15 Key Customer Service Skills

We all know that excellent customer service is good for your business, whether you’re a huge corporate, or a small business. No matter what you do, your customers are what makes your business work, so it’s crucial to look after them and make them feel valued.

According to Dimensional Research, 52% of consumers say that they have made an additional purchase from a company after a positive customer service experience. And that 90% of customers are influenced by positive reviews when buying a product.

So, what key customer service skills do you need to possess to make your business stand out?

Patience

They say that ‘Patience is a virtue’ and I’m a firm believer in this. It isn’t the easiest of skills to master, but patience will help you and your customer. It’s very important to hear what your customers have to say; they might be frustrated about something, or just simply confused. They might ask totally irrelevant questions, but it is absolutely crucial to keep calm, hear them out and then try and work through their issues together.

Active listening

Active listening is closely linked to patience. Don’t just hear what your customers are saying – listen carefully and, if necessary, repeat back to them what they’ve just said to you. This demonstrates that you’re listening and understand what they want or what issue they have.

Respect

Hand in hand with patience and active listening is respect. This might seem obvious, but important to remember. Respect is about treating your customers as you would like to be treated. You’d want the person on the end of the phone or email to solve your problem, be polite and actually do something. You can show respect by:

  • Using their name
  • Don’t interrupt them when they’re speaking
  • If you are face to face, look at them when they’re speaking.
  • If you’re on the phone, don’t be checking emails or scrolling your phone, give them your full attention and SMILE! It really does come over the air waves!
  • Wait until they have finished talking or telling you their problem before responding – then summarise what they’ve said and offer a solution.
  • If you can’t offer an immediate solution or alternative, tell them that you will investigate and get back to them.
  • Get back to them in a timely manner – when you said you would!

Self-Control

You are going to get a range of customers calling your business. Some will be happy and calm, will speak in a low voice. Some will be excitable and speak loudly and quickly; and inevitably, you will get the angry customer who shouts and yells, using harsh words – maybe even using expletives to insult you or your business personally.

This is the time to exercise self-control. This is not an easy skill to master, but it’s absolutely vital, especially with the shouting and yelling customer!  Don’t interrupt or tell them you’re not prepared to listen to them – they might just want to be heard and the only way they know how is to shout. Even though they are shouting, try to listen to the actual problem they have encountered. When they have finished, take a couple of deep breaths and then respond. Apologise if necessary and ask them how you can resolve their problem – ascertain what they want. Tell them that you understand their issue and repeat it back to them. Then, in a calm voice, try and discuss a solution that is good for them and for you and your business. You might have to offer an alternative product or service. They might want a refund or replacement. Whatever it is, there is usually a solution to be found, by talking it through with them.

Genuine concern

It’s well-known that showing genuine concern for your customers’ well-being is one of the most important good customer service skills. Concern for your customer is linked to being concerned for the reputation of your business. If you are not concerned about the success of your business and your businesses reputation, you’re not going to be very concerned about the happiness of your customers. They are inextricably linked.

Use positive language. Language and how you say something to a customer plays a big role in delivering excellent customer service. For example, if a customer contacts you to ask about ordering a particular product, but you don’t have any in stock

Negative response – That product isn’t in stock, so unavailable at the moment.

Positive response – We will be restocking that product next week, so I’ll contact you as soon as it’s available.

It’s a very subtle change in language, but makes all the difference to a customer.

Be flexible

It’s important to be flexible when dealing with customers. You may have a policy that says you don’t give away a free product or service, or you don’t do refunds. But there are times when this will be necessary to resolve an issue. If you find you have to bend the rules from time to time to keep your customers happy, it’s not a failure on your part. It can turn an unhappy customer into a future loyal customer – one who tells their friends and family how great you are and how you solved their problem, so worth keeping that in mind.

Communication Skills

This goes without saying really, but thought I’d add this into the mix. Communication is more than the words that you use – it also involves body language, facial expressions and tone of voice, to name a few. These can be very important when dealing with a customer who is not happy. 

  • Keep your body relaxed
  • Show genuine concern on your face
  • Keep your voice calm and neutral
  • Use positive language – words such as can, will, help and resolve are great words to use to help diffuse a situation.

Time Management Skills

It’s always important to be aware of the time you are spending with a customer. If you are finding that a particular customer is just too demanding, or you find you can’t resolve their problem, you need to recognise your limitations. It might be that they are not a good fit for you and your business. There is no shame in admitting this and referring them to someone who will be a better fit. This will save you both time and money in the long run. And that customer will respect you for solving their problem by referring them to someone who can help them.

Handling the unexpected

No matter how long you’ve been in business, there will at times be an element of surprise. At some point, you will face an unexpected situation, so always worth thinking about this so you have a plan.

Now, I have no idea what you might face with your business, but it’s worth knowing what you’ll do if you are faced with something you don’t know how to handle. I would ask the customer for a contact name and number, then make sure I completely understand the situation and tell them that I’ll come back to them. I always give them a specific time – even if I say, ‘I’ll ring you between 10 and 12 tomorrow morning’. This gives them confidence that you’ll look into their issue and gives you time to think about it and work out how you can solve it.

Just ensure that you do get back to them at the time you said you would. If you haven’t been able to get them an answer by that time, still ring them. Be honest and say that you are working on the problem, but it’s taking longer than you expected and give them a new time that you’ll ring to let them know the answer.

Responsibility

Responsibility links in with the element of surprise. If you take responsibility for the problem, your customer will respect and trust you in future. Get involved, be honest with them and stay with the problem until you resolve it.

Persuasion Skills

You will have customers who will be happy with the solution you offer. And there will, inevitably, be some that won’t. This is where persuasive techniques come in. Sometimes, a customer will want to know more about a product or service in more detail before buying. Persuasive skills will be giving them more details and turning that into why the product or service is suitable for them (if it is of course). This will obviously be beneficial to your business too.

You might need to use your persuasive abilities to illustrate exactly why the solution you offer is the best for them. You many need to offer an alternative offer – or try to explain in a different way. 

Improves your brand image

Your company brand is linked to your reputation. Part of earning that reputation with your customers is by doing things well, no matter how hard they might be.

