In this second podcast, Jason Stockwood talkes about the importance of good customer care. Listen to the podcast or read the podcast on this page.
Read the podcast
A business cannot exist without its customers. You can have all the capital in the world, the best employees, great investors – but unless you have a strong, loyal customer base, you will never build a profitable business.
Your customers are your most important asset – so you should treat them as such. In this episode, we will be thinking about how you can look after this asset. How do you attract customers? How do you retain them? Above all, how do you make consumers choose your business over your competitors – and then stick with that choice?
Customer care is at the heart of every successful business. As a business owner, you should be constantly striving to offer a faultless experience to those individuals. So how can you make sure that you are providing your customers with the very best possible service?
There are a few guiding principles every business can use to improve their customer care. The first of these principles is that no-one knows your customers better than your customers themselves. So, listening is the cornerstone of great customer service.
At Simply Business we use a range of tools and techniques to help spark conversations with potential and existing customers. In essence we have a two-tier system of communication. Different customers have different preferences when it comes to communication, and each of these two tiers caters to a different set of preferences.
So our first layer of dialogue concentrates on traditional contact methods. We have people taking calls and personally responding for emails. For many businesses, this is the bedrock of their sales process.
The second tier uses a range of slightly geeky but very exciting tools to help us understand our customers better. Social media has made this much easier. Increasingly, when customers want to voice an opinion or get something off their chest, they go directly to Twitter or Facebook. So, instead of waiting for them to come to us, we are going to them.
We use a tool called Radian6 to help us engage with customers on their own terms. Radian6 is a social media monitoring service. It allows us to see what customers are saying about us, or about other topics they are interested in. We can then talk to them directly, using the tools of their choice. Radian6 is just one of many social media monitoring tools available, and many are free.
Of course, not all of our customers use social media. Depending on the nature of your business, it is pretty likely that not all of yours do either. So, as well as engaging with existing or potential customers through these channels, you also need to consider other ways of listening.
You should make sure that your customers know how to get in touch. This sounds basic, but it is extraordinary how many businesses make it difficult for their customers to contact them, either because their details are out of date or because they are simply too hard to find.
At the very least, you should make sure that your phone number and email address are prominently displayed on all of your customer-facing material.
You might also want to experiment with services like Get Satisfaction. This online customer service tool allows you to collect feedback in real time, and deal with problems quickly. We have integrated Get Satisfaction into our website to give customers a fast, simple way to ask questions or make comments.
Of course, not everything your customers tell you will be positive. Try as you might, you can’t get everything right all the time. If customers think they have been treated badly, they will generally be quick to tell you so. Learning from your mistakes is a big part of providing great service.
Receiving a complaint can seem like a disaster, particularly if it is from a valued customer. But this kind of feedback can be very useful. Complaints must be seen as an opportunity to improve. They will give you a valuable insight into your business as seen from a customer’s point of view – an insight that you might otherwise struggle to obtain.
But simply collecting feedback is not enough. It is crucial that complaints are dealt with. Customers are, by nature, more loyal than many business owners presume. They will often forgive you once – but they are unlikely to forgive you a second time. So, make sure that errors are corrected promptly. Every week, we compile a report with a sample of our feedback – good and bad. Then, working with every department in the business, we work out how we can act on those comments. This helps to make sure that someone in the business takes ownership of individual problems – which is the first and potentially most important step towards finding a solution.
The importance of customer care really can’t be overstated. In a world of almost infinite choice, consumers have less and less reason to put up with anything but the very best service.
Make sure that you are always available, and that your customers can contact you in a way that is convenient for them. Make sure that you react quickly to feedback, both positive and negative. And, above all, make sure that you stay open-minded. By listening to your customers you can learn, improve, and stay one step ahead of your competitors.