customer service

By Megan Totka

K.I.S.S.—” Keep it Simple, Sweetheart,” we’ve all heard the phrase. For some reason, though, when it comes to customer service we often tend to complicate things.

We talk about identifying our target customer, and their persona. We spend huge chunks of our budget to drill down to the nitty-gritty of what makes them tick, who they are, and getting “in their head.” We categorize our customers; we calendarize them. We find different ways to sort and seek them out.

Yet, when it comes down to it, customer service is pretty darned simple. It’s about delivering what your customer wants, when they want it, being pleasant and reliable. We talk about added-value, and enhancing their experience, engaging and connecting via social media, and digital accessibility.

Chances are, however, while all these things can make you stand out from the crowd, when it really comes down to it customers want simplicity. They don’t want a new best friend–they want a product that is as expected and delivered promptly. They want you to meet and slightly exceed their expectations.

They want to work with companies who simplify their lives and understand the importance of their time. While your impulse might be to think of a million and one ways to add bells and whistles to their experience it’s more important to just deliver what they want, when they want it.

How to Simplify

There are great examples of simple customer service all around. From outstanding sandwich shops to companies that work to enhance the availability of agents (like having a real, live person on the phone when customers call),companies are focusing on customer service.

When it comes to customer experience a little effort can make an out-sized difference. Look at your website, or better yet, have an outside source take a look. Can customers find what they want easily and quickly? Is it clear what they should do if they have a question, or a problem? How responsive are you to emails?

Small and rapidly growing businesses often run into a bottleneck when it comes to keeping up with customer service. We become so eager to grow our customer base that we might forget that a key factor is holding on to those existing customers, and making sure they stay happy and satisfied.

Measure how your customers feel with phone calls, follow ups and small, one-question net promoter score (NPS) surveys. Look for feedback that’s quick, uncomplicated and easy for customers to give. No one wants to sit through a 20-question survey about a two-minute purchase experience.

When you gather customer data, be sure to listen. When there’s a concern, share it with your team. Bring it up on meetings and strategy sessions. Address the squeaky wheel. Chances are, if one customer ran into an issue, others will face the same one down the road, but might not speak up.

Other little touches that go a long way–offering customers electronic receipts rather than paper, providing little amenities like free shopping bags, candy at the checkout, packages shipped with little touches. When you address your customers online, use their names and yours (rather than, “customer service team”). Provide real photos of your employees, and add a human touch and personalization to the experience. It’s a simple step that costs nothing, but makes customers feel much more connected to your business.

Steps You Can Skip

Complicated focus groups, long surveys, instances where you try to upsell customers multiple times, endless pop ups and reminders. One or two follow ups, or an “are you sure” reminder when a customer closes a browser, are acceptable and even appreciated, relentless interrogation is just annoying.

Point of sale should be easy to navigate, fast and efficient. While it might be a great time to ask customers if they’d like to remember a sale item, or to tell them about a great deal, don’t hound them with endless offers when they’re ready to get out of the store (or off your website).

One of the easiest ways to have great customer service is to put yourself in your customer’s shoes. Secret shop, approach your website as an outsider, try to view your product, demo, explanation and follow up as a layman. Is everything easy to use, and simple? Can you get around without running into roadblocks? Be honest and look at it through a critical lens.

Customer service isn’t difficult, but it is critical. It’s the very lifeblood of your business and happy customers are repeat customers. Repeat customers will keep you strong and growing. Speak to your customers simply, and clearly. Give them what they want and they’ll keep coming back for more.

Megan Totka is the Chief Editor for ChamberofCommerce.com. ChamberofCommerce.com helps small businesses grow their business on the web and facilitates connectivity between local businesses and more than 7,000 Chambers of Commerce worldwide. She specializes on the topic of small business tips and resources and business news. Megan has several years of experience on the topics of small business marketing, copywriting, SEO, online conversions and social media. Megan spends much of her time establishing new relationships for ChamberofCommerce.com, publishing weekly newsletters educating small business on the importance of web presence, and contributing to a number of publications on the web. Megan can be reached at megan@chamberofcommerce.com. Website: www.chamberofcommerce.com