Customer service sets the tone for your whole brand. First impressions really count and a helpful attitude assists in shaping that first impression. Everyone likes to have a positive customer experience and friendly, honest customer service. A good communications strategy will help you and your business to be seen as caring and one that really values its customers and their opinions. It should cover everything from how to talk to your customers and how that aligns with your brand and business strategy.

Feedback

Never underestimate the power of your customers. Customer servicing calls can give you valuable feedback about your business. Don’t be afraid to ask for it. For example, if you are made aware of an issue, you can ask for your customers’ opinions, through feedback surveys, social media and emails. These tools can serve two purposes; gathering feedback about a potential solution and getting you positive reviews and feedback that you can use to promote your business.  

Asking for opinions makes customers feel valued and can help improve your customer retention. If you use their opinions and suggestions, they will become brand advocates.

Measuring customer satisfaction, through the use of surveys, social media polls etc., help you keep an eye on your customers’ overall experience with your business and brand. You can often deal with a potential problem before it becomes an issue.    

Ability to close

I don’t mean closing a sale here. I’m talking about ending a conversation with a customer. Sometimes a customer just wants to chat and can go completely off subject. You need to be able to steer the conversation back to the point. Only end your conversation after you have solved the problem, or told them that you’ll find a solution and get back to them.

Put yourself in your customers’ shoes and treat their problem as yours. The customer needs to be aware that you care, value their opinion and they need to be confident that you will deal with whatever they throw at you.

Conclusion

It is well-known that customers are more loyal to those businesses that show transparency in everything they do. And they don’t mind paying a bit more if they are confident in your business and its transparency.

Excellent customer service promotes trust and loyalty; customers are more likely to try other products or services that you offer and they are more likely to recommend your business to their friends and family.     

User Generated Content ideas

User generated content (UGC) is the original content that is created by your audience. It can be anything from comments or reviews on your blog or social media site, to images and videos.

According to the Nielsen Consumer Trust Index, 92% of consumers trust organic, user-generated content more than they trust traditional advertising. This is probably because UGC is not paid for by the brand and created by your audience, so it is unbiased and seen as more trustworthy and genuine. It acts as social proof and helps you to grow your following, strengthen relationships with your clients, helps with SEO and can boost sales.

Here are a few ways to use user generated content for your business.

Credibility

When potential customers want to buy something, most like to look at product reviews before taking the plunge. Reviews show them that your product or service is reliable. Ratings and reviews can help increase traffic to your website, which ultimately can help grow your business and encourage those potential customers to buy from you.

I would advise every business to encourage customers to leave reviews wherever possible. You can ask them to leave reviews on your website, social media page, or on your Google My Business page.  

You can also give an incentive to get more reviews, by offering something like a discount or gift card. Send an email with incentive keywords in your subject line to encourage customers to open them.

If you get a negative review, don’t ignore it. Treat it as an opportunity to turn the customer round and gain their trust. Always reply personally to show that you care about their experience and try to solve the problem they’ve highlighted. If you do turn them around, they will then recommend you to their friends and family.

Host a contest

One way to get customer content is to host a contest on social media. You can even create a unique contest hashtag and get followers to contribute to the hashtag. Users could share their photos or videos accompanied by your specific hashtag to win a prize. If enough of your followers do this, it can push your hashtag to trend, which will not only build engagement with your target audience, but also build awareness of your brand and boost sales.

If you do decide to do this, just keep in mind that your hashtag needs to be simple and not difficult to spell…and also use one that sets you and your business apart from your competitors. And don’t forget to start using your new hashtag in all your own posts.  

Video

Video is a fantastic way to create user generated content. Video has such great potential for sharing and there is a higher possibility that video content will go viral.

User generated video give your audience a new perspective on your brand, which not only boosts your credibility, it also illustrates that your brand is genuine as these are the videos of real customers…not something you’ve created yourself.

Use events and holidays    

There are loads of different holiday seasons and individual days in the calendar, from Christmas and Easter, to Valentine’s Day or just summer! You could also choose to use a major event.

These holidays or events gives you an opportunity to engage with your customers and connect with them. This gives your followers the chance to share images or videos, use your hashtags, take part in a competition or even write a testimonial and share it with their friends.  

A few years ago, a major coffee chain launched a campaign during December. They produced a branded coffee cup with a Christmas theme and asked for inspiring and innovative photos with their cup in the photo. There was a prize of a gift card…and of course, in order to take part, customers had to buy the cup first. They were inundated with photos, which were really imaginative and published them on their website. Customers absolutely loved coming up with really innovative ideas, they loved seeing their entry on the website, (which of course they shared with their friends) and the coffee brand sold loads of coffee. All for a very simple idea.

Have a think about what you could come up with for your business.  

Recap

User generated content acts as social proof and helps you grow your following, strengthen relationships with your clients, helps with SEO and help boost sales.

Have you ever done this? If you have, I’d love to know how you got on. If not, why not try it out. Again, I’d love to hear all about it. Please comment below and share your story.   

How to promote your customer loyalty programme

In last week’s blog, I covered the pros and cons of having a customer loyalty programme. So, if you have decided that it is the way to go, how do you go about promoting it to your target audience? This week’s blog looks at the strategy for loyalty marketing and how you can get the best out of it for your small business.

What is loyalty marketing?

Loyalty marketing is about encouraging your customers to buy from you over and over again…it’s keeping them coming back for more.

It can apply to both existing, active customers and past customers, as well as new ones. Your strategy is to incentivise them to buy from you more frequently. The obvious example is a coffee shop. They give you a card, which you get stamped every time you buy a coffee. When your ten stamps have been completed, you get a free coffee. Everyone loves a freebie, even if they have to work for it.

Why is loyalty marketing so important?

We all like to feel that we’re appreciated…I know that I do. It’s even nicer if the business you buy from shows their appreciation by giving you something in return. You are being rewarded for your loyalty, which feels great.

The first step to achieving this is to make your customers feel valued and acknowledge them for their continued support. However, this isn’t easy; customers are not tied to you or your business and can jump ship for another brand at the drop of a hat. Another brand may be more accessible, may be a local business or friend. Sometimes customers just feel like a change and want to try something new. But there are some marketing strategies that can help you keep your customers for as long as possible.

