How good is your small business’s customer service? Don’t answer right away—take some time to think about it. What you think is stellar service may not be living up to your customers’ expectations. Or what started out as great service when your business began may have fallen off a bit as you’ve grown (and gotten busier). Here are four areas to consider before you answer that question.
- Your website. If you sell products online, can customers easily find their way to what they want? What types of sort or filter options do you provide to help them narrow their choices? Can they quickly see what’s in their cart and modify the items? If they’re struggling with something, are there a variety of options (chat, toll-free phone number or email) to contact a customer service person and get help? Speaking of help, how easy is your “Help” area to find, and does it cover common questions such as shipping costs, taxes and how returns or exchanges are handled? Have someone you know do a “test run” through your website and report back how easy or hard it is to use.
- Your store. Does your store look appealing from the moment customers drive or walk up? Is it clean and neat outside with easy-to-read signage and window displays that draw customers in? Once inside, are customers greeted right away and does someone offer to help them? Are prices and specials clearly marked so there’s no confusion at the register? If customers need help, are employees keeping an eye on them so they can quickly offer assistance?
- Your employees. Are they well-informed about your products, services and policies so they can answer questions quickly and provide all the information customers need? If they don’t know something, do they know how to find out or find someone who does? Speaking of policies, do your employees have to adhere to rigid policies, or do they have leeway to do what’s needed to make customers happy? Do your employees focus on the customer, or do they spend hours on the phone or playing with their smartphones when they should be helping customers?
- Your technology. Current technology is key to providing customer service today. From CRM systems to track your interactions with prospects and customers, to POS systems that can track what customers buy (for easy returns and to give them targeted offers), to tablet computers for quick access to information in-store, there are many ways technology can improve your customer service. Take a hard look at your technology, and compare it to what your competitors use. If there’s a big gap—and you’re not trying to re-create a charming, 19th-century general store environment—then it may be time to open the purse strings and spend on the software, hardware and upgrades you need to get up to speed.
Image by Flickr user mrsdkrebs (Creative Commons)