The simple things that you and your employees do to greet employees, answer the phone and follow up to questions have a great impact on your customers' thoughts about your small business. Those little gestures can also have a huge impact.
It sounds simple: If your small business treats a customer better than the giant retailer down the street, then it's very possible that you'll get their business before the big box does. For many consumers, it boils down to common courtesy. Here are a few things that all small business owners could do -- and encourage their employees to do -- to offer great customer service to customers and clients:
- Greet customers when they walk in the door. Doing so is also a good step toward security: Those who come into your small business with bad intentions may quickly change their minds once you and your employees make eye contact and simply say hello.
- Answer the phone like you have time to talk to whomever is on the other end of the line, like that caller is your favorite caller of the day.
- Listen to exactly what every client and customer is saying, and ignore the personal cell phone ringing in your pocket.
- Remember, customers blog. With the click of a mouse, they can share the good and bad of dealing with your business. Some bloggers can share that information with thousands of people in a matter of seconds.
- Address customers by name if you can.
- Say "please" and "thank you" and "you're welcome." These simple words go much further than a "sure" or "uh-huh."
- Treat employees well. They'll pass the respect and appreciation on to clients and customers.
- Deal with complaints. Don't let an e-mail or phone call, even an unpleasant one, go unanswered. And follow through. If you're going to find something for a customer in the back, don't let yourself get distracted along the way. (Here's how to respond to email complaints.)
- Be honest. If you don't have it or can't do it, just say so and try to offer an alternative.
- Smile. Empathize.
Related resources: Small business customer service