Make it simple  

Keep your customer loyalty programme as simple as possible. You could add a sign up at your website checkout and give an immediate benefit of some kind. It could be a small discount off their next purchase.

Also make sure that it doesn’t matter what your customer spends, they can still join the loyalty programme. So, whether they spend big bucks or small change, they are all treated equally.

Add value 

Take your time to decide what customer rewards you want to give. You still need to think about your profit margins, so don’t go mad! You might go with ‘buy one, get one free’ on certain items, or a straight-forward 5% off their next purchase. Or, like the coffee house example I gave earlier, your customers have a physical card that they get stamped every time they buy an item. Then they get one free after the tenth item is bought. Obviously the coffee shop idea wouldn’t be appropriate for most businesses – only those who sell something fairly cheap in the first place…coffee is ideal, so this idea is great for cafes and restaurants, juice bars and sandwich shops.   

Give new members a gift

When someone joins the loyalty programme, give them a small gift as a welcome. This will reinforce the value of the programme, and hopefully they will pass this on to their friends and family.

Give an incentive to introduce a friend

If a customer refers a friend, who goes on to buy from you, you could give them an incentive gift.

Personalise the programme

If you are sending out details of the programme, use the customer’s first name and thank them for being a loyal customer. Personalising the email, phone call, or however you choose to do it, makes your customer feel special and it also makes your email feel bespoke if it has their name on it.

Remember your customers’ birthdays and send them an e-card or an email to wish them a good day.

Don’t forget to say ‘thank you’ to customers for their continued support.  

Let your customers know that you listen 

There is nothing more frustrating, as a consumer, than sending off an email, or sending a message on social media, and your comments are ignored. So don’t do this! Make sure you reply to everything in a positive and friendly manner.

Get customer feedback

This goes hand in hand with listening. Providing your customers with a way to leave feedback is imperative to finding out why they stay loyal to your brand and also, why they leave to go elsewhere. Make sure there is somewhere on your social media sites for them to leave feedback and also on your website.

Listening to what your customers have to say can be a very positive experience, but inevitably you will also get some negative comments. However, so long as you answer them straight away, you can often turn that around. Sometimes feedback will give you new ideas, or ideas on how you can improve your current products or services.

Most customers tend to only leave feedback if there is a problem, so it’s about encouraging them to leave it when they’re happy! If you do get a negative review, don’t try and hide it or delete it – work on the problem with your customer and hopefully they will leave another one stating how you solved their problem.

Feedback can be obtained via a customer satisfaction survey. With this, you are in control of the questions, and it is a straight forward and easy way to gain opinions on your products and services…and the overall customer experience they receive with your brand. If you do opt for this, keep it short and sweet – they won’t want to take more than a couple of minutes to complete it, so just ask a few questions and if possible, opt for multiple choice answers as that makes it even easier.

You could offer an incentive to complete your survey or to leave a review. The most important thing to think about is the timing of your survey or the asking for a review. You need to give your customer time to use your product or service. So just be aware of that.

Promote at every opportunity

This means at every single customer touch point.

  • Website
  • Phone calls
  • Text message
  • At the till if you have physical premises
  • When you send out an order, put details in the order with the invoice
  • Blog about it
  • Put your programme on your social media sites – ask your followers to share your post
  • Tell customers about it in email or newsletter
  • Promote it in adverts about your business
  • Consider a paid ad on Social Media
  • Mention it in podcasts and videos
  • Maybe have a partnership with another business that compliments yours and share the running costs

Talk about your customer loyalty programme to anyone and everyone who will listen.  

Conclusion

Always remember that customer loyalty goes way beyond giving out a loyalty programme or rewards…or even engagement with them on social media.

It’s about you letting your customers know that you really value their custom, and appreciate the support they give to your business.

Finally, make sure that you use the same images and tone of voice in all interactions about your customer loyalty programme, so your particular, branded programme stands out and is easily recognisable.

Customer Loyalty programme – good or bad?

What is a customer loyalty programme?

Customer loyalty is where your existing customers return to you time and time again with repeat business. It’s usually because they love your brand, love your products/services and are really happy with the experiences they’ve had with your business.

Over the last several years, we’ve seen more and more companies using customer loyalty schemes or programmes to reward their existing customers, and to encourage them to keep coming back for more. A good example is that of coffee shops. They give you a card and every time you buy a coffee you get your card stamped. When you have 10 stamps on your card, you get a free coffee. Some programmes give you cash-back or use a points system, but they are all basically the same, with the same reasons for using one.

Why use a customer loyalty programme?

They are great for small businesses because they give your customers an incentive to give you repeat custom. Some loyalty programmes reward customers for introducing a friend (and they get a reward if that friend becomes a customer).

These programmes also increase your brand awareness and can help generate a positive return on investment. But, as with any scheme or programme, there are the downsides as well as the upsides. I thought I’d take a look at the pros and cons, so you can be in a better place to decide whether a customer loyalty programme might be good for your business.

The Pros

Customer Retention

According to the advisory firm, Bain & Co, increasing customer retention by just 5% can boost your profits by 25%-95%, so looking after your existing customers is vital for the good health of your business and profits.

Customer loyalty programmes also have the benefit of making your customers feel like their custom is valued and they feel appreciated. This, in turn, makes them want to carry on doing business with you. And it makes financial sense to introduce such a programme as, according to Inc.com, existing customers spend 67% more than new customers. So, the benefits to both the customer and your business is potentially huge to boost customer retention and give them an incentive to buy more.  

Direct communication with your customers

Your customer loyalty programme means that you have access to a direct line of communication with your customers. This makes things a lot easier to build your brand awareness and increase that loyalty by providing them with regular and relevant information. You can collect their email address as part of your loyalty programme and can share news about new products or services, events, any promotions you might be running, as well as any updates to the loyalty programme.

Customers who feel valued and ‘in the know’ about a business they buy from, will not only keep returning to you, but they will tell their friends and family, which could give you new connections and customers.

