Holiday Customer Service Tips For Small Business Owners - Fora Financial
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Holiday Customer Service Tips For Small Business Owners
December 04, 2019
Holiday Customer Service Tips For Small Business Owners

Holiday Customer Service Tips For Small Business Owners

As a business owner, you know great customer service is critical to long-term success. However, knowing something and acting on it are two different things. 

Instilling a customer-first mentality in everything your business does must start with ownership. Without a top-level vision of what customer service means to your organization, you leave it open to interpretation. 

This creates misalignment among your staff and poor customer experiences. During the busy holiday season, chaos will inevitably ensue.

Your customers deserve better. So in this post, we’ll explain the significance of customer service. Then, we’ll review several general, retail, and call center customer service tips to help you delight your customers. By keeping customers happy during the holiday season, you’ll be able to keep them coming back in the new year!

Why Customer Service is Crucial

63 percent of consumers report switching to a competitor with better service. Considering how expensive gaining new customers is, your business can’t tolerate losing them due to subpar service.

Given how connected the world is, there’s also a multiplying effect of poor customer service. Poor customer experiences often show up on social media and in negative reviews. 

Beyond that, bad service makes previous or existing customers hesitant to recommend you. Remember, customers are putting their reputation on the line when they recommend your company. Great customer service allows them to have faith that their reputation is in good hands. 

Also, when you invest in customer service, you’re investing in building more meaningful, lasting relationships. On the financial side, long-lasting relationships help you bring in more revenue per customer. This applies whether you’re running retail stores, a restaurant, a construction company, or anything in between.

Finally, preventing bad customer experiences is far more cost-effective than cleaning up the mess. So, while you’re undoubtedly juggling many responsibilities during the holidays, customer service needs to be a priority. 

Ideally, by putting our customer service tips into action, you’ll start to build a culture of service. Eventually, that culture will build on itself, but it has to start at the top. 

How To Ensure High Customer Service Levels

Ensuring high customer service levels is simple, but it’s not easy. 

First, you have to understand your unique customers and their expectations. Customer expectations are always changing, so this will be a moving target. 

Then, you must specify how your company can meet these expectations. It might be through a call center, an in-store retail associate, a mobile app, or a combination of all three. The channel itself isn’t that important. The important thing is that you’re meeting customer expectations.

The final step is putting your strategies into action through your employees. The general, call center, and retail customer service tips in the following sections will help you with that.

Ensure Presence on Every Level

No one likes being routed from person to person without getting an answer. Unfortunately, it’s a regular occurrence because businesses often fail to ensure that customer service has a presence on every level. It’s especially common during the holidays, when many businesses find themselves understaffed.

Although your customer service department can’t be everywhere all the time, you’ll need to teach customer-facing employees how to solve customer problems. This will lessen the number of dissatisfied customers during the holiday rush.

Of course, all employees won’t be able to solve every problem. Still, each employee should have a clear path to issue resolution. While this tip is especially critical for customer service in call centers, the concept applies to every business.

Build Customer Rapport

It’s easy to isolate yourself in your own world of checking things off your to-do list. However, you should always remember that when you’re dealing with customers, you’re dealing with humans. Humans are social, and by taking the time to build rapport, you build trust.

Just remember the extent to which you can build rapport depends on the nature of your customer interactions. For example, when a customer calls in to troubleshoot a problem, resolving the issue quickly is the priority. You can build rapport with good manners but avoid small talk that distracts from the issue at hand.

Be Attentive to Customer Feedback

Thanks to the rise of social media and review sites, customer feedback comes in from all angles. This can be both a blessing and a curse, but by being attentive, you can use it to improve customer satisfaction.

Addressing customer feedback in online reviews results in higher ratings, according to the Harvard Business Review. Of course, being attentive to customer feedback isn’t just about earning better online ratings. By paying attention to customer feedback, you uncover insights about how to better serve your customers.

For example, let’s say you receive a review from a customer stating that lines in your retail store are too long. You can take this feedback and ensure that you hire more seasonal employees to keep lines moving. This will help you improve retail sales during the holidays, while listening to how your customers feel.

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Treat Each Customer With The Same Level of Service

Customer service expert Shep Hyken says that all customers should be treated the same, in a way that best represents your brand and the reputation you’d like to be known for.

This doesn’t mean you can’t create loyalty programs or offer perks to repeat customers. However, it does mean that you can’t ignore other customers’ needs because you’re giving a ‘regular’ extra attention. At best, this will frustrate the customer being ignored. At worst, that ignored customer will resent your business and tell other people about their bad experience.

During the holidays, reach out to frequent customers with exclusive offers (such as flash sales or discounted shipping). This will show them that you value their loyalty. However, make sure that you treat all customers the same in your interactions. Good customer service doesn’t discriminate, and you should treat all employees with respect.

Become Adept At Quick Problem-Solving

According to Gladly, 62 percent of consumers said that having issues resolved quickly without needing to repeat themselves was ‘very important.’ 

Clearly, resolving problems quickly needs to be at the top of your customer service priority list. Every one of your employees should view inquiries as opportunities to delight customers with an efficient experience. 

Putting this into action requires strategic planning, structure, and employee training. What your plan looks like depends on how your customers interact with your business. However, any procedure you put into place must tie directly back to the goal of quick problem-solving.

Hire the Right Employees

While great customer service starts at the top, you can’t expect long-term success without the right employees. Every employee that interacts with customers in any capacity is part of your customer’s experience. Ultimately, these employees will determine the quality and perception of your customer service. 

For these reasons, you must hire the right employees to create a customer-centric approach. The best employees won’t just be great with customers, they’ll also be customer service advocates. They’ll push their peers to deliver better service experiences and help take some of the load off of your shoulders.

Before the holidays, consider offering additional training to your customer service agents and support team. This will help them be prepared for the businesses that the holiday season brings.

Understand Why Customer Retention Matters

Every business initiative you put into place should tie back to the bottom line. Fortunately, it’s very clear how customer retention ties back to your business. With just a five percent increase in customer retention, you can increase profits by up to 95 percent.

However, understanding how your efforts tie back to business goals isn’t just about the numbers. It also helps motivate you and your employees. People want to know that what they’re doing is having an impact. Customer service is no different. 

To that end, you should ensure your employees understand what an incredible impact customer retention can have. When they understand how much they contribute to your business’s success (especially during the holidays), they’ll be more motivated in their roles.

Avoid False Claims and Promises

Sometimes bad customer service is the result of an employee’s incompetence. Other times, it’s a direct result of someone making a false claim during a customer interaction 

This issue can be tricky because you won’t always know when a false claim was made. Regardless, this is why it’s important to be hyper-vigilant about setting the right expectations for your customers.

We all want to promise our customers the world because it makes them feel good in the short term. Inevitably, though, that will create customer service problems further down the line.

Conclusion

Whether you build homes, run a restaurant, or sell clothes, you’re in the business of customer service. How you conduct business can make or break you, especially during the holidays. Fortunately, by reading our customer service tips, you’ve taken the first step towards a customer-centric business.

However, meeting customer expectations is an ongoing process that requires continuous education. Take a minute to sign up for our email updates and look out for more customer service tips!

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Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author's alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Fora Financial is a working capital provider to small business owners nationwide. In addition, the Fora Financial team provides educational information to the small business community through their blog, which covers topics such as business financing, marketing, technology, and much more. If you’d like to see a topic covered on the Fora Financial blog, or want to submit a guest post, please email us at [email protected].