Effective customer care is at the heart of every successful business. Your customers are the fuel that keeps your business running, and it is vital that they are kept happy. But, with so many differing approaches to customer care, it can be difficult to develop a strategy. We spoke to some of the UK’s most exciting new entrepreneurs on the Business Matters LinkedIn group and on our Simply Business LinkedIn group to find out how they provide great customer care.
Listening to your customers is the first step towards providing great customer care. You cannot hope to provide the best possible customer service unless you know exactly what those customers expect – and how they feel about your company today. Listening allows you to constantly improve.
Sian MacGowan, director of business development at Sureteam, said: “As a consultancy in health and safety we aim to provide a future that is better than the client’s current situation. We listen to customer needs right from the start and offer solutions that will provide that better future.”
The way in which you listen to customers will depend, to a great extent, on the nature of your business. Bricks and mortar retailers, for example, might leave comment cards out – or simply ask customers to talk about their experiences directly. Online businesses, on the other hand, have a vast suite of tools available to help monitor what is being said about them. They can also provide a range of methods by which customers can get in touch, from simple feedback forms to Facebook and Twitter integrations.
Of course, simply listening to your customers is not enough. If you are to retain existing clients, and expand your customer base, it is vital that you continually incorporate the feedback you have gathered into your working practices. You must act on the signals your customers are giving you. If you fail to do so, customers will go elsewhere.
According to Neil Buckley, national sales manager at One Call Business Services, firms must “listen to their customers’ needs, understand their needs, and meet their needs at a profit for your company.”
Great customer care is a constant learning process. You should make sure that you integrate this process into the day-to-day management of your firm. Circulate feedback amongst your staff, and get together on a regular basis to decide how you can act on that feedback.
You might also want to listen to a podcast with our chief executive, Jason Stockwood, for more ideas on listening to your customers and acting on their comments.
Service vs Focus
Although customers always want to receive the best possible customer service, they tend to want their experience to be a transparent one. That is, they don’t want to see the inner workings of your business, and they are not interested in the process – they just want a great outcome.
James Osborne, a director at training and consultancy firm Innergy, calls this distinction ‘Customer service vs Customer focus.’
“How many of us have had the chance to take a cruise?” Mr Osborne asks. On a cruise, a great customer experience is two-fold. “Above deck, all is serene and calm and plush and comfortable and wonderful. That is customer service.
“Below deck they are cooking and planning and scrubbing and getting on with making sure that everything they do, does in some way contribute to your experience as a passenger. This is customer focus.”
Without a customer-centric outlook, your business will never be able to provide great customer service. Your firm should be entirely focused on its customers; only then will they receive the best possible experience.
Remember the bottom line
Finally, it is important to remember that the ultimate purpose of your business is to turn a profit. This profit depends on customer satisfaction – but, while you might favour customer satisfaction over profit in the short-term, abandoning your bottom line in order to please everyone all the time is a recipe for disaster.
Expectation management is a key skill, and one that will help ensure that your customers are satisfied. Hayley Chalmers, head of online fashion store Short Couture, has a simple motto here: “Under promise and over deliver.” By explaining to your customers exactly what you can achieve, and by sticking to those pledges, you can boost satisfaction – and your bottom line will thank you.