Data on customer trends

Having the contact details, such as email, of your customers, and the records you keep of sales from each of those customers gives you valuable data. Customer data gives you an overview of your customers’ buying behaviour. You know what their preferences are, you know their buying habits, such as when they are more likely to buy something. This not only helps you with knowing what works and what doesn’t, if you sell products it can help with your stock and knowing what to stock more of. It also helps you with your advertising and promotions planning and helps your marketing, as you can measure the results of special promotions, new products etc.  

It can also help you to segment your customers and find out which ones are profitable and which ones aren’t. This can help you decide which customers to target with new products or new promotions, as you can target the ones that are more likely to buy from you.

Brand differentiation

Loyalty programmes help your brand and can help distinguish you from your competitors. As a customer myself, I know that I am bombarded on a daily basis with an overwhelming number of choices for a particular product or service. The minute you type anything into a Google search, it seems to be picked up by your social media pages and you get loads of adverts about the product you’re looking for – you also suddenly get a barrage of spam emails about the same. I don’t know about you, but I find this extremely irritating! I’d rather stick with a brand that I know and trust.

A loyalty programme can help your customers choose you over the competition and the fact that you offer an incentive to be a loyal customer, this differentiates your brand against the other businesses with a similar brand to yours.

It can also help you in slow seasons, when business is not going very well. Take an airline for example, in the summer they sell loads of plane tickets as people jet off for some summer sun. But in Autumn and Winter, business can be a bit slower. So, they do special low prices on airline tickets to incentivise customers to get away in the slower seasons, at a much reduced price. This keeps the airline ticking over.  

The Cons   

All loyalty programmes look the same

Loyalty programmes are not a new concept and many businesses have the same kind of incentive scheme running. They have similar purchase requirements and benefits for the customers. With the abundance of loyalty programmes around, customers could feel overwhelmed by the choice, and this can make it harder for businesses to generate excitement for their programme. So you need to create something unique and that stands out from the others…this is not easy.

Loyalty costs money

Creating a customer loyalty programme does cost money. Any discount you give is going to affect your profits. Even a small discount can seriously impact your profits. For example, say you give a 5% loyalty discount. A product that costs £50… is £40 in costs and £10 in profit. If your customer buys that product for £50 with their 5% discount, they will pay £45. So, from your business point of view, you still have to pay your £40 costs, so your profit will be £5 – this is a 50% decrease on what you normally earn. You could help this by putting a timeframe on the discount – 5% off for the next month. The losses you suffer could be lessened by the increase in business from that customer.

Your loyalty programme has to be worth the time, money and effort you put into it. If it is proving to produce more repeat business, it could still be worthwhile financially, especially if you’re selling more to a loyalty programme member than normal. It’s just something to be aware of.    

Is the behaviour you witness actual loyalty?  

It’s hard to tell if your customers are loyal to you and your brand, or whether they just buy from you out of habit or because you’re closer than anyone else who does the same. We often look at a frequent customer and think they are loyal, but loyalty is an emotion which can’t really be measured. So how do you get around this?

This is where you can use marketing tactics to find out just who is loyal. You could reward customers for referring family and friends, or for writing a good review. This will show who is actually willing to stand up and vouch for your brand, stating the reasons as to why they like it.  

Another way to keep that loyalty to your brand is to include customers in your advertising – what better way to advertise your product, than to use a photo of a real customer using your product, or talking about the excellent service you give.

Data does have its limitations

As well as being a good thing, data does also have its limitations. For one thing, it doesn’t give the full picture of your customers’ overall purchase behaviour, as it can’t know what they’ve bought from other brands or shops. You also can’t tell from data if a customer is buying from you just because it’s at the right price and others may give repeat business just so they get the benefits of a loyalty programme.

You could survey your customers to find out more about their loyalty, but some will be reluctant to provide information about where and what they buy elsewhere. They might even feel offended by it.

Conclusion

There are clearly huge benefits to having a customer loyalty programme, but it’s important to be aware of the downside too. And not all programmes are successful, as the marketing and implementation is crucial to their success. However, they can help you generate more business and be rewarding for your customers.

Look out for next week’s blog, when I talk about how to promote your customer loyalty programme.

In the meantime, would you consider running a loyalty programme for your small business? Maybe you do already. I’d love to hear your thoughts on all aspects. Please comment in the comment box below.

Thank you for reading!   

How to measure customer satisfaction

We all know that unsatisfied customers cost money. Research has shown that about 80% of customers will go to a different company after just one bad experience, especially if it’s about the service they receive. This is why it’s so important to measure customer satisfaction to find out exactly what your customers think of you, your company, your products or services, and the kind of customer service they receive.

It’s a fairly simple thing to do, but the first hurdle for any business, big or small, is actually admitting that you have a problem, or that there is room for improvement.

Measuring customer satisfaction simply boils down to collecting feedback from your customers, either via a survey or using customer data…preferably both!

Why should you measure customer satisfaction?

I’ve already mentioned one reason – customer dissatisfaction.

If a customer is not happy they will not buy from you again. They will find take their business elsewhere and you will see a rise in complaints.

If you were measuring satisfaction, you would identify any problems early enough to be able to do something about it, and save your customer before they defect to another company.

Customer retention

It’s much easier to retain your existing customers rather than go through all the marketing and hard work to acquire new ones.

If a customer buys from you regularly, they bring much more value to your business. A happy customer is more likely to remain loyal to you and your brand.

Measurement helps you keep your customers happy, so they’re more likely to stick with your business, buy more and recommend you to family and friends.

Negative comments can damage your brand 

A bad customer experience will most likely be shared with family and friends. An unhappy customer is also likely to share their bad experience on social media sites. This can give your business a bad reputation.

Best-selling author and sought after celebrity speaker, Catherine DeVrye, is a world authority on customer service. She also won Australian Woman of the Year. She once said, “It takes years to win a customer and only seconds to lose one.” This one statement resonates with me more than any other I’ve read. I want my customers to be loyal, and loyalty, like trust, has to be earned – you can’t buy it.

