Have you done an online search for your business lately? If you do not regularly monitor the results and maintain a culture of excellent customer service, you will probably not be happy with the results. Whether your business is online, brick and mortar, or a combination of both, your customers will be searching for you online. The search results they see will impact whether or not they decide to buy from you, hire your services, or visit your location.
Poor customer service interactions are the top reason for negative comments being posted online. How can you make sure that customer service is driving sales rather than hindering them? Follow the tips in this article to learn how to develop a successful customer service culture within your business, how online businesses can deliver personable customer service, and how to handle online complaints that are hurting your business’ reputation.
Customer Service Is Job One
Poor customer service could be hurting your business more than you know. Contrary to what most people believe, even in a struggling economy, price is not the number one reason for customer attrition. Customers are 4 times more likely to stop doing business with a company for a service-related issue over pricing or product concerns. Customers who are upset as a result of a bad customer experience can hurt your business in more ways than one. Not only are they less likely to continue to be your customer, losing the value you invested in gaining that customer in the first place, but they are also likely to tell their friends or their social network about their bad experience. Let’s analyze the two negative effects of bad customer service:
Losing a customer. A lost customer can be costing your business more than you might imagine. Especially when you sell online, you might just think that you can win over a new customer in the giant pool of the World Wide Web. Think again! Did you know that retaining an existing customer actually costs less than winning over a new one? Studies have shown that acquiring a new customer costs a business more than it costs to retain an existing customer. After all, existing customers are more likely to purchase from a company that they have already done business with. Using the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule, 80% of your company’s revenue, statistically speaking, will come from 20% of your customers. Focusing your retention especially on that segment will help sustain your company and can increase your company’s profitability.
Customers tell their friends about bad experiences. Customers who have had a bad experience will tell twice as many people about their negative experience as would hear about praise from a good experience. In addition to telling their friends and social networks about a negative customer service experience, there are also online customer reviews to worry about. Online reviews have more weight than you might imagine. Online reviews are trusted over company advertising, even when the consumer doesn’t know the reviewer. Most customers say their buying decisions are influenced by online reviews.
Handling Online Complaints and Defending Your Business’ Reputation
Online reputation management is an important area for businesses today. When consumers are searching online for the products or services your business provides and your company does not appear in the listing, it is actually worse than having negative comments about your business. This is because they have no chance of finding you. Rather than waiting for negative comments or reviews to be posted online, take charge of your online presence. Taking charge of your presence involves filling out all of the details on your Google page listing and developing a business page on several key social channels. The next step is to monitor online chatter about your company. There are several social monitoring and reputation management tools available; they are easy to use and automatically alert you about keywords you enter, including your company, your product, your name, etc. Then the last piece of the puzzle is responding to complaints on social channels. The key here is showing that you care, acknowledging the problems, apologizing for any error, and demonstrating to other potential customers that if they do business with you and they have a problem, it will be taken care of.
Takeaways for your Business
Of course, the best answer and best takeaway is to deliver an excellent customer experience so that most customers will not be dissatisfied. The added training and extra efforts do not come without an expense for your business. However, consider that studies show customers are willing to spend more for a higher level of customer service. An American Express survey shows that 3 in 5 Americans (59%) would try a new brand or company for a better service experience.
The statutes of good customer service include:
- Service with a smile and a friendly attitude.
- Ability for all employees to immediately resolve issues.
- Acknowledging customer loyalty.
- Being personable and ensuring that your customers never feel like “just another number.”
- Training all employees to prioritize and deliver an excellent customer service experience.
- The customer service culture must start from the top level of management, executives, or owners and trickle down throughout every single department and every single employee in your company.
Online companies are not excluded from this high level of personable customer service either. Just because you do not interact with your customers face to face does not mean that they shouldn’t receive the same level of customer service. In fact, even more effort might need to be taken to show good faith in absence of seeing the smiles. In addition to the above statutes of good customer service, online companies should employ the following additional customer service tactics:
Return emails as soon as possible. During business hours, a one-hour window of time is an ideal goal for answering customer emails; they certainly should be answered before the end of business. Emails received after hours should be attended to within an hour after business hours next begin.
Add personal touches whenever and wherever possible. Personalize emails, mail written thank you letters, include free gifts, give away promotional items, or offer a discount on a future purchase.
When speaking on the phone, smile because your customer will “hear” that smile when you speak.
Think about your own experience and continually try to improve upon and add personality to your customers’ experiences.
Customer service and customer relationships are critical to your success as a business owner. That encompasses online as well as in-person customer relations as it applies. As always, you need to build and nurture the relationships that are important for you. Customers should be at the top of the list and you must put in a great deal of effort to make sure that they remain happy.
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Is Bad Customer Service Killing Your Business?