Is it realistic to shoot for 100% customer satisfaction? Can you really please all the people, all the time?
Not quite. You’ll always encounter tough nuts that won’t crack no matter the lengths you go to accommodate them. Sure as the sun rises in the morning, they’re a fact of doing business.
But you can surely do better to appeal to the broad middle than you’re doing right now. It’s not pie-in-the-sky at all to expect to delight the majority of your customers, the majority of the time.
Start with these 11 simple strategies to wow your clients and burnish a reputation for truly exceptional service.
- Don’t Be Obsequious
First, a word of caution: over-the-top customer service might not get you as far as you think.
“Loyalty has a lot more to do with how well companies deliver on their basic, even plain-vanilla promises than on how dazzling the service experience might be,” write Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman in the July-August 2010 edition of the Harvard Business Review.
In other words, companies that do the little things well excel at satisfying and retaining customers. They might not earn effusive praise, but their focus on not rocking the boat serves them well.
- Make Your Help Portal As Intuitive As Possible
Your website’s help portal is your first line of defense against charges that your company doesn’t do enough to keep its customers happy. Make sure it’s as intuitive as can be, with subject-segregated panels, clear contact details, and an extensive knowledge base that lets DIY types find exactly what they’re looking for. Use a third-party tool like Zendesk to organize and streamline your help assets.
- Don’t Hide from Your Customers
Nothing upsets otherwise understanding customers more than companies that seem not to welcome customer contact. Whether it’s actually the case or not, hidden or missing contact details suggest that you’d rather let your customers flail toward a resolution than step up and give them the hand they need. Inaccessibility won’t go unnoticed.
- Pay Your Customer Contact Team More
This is one investment you shouldn’t shy from. A streamlined help portal can dramatically reduce your customer contact team’s workload and allow it to devote more attention and resources to the relative handful of customers who can’t help themselves, but it’s not going to solve 100% of the issues your customers are likely to face. Make sure you’re training your customer service reps to handle every situation they’re likely to encounter and paying them at a scale commensurate with the importance of their task.
- Identify and Remediate “Problem Touchpoints”
Can you recite your weak spots off the top of your head? If you haven’t already done so, identify your key customer touchpoints and subject each to a remorseless SWOT analysis. If you can’t even say for sure where your customer contact apparatus is failing, you’re simply not going to be able to make the investments needed to improve it.
- Under-Promise, Over-Deliver
You no doubt already know the importance of over-promising and under-delivering. Extend this practice to every facet of your customer-facing operation, including routine interactions between low-dollar customers and first-line reps. Treat every problem like it’s worthy of a bespoke resolution. There’s no need to wait until an issue has escalated all the way up the ladder to take it seriously.
- Never Fail to Follow Up
Follow up on every significant customer interaction, including closed sales. Your customer’s needs, spend, and stated preferences will dictate the nature of your follow-ups, which can be as simple as a “thank you” email or as involved as a 30-minute account manager call. No matter what form it takes, the goal is the same: to convey to the customer that they matter, and that you value their business.
- Show Customers They’re in Your Thoughts
Follow up on your follow-ups, too. Even if they haven’t purchased anything or been in touch for a while, show customers they’re in your thoughts with small tokens of your appreciation: birthday cards, periodic discount offers, check-in letters or calls. Again, the specifics of your business and the stated preferences of your customers will dictate the nature and frequency of this outreach. It’s entirely possible to “touch” too much, so knowing when to back off is crucial too.
- Set Up a Rewards Program (Or Leverage an External Alternative)
Managing an internal rewards program may well be beyond your capabilities or resources, but that shouldn’t stop you from glomming on to an existing third-party scheme to keep your customers happy. Investigate industry- or geography-specific programs that seem appropriate for your business model and audience; many local chambers of commerce have bespoke loyalty schemes, for instance.
- Make It Easier for Customers and Prospects to Get in Touch
Does your website have an email contact form? A phone number with clearly defined active hours? A live chat interface, also with clearly defined active hours?
It needs all three of these things, plus a real-life email address to complement that impersonal contact form. Remember, your prospects and customers can tell when you’re trying to hide from them, and they don’t forget it.
- Be Ostentatiously Transparent
Don’t insult your customers’ intelligence with opaque, legalistic privacy policies and terms-and-conditions statements that you know they won’t read all the way through. Lay everything out upfront, in language a reasonable person can understand. Even if they don’t like what you’re telling them, they’ll appreciate the gesture.
What’s Your Customer Service Secret?
If you’re not yet employing any of the tips on this list, it’s not too late to start.
By the same token, you know your business better than anyone, and it’s entirely possible that you’ve determined that none of the tips on this list are absolutely essential to its success.
What’s very likely not possible: that there’s nothing you could do to improve your customer service posture or delight current and prospective clients. Every successful business owner has a prospecting, sales, or customer service secret sauce. If you have one, great: you don’t have to share it. If you don’t, what are you waiting for? Your competitors are working on theirs as you read.