, and be responsive to customers. Staff should be knowledgeable about the product or service and be able to address questions and concerns about it. Once they are trained and experienced, you may want to consider empowering your employees to address problems and complaints on the spot to reduce response time. Reducing response time is key to customer retention. According to Lee Resource Inc., 95 percent of customers who complain will do business with you again if their complaint is resolved instantly.

Ask for feedback

As Bill Gates once famously said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.” However, according to Lee Resource Inc., for every customer who complains, on average 26 other customers choose not to voice their concerns. Provide an outlet for customers to give feedback and encourage them to use it. By encouraging feedback immediately after an interaction with the business, you can address a problem quickly and reduce the negative word of mouth resulting from the experience. It is also important to collect positive feedback and make positive reviews available to potential customers through your website and social media channels. Potential customers are more likely to trust the opinions of past customers than any of your own self-promotion.

Businesses that listen to the wants and needs of their customers and translate that practice into creating an excellent customer experience will not only create happy, loyal customers, but will benefit from repeat business and customer referrals. Great customer service is essential to a successful business and will have a direct positive effect on its bottom line. So ask yourself: are you making customer service a priority in your business?

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