Customer service : the 6 golden rules of communication

SMEs should consider customer service an essential aspect of their business development. After all, your sales and profitability are a direct reflection of your ability to satisfy your customers. Which is why it’s so important to adopt industry best practices when it comes to efficient communication and ensuring the longevity of your business.

Wondering if customer service is really all that important? The numbers speak for themselves. A study conducted by American Express reveals that 85% of Canadian consumers have at one point or another decided to not go through with a purchase transaction as a result of mediocre customer service. Imagine the number of lost sales the absence of an adequate customer service system can cause!

Even worse: a single bad purchasing experience can spread like wildfire. In 2018, the CEFRIO revealed that 32% of Quebecers have already posted a positive or negative comment about a brand or company on social media. Are you properly equipped to manage such comments—comments with the power to weigh down your virtual networks?

Models to follow

We can’t talk about customer service and communication skills without mentioning the excellent work done by many of our local businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.

Several distilleries announced a shift in their usual production, temporarily turning their alcohol business into a hand sanitizer business. The government of Québec made it their mission to hold a daily press briefing to inform the population of the latest developments. Even comedian Sugar Sammy decided to offer a free broadcast of his show, You’re gonna rire, on Facebook, while asking his fans to “stay home and be safe!”

The company Éconofitness, known for its fitness centres (which were forced to close during the confinement), quickly adapted by partnering with the fitness platform Ma Zone Fit (a virtual training tool), thus allowing its members to work out from home for 30 days for free. Not only did the company demonstrate flexibility, its management also succeeded at effectively communicating their new strategy to the public.

Inspiring, right? Here are a few tips to help YOU effectively communicate with YOUR clientele.

1) Develop your employees’ skills

The more your customer service representatives know about your business, the quicker they will be able to answer your customers’ questions—and the more precise their answers will be. And that’s often the difference between a successful customer approach and one with the potential of negatively impacting your SME.

Thus, it is vital that you share any and all relevant information with your employees, so that they can successfully interact with existing and future customers. When recruiting your talent, look for candidates with strong communication skills. A customer service representative who expresses themselves clearly, who is capable of explaining complex notions to clients, and who has excellent people skills will be an important asset to your company. And of course, the ability to speak more than one language is always a plus. . .

You should also make sure that your employees have access to a reliable information system, as well as the skills to properly navigate said system. A customer relationship management (CRM) software can help optimize your sales process by centralizing all your customer communications.

2) Adopt a personalized approach

Needs can vary from one customer to the next. And chances are, you’ve established a relationship of trust with each and every one of them. Yes, as head of an SME it’s important that you know your customers, but it’s just as important that your customer service representatives follow your rhythm. They need to show empathy and offer a personalized approach each time they interact with a client.

There are several resources at your disposal to help you learn more about your clients: their purchase history and communications with your company are a good place to start. There are other tools you might want to consider, such as a business-grade Wi-Fi service, which comes complete with advanced tools and connectivity. Such tools allow you to share access to several distinct networks with your visitors, employees, and equipment.

Thus, you can invite your clients to use a wireless network just for them, with a personalized login page that reflects your brand and company. A simplified connection means they can connect through their social media profile—another reliable way of collecting valuable information on your loyal customers!

3) Communicate regularly in times of crisis

It’s not enough to communicate with your clients when things are great—you need to keep the communication channels open even when times are tough. A good tip? Regularly update your website. Your website needs to serve as the link between your SME and your clients, both existing and future. A comprehensive FAQ section is a great way of providing quick answers to customers’ questions regarding product guarantees, delivery procedures, changes to business hours, etc.

And to limit the number of emails being sent to customer service and calls being placed to your call centre, consider installing a chatbot, which runs on artificial intelligence. A chatbot is probably the most relevant support system you can have when it comes to solving everyday issues. Many big-name companies use virtual assistants, including Purolator, whose chatbot allows consumers to redirect a package or make changes to a shipping address.

And finally, to round out your online customer support, consider uploading video tutorials to your website. They’re an excellent way of communicating important information or explaining specific procedures. Plus, they allow your customers to find the answers to their questions without having to contact you directly!

4) Develop your customer relationships on social media

Be present on social media. . . and remember that your best communication channel is instant messaging. Don’t hesitate to multiply your points of contact, especially if you have the resources to back them up. Ask yourself whether you’ve made it easy for Internet users to contact your SME’s customer service team.

Although a vast majority of your clientele is probably active on social media, having access to a physical location is also a good idea—that way your brand will shine via a multitude of channels!

5) Be transparent

Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Yes, you’re an entrepreneur, but you’re also a customer in your everyday life. You probably appreciate when suppliers are transparent and honest with you. For example, does the telecommunications company you’ve chosen to do business with pass the transparency test?

Do you expect a customer service representative to be attentive to your needs and offer solutions tailored to your business? Do you want to obtain clear explanations on the services you’re looking to buy? Well, remember that your clients have the same expectations towards your own SME!

6) React appropriately to a complaint

Whether an interaction with a client is positive or not, chances are you’ve managed to obtain some precious information! It’s a customer service representative’s job to resolve any issues and make sure everyone leaves the conversation happy. Make sure your SME has an official procedure for dealing with complaints.

And make sure this procedure is activated quickly and efficiently. Ask yourself: Is my team easily accessible? Are they equipped with a reliable mobile phone service to help process complaints in a timely manner?

And remember—it’s not enough to just put out fires once they’re already blazing (offering a replacement or reimbursement, for example). . . you need to be proactive in avoiding such situations altogether. Switch your mindset to one of “continued improvement,” and constantly innovate and perfect your procedures.

Objective: 360-degree satisfaction

When it comes to the customer experience, everything needs to unfold according to the consumer’s expectations, from their purchasing intent to the reception of their desired product or service. Marketing guru Guy Kawasaki, author of several books, often says that “the best way to drive your competition crazy is to make your customers happy.”

And finally, remember that working to maintain your current client base will always be less expensive than having to constantly rebuild it. So make sure your clients are satisfied with the customer service you provide them!

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