The year 2020 has taught us several lessons as individuals and business owners. These lessons are still very much relevant in 2021. It notably showed us the importance of customer service in a world of lockdowns and social distancing. For many SMEs, it has been a struggle to stay afloat while adapting to life’s new realities.
Why is customer service important? Did you know, up to 37 billion pounds is lost to poor customer service every year, as noted in the Ombudsman Services reports? Quite literally, most customers would rather take their money elsewhere due to poor customer service or just spend less in general.
On the flip side, good customer service will improve customer retention and increase recommendations. In simpler terms, good customer service encourages people who already do business with you to do more and the people who enjoyed your product or service are more likely to recommend you to their friends. That’s free marketing and it’s the best kind!
“A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.”
More than ever before, effective customer service is now a crucial part of any business. It is not just about how good your products or services are, but also how satisfied your customers are. This article will provide some customer service tips for 2021 that could help your business do better.
What are the Customer Service Tips needed for 2021?
- Show your customers that you care
Customers derive more satisfaction from transacting with brands that value them. If you hope to retain more of them, ensure your customers enjoy every moment with your brand. How can you create such an atmosphere?
- Know some things about them and start with their names
Addressing your customers by name helps them feel more seen and welcomed. They understand that you are treating them as an individual, different from many others in taste and expectation.
- Have a mailing list and customer phone number directory
It is good to remind your customer why they chose you. Sending regular personalised emails or messages fosters customer-business relationships. When a customer buys your product or uses your service, have them sign up to your mailing list. They could also provide their phone number so you can reach out at any point.
- Have a good game-face
Every time you interact with your customers, you have an opportunity to make a good impression. But not all customers are speaking to you to tell you how great your product or services are. Sometimes, they have concerns and the manner in which they speak to you could be rude or unpleasant. You don’t need to sink to their level. Remain professional at all times and remember, the customer is always right, even when they’re wrong.
- Actively listen to whatever they are trying to say
If it matters to them, it matters to you. Remember, for some people, you may be the only person they speak to all day, so if it takes a customer some time to articulate their issue, make sure you do them the courtesy of listening to them. Sometimes just having an understanding ear at the end of the phone is all that’s needed to stop a complaint from escalating.
- Show empathy
No-one likes to be made to feel stupid. We’ve all been asked, “Have you tried switching it off and on again?” Only to realise it was never plugged in in the first place. The fault may well be entirely the customer’s, but now is not the time to apportion blame. Instead, empathise with them and see how you can help. Show how understanding and concerned about their predicament you are. Offer positive words and see how you can help them.
- Admit your mistakes
This solves many customer-business misunderstandings. If your brand has made an error, own up to it and apologise. You can then find a way to resolve the problem amicably.
- Know your onions
Customers often reach out to customer services to make enquiries. If you don’t know the answer, the customer loses faith in not only the person they’re speaking to but the brand as a whole. Make sure anyone answering queries knows the products inside out and back again. You could even make this a fun exercise amongst the team with a weekly quiz to test knowledge. The loser has to make the tea for the rest of the team for a week!
- Have a good response time
The best time to respond to your client is just before they reach out. Every minute that passes without you responding increases how dissatisfied the customer is. If you have to put a customer on hold, make sure it is absolutely necessary and that you have great hold music. Nothing riles a customer more than 10 minutes of Greensleeves. When queries get too much to handle, consider hiring more people or outsourcing to a contact centre.
There are now automation systems and bots that drastically improve response time. Some of the available artificial intelligence tools can respond to your customers’ questions and concerns in real-time. As soon as you go beyond the AI capability, it can alert you to step in and take over the conversation.
- Leverage social media
Well, it is 2021, after all, so guess where all those young customers flock to first to get their queries answered – you guessed it, social media! And if they’ve had a bad experience with your brand, you can be sure they’re going to want to tell EVERYONE. Creating an online community around your brand improves the customer-business bond. If you’re going to use social media, make sure it’s monitored at all times. A good response time on social media gives customers faith that they’re being heard and allows you to deal with any issues that might arise before they escalate to viral status. And you never know, your post could be the next Weetabix/Baked Beans viral sensation and you wouldn’t want to miss out on all that lovely publicity!
- Customer service training
“You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.” The customer service desk is more-or-less the face of your business and often the only interaction your customers are likely to have with your brand. It’s your responsibility to make sure everyone staffing your customer services desk has the right skills. As a business owner, employ capable people who are devoted to learning. Train them on how to handle the various scenarios they might experience on the job and make sure they’re always one step ahead.
- You can outsource your customer service
The beauty of outsourcing your customer service to professionals is that it gives you back the one thing you need most – time. That precious time will allow you to get on with what you do best. By outsourcing to a professional contact centre you can be safe in the knowledge that your customers are being taken care of. Let someone else manage the process from start to finish and soon, you’ll start reaping the benefits.
- Request feedback
Most business owners sleep on feedback, which they should not do for too long. Feedback is one of the cheapest ways to grow your business. Feedback does what many companies pay analysts for. Make it a habit to ask for feedback from anyone that uses your customer service. Work on the information they provide and see how your business grows. Responding to reviews also improves your search engine ranking.
- Have an outstanding excellence culture and high standards
Having a high-quality service delivery keeps your customers delighted, and building an excellence culture transcends your business’s various departments. With such professionalism, there are less likely to be mistakes or disappointed customers.
When your colleagues in customer services also understand the standard of professionalism required, they have to step up. This improves the overall customer experience of your clients.
- Be flexible and open-minded.
As a brand, be willing to grow by learning from every experience. This helps you prevent the reoccurrence of some messy situations and anticipate some others. From your interactions with your customers, you should learn lessons from your mistakes. Remember to own them and do better.
As the business frontline, customer service is an integral part of your brand, irrespective of the size and years of existence. The customer service desk is an image-maker of your business and can determine if you gain more customers or lose those you have. Good communication skills are important. These customer service tips for 2021 will go a long way in helping your business thrive, regardless of what is going on globally.