As business owners, we often think of customer service as a conditional, momentary instance centered around the exchange of goods and services between our business and another person. The reality is that there is an afterlife of our customer service that continues to live on to the detriment or benefit of our business.
Most businesses gain customers through referrals from existing clients.
Consider that every customer you serve is part of an invisible network made up of an intimate web of connections. The members of that network may not be familiar with your business but would be ideal customers. How do you break through?
Approach customer service as a part of your marketing. Assure that you meet and surpass your client’s expectations so that they will be more likely to refer you. Good customer service leads to happy customers which can then become advocates for your business. This is why going above and beyond in everything you do is so advantageous – as well as good practice for building your brand.
Your sales cycle should include a process for onboarding clients, delivering the product or service, and then a plan to extend the experience after the relationship has terminated.
Think of your customer as a “+1”. When I first opened my cafe I would religiously monitor our Yelp page to the point of obsession. In fact, I often found myself checking Yelp as customers visited the cafe looking to see if they would rate their experience. Not only was this an inefficient use of time, it also put me under unnecessary stress. I was perplexed that we would receive regulars – those that frequented the cafe often as part of their Saturday morning routine but never left a review.
What I learned is that most reviews, good or bad, go unpublished. Your most loyal customer or even your worst may not necessarily feel compelled to leave a review. Instead, they’ll “vote” with their dollars; choosing to either continue patronizing your business or deciding to never visit again. Whichever they choose, they’re likely to share their experience with their network. And this why you must treat every individual as a representative of a larger, hidden network whose only connection to your business is through what your customer chooses to share to them.
Yelp is sorta like a courtesy from the customer to tell you what they think about you. They don’t have to tell you anyth*ng. It is precious information when it is shared, but it shouldn’t be the only metric you should rely upon to measure your level of customer service. There are other social signals you can use as well as anecdotal evidence, that paint a more colorful picture. For instance, we learned that many of our regular customers would invite their friends and acquaintances to tag along. We also noted that our Instagram account was a great platform to engage with current and future patrons, as well as monitor our social reputation.
Here are some tips we found to improve our customer service.
- Actively engage with your customers and collect anecdotal evidence about their experience
- If you have a staff or members of your business that interact with customers, make sure they understand to mirror the above
- Produce surveys or other activities designed to encourage feedback
- Pay attention to social signals involving your business and brand. If appropriate, respond directly.
- Go the extra mile. The easiest way to get more business is through (happy) existing customers.