The end of the year is headed toward us at full steam. Everyone has the same thing on their minds and it’s this: do I really have to get on a treadmill in January? Seriously. Who else has a mortal fear of exercise?
There’s nothing quite like a year coming to a close that creates a sense of urgency. Whether it be personal bargaining (I promise, promise, promise I won’t down a bag of Cheetos alone after January 1st) or related to your business, creating annual goals are always a good way to kick off a new year.
If you’re a small business owner, you are probably taking stock of what helped your business to grow in 2015 and what can be improved upon in the upcoming year. One area you need to assess is your customer service plan (yes – we think it deserves its own plan). You will want to ask yourself what your customers liked, what they didn’t and figure out how to incorporate those changes in a way that makes sense for your business.
Regardless of what works for your business, there are some things in customer service that are always appreciated. If you’re looking to really delight your customers in 2016, here is a list of five initiatives that will really have them dazzled.
Don’t Get Rid of Your Phone
A lot of businesses, new and old alike, are forgoing the phone as a point of contact for customer service. This is a huge missed opportunity. It’s a fact that 81 percent of consumers prefer to speak with an actual person on the phone regarding service issues. In addition to this preference, providing a number for your customers to call allows your business to personalize their experience — no contact form ever did that.
It can be difficult for small business owners to deal with customer phone calls, or perhaps they can’t afford to hire the staff to do it. Outsourcing your customer service to a call center is often cheaper than hiring in-house staff. Live answer agents are also customer service aces.
PATLive hires less than one percent of all live answer agents and our new team members spend two weeks in intensive training before they are ever allowed to manage our customers’ calls.
Get Thee On Social Media
If you’re in the camp that thinks social media is simply a passing phase, you can plan on eventually being the only member in that camp. Social media usage continues to grow and is no longer used solely as a place to post photos of your dog in a Santa hat.
Increasingly, it is becoming a preferred channel for customers. J.D. Power and Associates found that 67 percent of consumers have used a company’s social media for servicing. Further, 33 percent of consumers prefer to reach out on social media. If your business isn’t on social media, it is imperative you incorporate a plan for social customer service as a part of your overall customer service plan in 2016.
Still not convinced? Chew on this: companies that delivered social customer service saw greater gains – 7.5 percent versus 2.9 percent.
Incorporate Live Chat
Live chat is a huge value add to a business’ web site and customers love it, too! According to Forrester, 63 percent of online consumers said they were more likely to return to a website that offers live chat. The ability to chat with a business allows customers to ask questions while they shop, ask a quick question about how something works, or give instant feedback about your business.
One important tip: if you aren’t prepared to manage chat sessions all day long, make sure you note hours of availability on your site. This will set you up for success and ensure you don’t create a mob of angry customers who think you’re ignoring them.
Proactively Serve Your Customer
Never in the history of language has the word “proactive” had a negative connotation. Everyone appreciates someone who anticipates their needs. If you want an experience that will really wow your customers, it’s important to assess customer pain points so you can proactively help to avoid them altogether.
Maybe this comes in the form of sending out emails with tips for getting started with a product. Maybe you create a knowledge database that covers every single aspect of your product. Maybe you follow up with each customer within a certain amount of days. Whatever you can do to create an easy experience will always dazzle your customers.
Showing Your Appreciation Is Always On Trend
Your customers love you. They return to your business all the time and let you know they are telling everyone they know about your service. Wow! That’s a big deal. Not only does it feel good to please your customers, but they are also helping your business to grow. It’s time to give a little something in return.
There are several things you can do to show your appreciation to your customers, and what better time than the holiday season? Here are a couple ideas for telling them how much they mean to you:
- Help them to give back. Offer to donate a portion of each sale to a charity of your choice. Not everyone takes the time to volunteer. When companies offer to donate on a customer’s behalf, it’s a win-win.
- Incentivize your business. A great way to say thanks to those loyal customers who have brought you even more business is to offer them incentives. Scale it to your business and tailor it to your industry.
- Lock pricing for the most loyal. This is such a huge perk and feels extra luxurious to customers. They will feel like they are part of the in-crowd.
As you look back over the customer service you’ve provided in 2015, we are certain there are things you can improve upon. Taking the time to come up with a strategy to better serve your customers will create a more loyal faction, increase your customers and ultimately add to your bottom line.
It’s your turn! Do you have a plan for your business’ customer service in 2016? Tell us in the comments!