Larger businesses have dedicated support staff, but when you own a small business it’s often you who does all the customer engagement.
That’s why it’s essential to recognize that that customer support is a skillset of its own; and that certain things are required when it comes to great customer service. Here are five of the key things to consider when it comes to speaking to customers, which you can both foster in yourself and look for in potential hires.
When it comes to communicating with customers, it’s important to be clear, direct, honest and empathetic. You and your team need to be able to explain your product and its benefits easily, and answer quickly when the customer needs help. This means that rather than using a set tone and language, you need to try and adapt to how the customer is speaking and writing – always try to communicate in a way that they’ll understand.
You may have heard the line ‘the customer is always right’, but this isn’t necessarily true: oftentimes, customers simply don’t understand your offering and an explanation can put them on the right track if they’re mistaken. This is where empathy comes into play: customer service isn’t about simply giving customers everything that they want, but explaining what is possible, understanding why the customer may be seeking what they are, and connecting them with the best solution available.
A key element of this is active listening and questioning; many customers need a chance to vent, many want to be heard, and many just want to feel that you legitimately care. By letting them express themselves, asking questions for clarity if you’re unsure, and never assuming what the problem might be you can set yourself up for success with customers that feel you’re going the extra mile.
Coping with customers isn’t always easy, and there are times when the customer isn’t giving you their full attention either. This is where patience and resilience come into play; being able to actively listen, stay calm and continue to be attentive even when customers are being difficult.
But patience and resilience doesn’t just mean coping with difficult customers: it means acknowledging when you’ve made a mistake and taking ownership of that mistake. If your business has a flaw within it that a customer has acknowledged, recognize it, embrace it, and start to fix it. This requires integrity and sincerity; two things that will always serve your business and team well.
That said, customers who abuse you and your staff through personal or inappropriately angry attacks are unacceptable, and you need to know that if customers cross a line, it’s sometimes better to lose them than try to salvage the relationship.
Customers often want answers on the spot, so knowing the ins and outs of your product and having an in depth understanding of common complaints and questions can make a considerable impact on your customer service skills.
Customer service representatives who truly understand your business values, products and customers should be able to make decisions on the fly, think critically in new situations, and address new issues and complaints honestly and openly in order to resolve them as quickly as possible.
That’s why it’s important to empower your employees to also make decisions on behalf of you when required and to simply fill you in on what happened later. They might not get it right every time, but sometimes you win and sometimes you learn and in order to provide great customer service, sometimes you’ve just got to follow your gut.
Caring about the products, the people, and the message that you send can make a phenomenal difference when it comes to engaging with customers. While not all of these behaviours come naturally to people, they can be practiced and learnt, and having happy customers means having a happy business.
- Lena Klein