I get my computer protection software from a big, well-known company and stay with them because it’s easy to deal with them. Their product is good and does what it says on the tin and they have a good reputation. But it has started to annoy me that this company spend thousands on expensive advertising campaigns, with rousing music, great copy and a fabulous enticing offer for new customers. But, hang on a minute, I’ve been a loyal customer for countless years and the amount I pay goes up substantially every year. Sometimes I think they take it for granted that I’ll just renew my subscription every year and pay whatever they say without any questions. Should I stay loyal to them when I get a new computer? They don’t make me feel valued as a customer. Apart from sending me emails about new and enhanced features that will ultimately cost me more, I don’t hear from them. There is no incentive for me to stay with them…would it really hurt for them to say, “you’ve been a great customer for more than 10 years – we’d like to reward your loyalty with XXXXXX” It doesn’t necessarily matter what I’m offered – it could be 10% off for a year. It could be that they offer me, as a valued customer, the new features to try out for free for the first year and no increase in my annual subscription. Now that would impress me. It doesn’t take much.

With this in mind, I’m so careful never to take my customers for granted or to forget about them. At the end of the day, they are my ‘bread and butter.’  

Enhance that all important customer experience

By measuring what your customers think of your products or services, you are giving them the chance to have their say. This will help you improve your relationship with that customer and could produce ideas on how to improve the customer service you currently offer. Your customers could come up with the solution to a problem you’ve been having, especially if you ask the question, “How can we improve on the service you receive from us?”

If you’re measuring customer satisfaction on a regular basis, you will be able to see the spikes in either direction. The measurement might reveal that customers are very happy with the service they get…in which case you know that you’re heading in the right direction.

Measurement Strategy

Once you are measuring what you do, the results will form the basis of your strategy – how are you going to improve so the scores are better the next time you do it?

So, when doing your marketing plan/strategy, always include a measurement section, which details solid measurable objectives and KPIs, (key performance indicators).  If you’ve ever worked for a big company, you’ll have heard of KPIs as they form part of your annual performance review!

CSAT  

OK, I have talked about measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT), but how do you measure it?

CSAT is a key performance indicator (KPI) that tracks how satisfied your customers are with your products or services…or both.

It is measured by customer feedback surveys that you send out. Usually it is a question at the end of a survey which will say something like…

‘How would you rate your overall satisfaction of the (service or products) you have received?’

Your customers are asked to reply by ticking the box of one of five answers…

  1. Very unsatisfied
  2. Unsatisfied
  3. Neutral
  4. Satisfied
  5. Very satisfied

The results you get from all your customers can give you an average score…best done as percentages. For example if you surveyed 100 customers and 85 said they were satisfied or very satisfied, you would have an 85% total customer satisfaction rate, with 15% customer dissatisfaction. 

The next step would then be to look at the 15 customers’ feedback, who rated you as giving dissatisfaction to try and identify why. This could be answered in other questions you’ve asked. If you can’t identify the reasons, it would be worth contacting those customers to find out what you can do to improve. This gives you a chance to turn the feedback around to positive for next time. The important thing is NOT to ignore it.

You can use a survey to ask very specific questions, such as ‘How do you rate the service you receive by telephone?’ or ‘How likely is it that you will recommend our business to your family and friends?’   

The only downside of CSAT is that it only measures how your customers are feeling here and now, at the time they complete the survey. They might be having a bad day or have been trying to get hold of you and haven’t yet had a reply, which could provoke a negative answer.

Before you jump in and send out a survey, define what you want to achieve.

  • What do you want to measure?
  • How are you going to send it out? By post, email, telephone or via social networks?
  • How often do you want to send a survey – once you send one, you’ll need to send more in the future so you can compare results. Once a year is good as you don’t want to bombard your customers with questions.
  • What questions do you want to ask? It’s good to have a range of questions – some that have multiple choice answers and some that are free text. For example, you might want to ask ‘How can the service we provide be improved?’ This would need a text box so the response can be written by the customer and they can write as little or as much as they want to.
  • Questions need to be clear, concise and straight forward and be easy to understand.

Conduct an interview on the telephone

This is a more costly way to get feedback, but it definitely has its benefits. For example, if you are launching a new product and have several long-standing and loyal customers, it would be a good idea to get their opinion. This not only makes them feel very valued as a customer, but also that their opinion matters to you and that you listen to them.

Obviously you couldn’t really do this with a big survey to all your customers – you could have thousands – so it would not be cost effective nor a good use of your time. 

Analytic tools  

There are loads of analytic tools out that that can help you with looking at engagement on your social media channels. These will, to a certain extent, give you details of your customers’ behaviour; how they interact with your brand; how often they buy from you and if they are a repeat buyer of a particular product.

The analytics will also tell you what kind of posts your customers like, what time of day they are online and what day of the week is most popular for your posts. This helps you decide what and when to post.  

Regarding social media, it’s always useful to listen to your customers and reply promptly to any questions or comments on your posts. 

Live Chat and Social Media

Most social media sites have the facility to have a ‘live’ chat with someone, so you could utilise this to talk to customers online. Messenger is another way to speak to them, but be careful not to bombard their inbox with meaningless messages.

The good thing about using social media channels for engagement and chat is that it is a free service!

You may also have live chat software and can use that to interact with your customers. Again, be aware not to be a nuisance!

Marketing emails

Email is perfect for engaging with your customers and for collecting feedback. If you send out a regular newsletter via email, you could always embed a survey in that communication. Or, you could send an email to your subscribers just about your annual survey.

Text

Texting is another great option for getting feedback. It’s cheap to send messages in bulk and gets a survey direct to your customers’ phone.

Customer Experience Factors

Whether you decide to send out a survey, text, message, telephone or email, there are some things you will always come across, which are absolutely crucial to the customer experience…

Pricing

What you charge for a product or service will hugely impact whether a customer will be satisfied or dissatisfied, depending on the customer. If you charge for something you don’t or can’t deliver, they will go elsewhere and will be dissatisfied with the service they’ve received. I’m not saying make sure your prices are low, no indeed not! A product or service is worth what a customer is willing to pay for it. You don’t want to be really cheap as they will question the quality of the product or service you offer. But at the same time, you don’t want to be so expensive that you price yourself out of the market.

Offer easy access to support 24/7

Customers like to have access to your products/services and know that they can contact you 24/7. Don’t just have a phone number with office hours (9-5, Monday-Friday). If you have a website, you can put an email address. Even if you’re not immediately available, at least they can ask questions at the time they want to.

