7 SMB Customer Service Secrets

Wednesday, March 24, 2010
Posted by Brawlin Melgar
It's no secret that customer service is as important to SMB's as it is to any large corporation. 

Here are seven secrets of driving customer loyalty -- and profits! From customer service /customer experience expert Micah Solomon

1. Did you shine that doorknob? Research shows that customers remember the first and last minutes of a service encounter much more vividly -- and for much longer -- than all the rest of it.  Make sure that the first and final elements of your customer interactions are particularly well engineered, because they are going to stick in  the customer's memory.
2. Set your clocks forward: Modern customers expect speedier service than did any generation before them. In this age of Blackberrys and iPhones, of Amazon.com and Zappos, you might as well not be there if you're going to be late. A perfect product delivered late equals a defective product. 

3. Customers want to connect with a real person—online or off. For example, instead of a web-based chat window that blandly announces "you are now chatting with Jane,"  try "you are now chatting with Jane Yang-Katzenberg."  The customers will treat your "Jane" better, they'll take her advice more seriously -- and they'll be more likely to want a committed customer relationship with her company.    

4. Remember each returning customer.  Whatever your business—and no matter how large, work to achieve the computer-assisted effectiveness of a beloved bartender, doorman, or hairstylist -- the kind who would know Bob's preferences, the name of Bob's pet, when Bob was there last ... Superb client tracking systems can create that same "at home" feeling in your customers -- regardless of the size and price point of your business, and whether it exists online or off. 

5. Anticipate a customer's wishes.  When a customer's wish is met before the wish has been expressed, it sends the message that you care about the customer as an individual. That cared-for feeling is where you generate the fiercest loyalty. 

6. Don't leave the language your team uses up to chance.  Develop and rehearse a list of vocabulary words and expressions that fit your business brand perfectly.  For example, the expression "no worries" sounds fine if a clerk at a Portland Bose® Audio Store says it, but would be exceedingly off-brand for the concierge at The Four Seasons in Milan. Equally important, search and destroy any vocabulary words that could hurt customer feelings.  For example, your service team should never tell a customer "you owe us." (Try instead: "our records seem to show a balance…")

7. Be patient when filling positions.  In a superb service organization, a single disagreeable or unresponsive team member can erode customer loyalty and team morale.  That is why it can be better to leave a position unfilled rather than rushing to hire someone unsuitable.  More generally speaking, customer excellence is most fully achieved once you become expert at recruiting, selecting, training, evaluating and reinforcing the efforts of service personnel.

About the author: Micah Solomon, Customer Service and Business Development Expert, Co-Author, Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: 
The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization
(AMACOM Books/The American Management Association, April 2010)

Micah Solomon is an entrepreneur, business leader and author. He built his company, Oasis Disc Manufacturing, from a one-man, one-room operation into a market leader in the independent entertainment field as described in Success magazine, Seth Godin's bestseller Purple Cow, and in other case studies and profiles in the business press. Micah is also the founder of The College of The Customer – www.collegeofthecustomer.com – an educational website for business executives and administrators. He is a sought-after keynote speaker and consultant. 
Micah is co-author of Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit: The Secrets of Building a Five-Star Customer Service Organization, with Leonardo Inghilleri of The Ritz-Carlton and West Paces Consulting, foreword by Horst Schulze, Founding President and COO of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company.  Publication is in April 2010 by AMACOM Books (The American Management Association) and international distribution by McGraw-Hill Books. It is available for preorder and sale at Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble, and 800-CEO-READ, the executive book specialists.