Offer messenger support on social media channels, so they can message you if it’s an emergency. Most of us are online every day, even at weekends and, although it can be a pain on your day off, if you do answer any urgent queries via messenger…or agree to call the customer, you will gain more loyalty and respect. 

Educational content and training

If your products or services require the customer to learn something, make sure that there is support in place as everyone learns differently. It might be that you have a blog and post about how to use certain products or a certain service you offer.

Make sure that products or services that need training or support are covered. Include instructions with the product, give them a link to your YouTube channel where it is explained in detail, or give them a link to a Facebook group where you talk about your products or services in detail through discussions or forums.

Email all these support structures to your customers, as well as putting them in with products/services when they buy them. That way, they know they can save emails for use at a later date and don’t have to worry about losing paper copies of instructions.

Build a community on social media

Start your own social media group to support your customers with the products/services they buy from you. Communities serve several purposes…

  • Customers can talk and discuss your products/services with each other and give tips that they’ve found through experience
  • Customers can ask you questions
  • You can set up a regular forum, where you are there, ‘live’ to answer questions
  • You can advertise your new products or services
  • You can host networking events online
  • You can host training sessions, which can be ‘live’ or recorded with a link to the recording for your customers

Cancelling contracts or subscriptions  

Make it easy for your customers to change, or cancel a contract or subscription they have with your business.

It needs to be clear and concise and easily accessible. This might seem a bit odd, as you want to keep your customers, right? But if something you sell is not the right fit for your customer, they need to know that they can easily get out of it. If you don’t do this, you could risk damage to your reputation and your brand if the customer bad-mouths you and your business.

Customer incentive scheme  

You will have customers who absolutely love your products/services and who come back to you time and time again. What better way to reward them and show you value their custom, than you have a customer incentive scheme or loyalty programme. Incentives can come in all shapes and forms – it’s up to you what you choose to do.

If you run a coffee shop or café, you could give a card that gets stamped every time they buy a coffee. After buying 10 coffees and collecting 10 stamps on their card, they get a free coffee.

If you have a customer who has bought a website design from you, you could tell them that you’ll add a blog to their site for free.

These are just a couple of examples – the sky’s the limit really!

Whichever way you look at it, customer service and the experience they get when dealing with you and your business is crucial to your business’s success. So, be prepared and put in place measures that help you keep track of what your customers are buying and why. And of course, always ask for feedback! And you’ll be having your customers jumping for joy!

A little less conversation, a little more action!

Create a perfect CTA

A CTA is a call to action. Quite simply, it’s you telling someone who visits your website, newsletter or blog to do something. If done well, it will be well designed and thought out, draw the eye of the reader and encourage them to act on something.

It is your last instruction to your audience and tells them to complete a specific task – click on the button!

You need a strong CTA

You don’t just need a CTA, you need a strong CTA that convinces your audience to react. The two main functions of a CTA is to tell someone what to do next and also give them the motivation to do it.

However it’s all very well telling someone to sign up to something, they also need to know why; what’s in it for them?  How does it benefit them? How will it make their life easier or better? You may have already written a paragraph before the CTA telling them the ‘why’, but a reiteration or a recap never hurts and will make the CTA all the more powerful.   

It’s important to put the CTA in the right place, in front of the right people at the right time. They are the perfect way to get your audience to do what you want them to and to get what you want, be that signing up to your newsletter, downloading your e-book or workbook, clicking to get a free checklist, lead generation, traffic to your website or blog or to simply buy direct. They can be used to educate, inspire and engage your audience, generating trust in your business and brand.

How to write a CTA

Before you begin to write a CTA, you need to know what you’re trying to achieve with it.

  • Is it to get someone to sign up to your newsletter?
  • Is it to boost sales?
  • Is it to get your reader to move to another piece of content?
  • Is it directing your reader to some free content?

As soon as you know what you want to achieve, you can start to think about the best way to do that.

Make sure your words or phrases speak directly to your audience and try and be as specific as possible. Whilst things like ‘click here’ are OK, it’s not particularly strong or inspiring, whilst something more specific would be ‘Get your XXXXX now!’ or ‘Discover more now!’ – They just sound a little bit more enticing.

Who are your audience?

Think about your audience. Who are you aiming your CTA at? Is it a specific audience? Your CTA will be seen online, and each internet user is completely different. Some might be online absently browsing news items or shopping offers…some might be watching Netflix or looking for music on YouTube. There are lots of different audiences, so if you know who you’re aiming for, you can tailor the CTA accordingly.

For example, if you have uploaded a video to YouTube, your CTA might be ‘Watch my video now!’ or ‘Watch demo’.

If you are a Chef or love baking and have put a video of you making a cake, your CTA might be ‘Get recipe now’ or ‘Learn to make xxxx’

But it’s not just about having a jazzy button telling someone what to do, you need to lead up to it with some tempting copy too. Never assume that your audience will see a button and click on it because most won’t. They need to be told to do it – it needs to be crystal clear and once they press that button, the instructions also need to be very clear, not at all vague. Don’t use long words and clever language and don’t use jargon. Gently guide your audience in the right direction, you want to attract their attention, not scare them away.

Include them in the introduction to the CTA, using words like ‘you’, ‘your’ and ‘we’. This makes them feel valued and their decision is important to you. Focus on the reason they need to do whatever it is. Why is this going to be so good for them? How does it benefit them? Does it solve a problem they have? People love to get something for nothing, or to feel they are getting a real bargain, so if you’re offering something and there is a cost attached to it, why is it such a bargain – what are they getting for their money?

It’s also good to instigate a feeling of urgency – do it now or you’ll miss out on this fabulous bargain. Is it a one-time only offer? Is it at a specially reduced price for the first 20 people to sign up? Is there limited availability? Is the offer only available for a limited time? All these things signify an urgency – telling your audience that they need to take immediate action.

And ultimately, keep the copy short and sweet – your audience don’t want to read a long description – they’ll get bored and scroll on by. It needs to be appealing, persuasive, but short, snappy and to the point. So you need to get the benefits of what you’re offering and why in as few words as possible. This can take some time to get right, so don’t stress if you can’t get it straight away.  

Make your CTA look good

Not only should your copy be snappy and appealing, it also needs to be aesthetically pleasing too. People won’t read it if it doesn’t look good. Give it some space – never underestimate white space, it can be used to highlight a CTA very well. Give it a good colour scheme, maybe include a good image. You might have to test a few before you come up with the right formula that works for you, but once you do, they’ll be no stopping you.

Now it’s time for you to go to your website, blog or wherever you have a call to action and make sure it is clear and specific for your audience, or if you haven’t got one, go set one up.

Make sure your audience know what they have to do next and why. And let me know what CTAs you use!

Supercharge your customer touchpoints

This sounds like just another one of those buzz word things – so what am I talking about?

Every business wants their customers to be happy with the service and experience they receive. But, unless you have your customers in mind at every single touch point, you could be missing out on some great opportunities to delight them and keep them coming back for more.

What is a touchpoint? According to SurveyMonkey, the definition of a touchpoint is “…any time a customer or potential customer comes into contact with your brand…before, during or after they purchase something from you”

meeting-1002800_640You may have great products, delivered on time and with a smile, but if your advertising isn’t on target, or they receive billing mistakes, or have to deal with a clumsy and clunky website, you can scare your customers away. Luckily, these touchpoints are easily fixed and within our control.

Let’s take a look at the general touchpoints a customer will come across…these are just some examples.

Before a sale – Social Media sites, Website, Customer reviews, Advertising/Marketing.

During a sale – Shop or office, Catalogue, Phone.

After a sale – Billing, Emails, Newsletter

Make a list of the touchpoints your customers have with you, then look at them in turn, e.g. your website…is it easy to navigate? Do the tabs point to the right things? Do the links work? Are you easy to contact? Do customers get a quick reply if they do contact you?

Supercharge your touchpoints

Now it’s time to supercharge your touchpoints for a better customer experience.

Personal touch – Try and speak to a customer wherever you can as most people like to beard-2286440_640be treated as individuals. I prefer to speak to a real person, not an automated service as I can ask questions and, if there is something I don’t understand, I can simply ask. It is also easier to build a relationship with your customers if you actually take the time to talk to them, as it makes them feel valued. They will feel that they are important to you and your business, that their custom is appreciated and that their opinion matters.

Consistent Service levels – Be consistent across all your dealings with customers, not just on the phone. You have won their custom and now it is time to build their loyalty and gain that all important customer satisfaction. So, not only ensure that you give excellent customer service on the telephone, ensure that they receive the same experience if they email you, such as a prompt reply, with the answer or solution they want wherever possible.

Know your customers – Know what your customers want and who they are. If you can team-2651912_640.pngsolve a problem for a customer, do it…they will always remember that you went that extra mile…and will recommend you to family and friends. Something that you did this year that went really well, might not work next year – never make assumptions where your customers are concerned. One of the simplest ways to know what your customers want is to ask them. This could be via a courtesy phone call (but be careful not to be a nuisance), via a short survey or hold an event, where you can interact directly with your customers and they can see who you are and meet you properly.

Resolve any mistakes – If you make a mistake, own up to it and put it right quickly. Don’t blame anyone else, just resolve it and offer some kind of compensation, such as 10% off their next order. The four step system is a good way to deal with complaints.

sculpture-2275202_640Listen to the complaint…don’t argue or put the blame on someone else – the customer doesn’t want to hear this – he/she just wants you to listen to what they have to say.

Acknowledge the complaint – let the customer know that you understand their complaint by relaying it back to them. This not only shows that you have been listening but gives hope that something will be done. Thank them for bringing the situation to your attention and assure them that something will be done.

Solve the complaint – if you can, resolve the issue, keeping the customer informed along the way. In the first instance, after you have acknowledged the complaint, say that you will look into it and will get back to them within 24 hours – even if you haven’t resolved the problem yet, ring them within 24 hours to let them know what’s happening. Keeping them informed every step of the way is very important in keeping that customer in future and lets them know that they are a valued customer.

gift-553150_640Thank them – you have already done this when you acknowledged the complaint but do it again. If the issue has taken or is like to take a long time to resolve, maybe offer them some kind of compensation – a money-off voucher or a free gift.

Appreciate your customers – Let your customers know they are valued, e.g. send regular customers a ‘thank you’ card, or give them a money off voucher for being loyal, or ask if they’d like their purchases gift-wrapped.

It’s also really crucial to look past the sale…once your customer has bought something from you, don’t make it the last time they hear from you…follow up the sale and ask how they are getting on with the product. Are they happy with it? Do they think it could be improved? Do they have any questions about that or any other product that you sell? They may tell you about a problem they have that you can solve for them, or give you an idea for a new product.

smiley-163510_640If your customers are really happy with the goods and/or services they receive from you, ask them if they could write a short review, either on your Facebook page or on your website…or if they prefer, they can send to you on email. Ask if it’s OK to share their review with other customers and potential customers.

Whether your business is a huge concern, or just a one-man/woman team, excellent customer service must be at the heart of everything you do. It can take extra time and resources, time and money, but good customer service leads directly to customer satisfaction, which can generate great business for you via word of mouth. It can also you’re your business thrive and ultimately be a success. Never underestimate the power of good customer service – it’s your businesses life-blood.

 

Grow your customer base

 

agree-1238964_640Our customers are the lifeblood of our businesses, so it’s crucial to gain new customers and to retain the existing ones. At this time of year, I’m always thinking of ways that I can grow my customer base, so after a brainstorming session, here are some of the ideas I’ve come up with…

Collect email addresses

It’s a great idea to take your customers’ email addresses when they buy or contact you. You can use these addresses to let them know of special offers or to send them your newsletter. But, please note that the data protection act states that you need to have written permission from customers expressly saying that they agree to be contacted via email or to receive a newsletter, (they agree to opt-in), so please ensure you get their permission.

Newsletter

Research suggests that people don’t like to part with their email address unless they are going to get something in return. A monthly or bi-monthly newsletter is a great way to let your customers know about your business, what’s new and any offers you have running. A newsletter needs to be of value to your customers, so include…

  • Relevant information about your business and what you can do for them – people are interested in what value you or your products can add to their lives
  • Details of special offers or new products
  • Valuable, unique content that customers can’t get anywhere else. The more valuable your emails are, the more people will sign up

news-226931_640Develop a calendar for your newsletter, planning specific activities that run throughout the year, for example, something around special times of the year; Valentine’s day, Easter, Christmas, Halloween etc. It’s also important to promote your newsletter everywhere; on your website (via an opt-in link or ‘sign up to our newsletter’ page; put it on the bottom of your email signature or on invoices and receipts; include details in any order you send to customers and if you speak to a customer on the phone, ask if they’d like to receive regular updates from you about your products.

Events

If you go to an event, or have a stall at a market, there are ways to attract new customers…

  • Have slips of paper where people can give you their email address – include a statement saying they agree to opt-in to your newsletter and maybe have a fishbowl or something similar where they can ‘post’ their slips
  • Give away small samples in exchange for an email address so you can let them know about your products and future promotions
  • Include your business card and a flyer with every purchase, which gives details of your website and newsletter
  • If you’re at a tradeshow, you might want to run a short presentation on a laptop giving details of your business and what you can offer customers

Recommendations and referrals

Don’t be afraid to ask your existing customers for a recommendation. If they like your products and are happy with the service or services you provide, they will be happy to write a few words stating just that. Then you can publish this recommendation on your website and social media pages. Potential customers viewing your website will be able to read your recommendations and know that you are trustworthy and provide a fabulous service. It’s reassuring for new customers to read about how a previous customer has been satisfied.

You can also ask your customers to refer you to their friends and family. You could provide an incentive, so if they recommend you and that person becomes a customer, they get 10% off their next order.     

Survey

checklist-2077022_640Ask for your customers’ opinions on your products or services. Is there something you could be doing better? Customers like to feel valued and it is good customer service practice to ask a customer what they think, listen to their answer and act upon it. It shows you listen. You could run a short survey and ask opinions – again, give an incentive to reply. You could put something like this at the beginning of the survey in the introduction… “We place a high value on our customers, so we would like to ask you to take five minutes of your time to answer a few questions about the products and services you receive from us. If you complete this survey, you will receive 10% off your next order as a thank you for giving us your opinion.” People like to be asked to help, like to give their opinion and most of all, like to get something in return so they feel that their opinion matters to you.

Provide great customer service

When asked why they go back to the same business over and over again, people often say it’s because of the friendly, helpful person they interact with. Customers remember if they are treated well and a positive customer experience will result in repeat business. Going the extra mile to meet your customers’ wants and needs is part and parcel of giving good customer service.

confident-3082818_640How do you ensure you provide good customer service? Well, firstly make sure that there is a clear and easy way for customers to communicate with you – in person, by phone or email and that when they do contact you, you reply in a timely fashion. Always have a positive and friendly outlook and attitude to your customers. Pay particular attention to any customer concerns or complaints. If a customer complaints, they are giving you the opportunity to resolve a problem – if you do this in a fast, effective and friendly manner, they will remember that and refer you to their friends and family. Always remember that the reputation of your business relies heavily on providing excellent customer service.

‘How to…’ leaflets on your website and/or video on YouTube

  • Produce ‘How to…’ leaflets or articles on your website. People love a freebie – promote on your social media sites
  • Produce short, instructional and informational videos on YouTube and a link to it from social network sites, website and blogs

These are just some ideas on how to grow your business and get more customers. If you have any other ideas, please let me know…I’d love to hear from you. Contact cindymobey@outlook.com

Do you speak the same language as your customers?

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To be successful in business, you need to really understand your customers, know their likes and dislikes. But in this age of increasing technology, are you losing the basics on how to speak the same language as your customers?

Why is it so hard?

  • Due to the internet, social media and ‘easy to navigate’ online stores, your customers and potential customers have a huge array of choices, as well as the cost comparison sites to help them. Customers have more power than ever before.
  • ID-100164372Customers tend to be less loyal and much less trusting these days. They will think nothing of flitting from one company to another, depending on who is the cheapest…and easy access to the media means that they read a lot more about customer experiences so are more suspicious than they used to be, the trust has waned.
  • Customers are constantly bombarded with data on their social media sites and through spam email, causing an overload, which makes it harder for them to make decisions about what they want.

When you weigh all this up, it’s not hard to understand why you don’t know what your customers want.

How to find out what your customers want

The quickest and easiest way to find out what they want is to simply talk to them…yeh, just talk to them – why is something so simple being forgotten?

When was the last time you picked up the phone to speak to your customers without a hidden agenda….just to say ‘hello’? So, why not arrange to meet some of your customers face to ID-100372771face – arrange a coffee morning. Show them that you care about their custom and that you’re genuinely interested in them and their businesses. Ask them how they approach problems in their business and ask them to describe how they deliver value to their customers. Listen carefully to their replies.

Ask them to describe your products and services? Are there any particular words and phrases they use? Ask them what they think of your competitors – listen to how they describe them, what words and phrases they use. Take note of their language and how they describe things and use the information to adapt the language of your marketing, use their way to describe your products….if you’re using their language, they will more easily identify with you.

If you talk to your customers on a regular basis, asking them questions about the products they’ve bought (not necessarily just from you) and listening to what they have to say; their ID-100291427worries, concerns and frustrations, you will learn what makes them tick. Listen to the questions they may have about your products and services, including any objections or criticisms, and ask them how you think you could solve any problems.

This is just the tip of the iceberg, but for the small business, talking to customers can have a huge effect on how customers view you and your business. Everyone likes to feel valued and, by talking to your customers, you’re showing them you care about them and their opinions. If you also go ahead and put some of their suggestions into practice, they will feel even more valued…and are more likely to be loyal to you and your business. So, cut out the fancy, long  words and heavily descriptive text, just describe who you are, what you do and who your products and services are aimed at.

ID-10075421Nothing will increase the popularity of your brand than speaking plainly in language your customers can understand.

Good luck and get listening to your customers – they will teach you how to speak their language and give your business the ‘thumbs up’!

 

Images courtesy of 1) Feelart 2) kapongza 3) Stuart Miles 4) kookkai_nak at FreeDigitalPhotos.net