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You Need to Build Customer Service as a Core Competency

It's critical for a small or medium-sized business to have strong customer service. The obvious reason is that the more you can help customers, the better value they can extra from your product, the more likely they are to use it and recommend it. But the hidden value comes from testing out needs that the customer does not know she or he has. A great customer service program fosters constant communication between a company and its customers. And what falls out of communication with lots of customers is an opportunity for the company to recognize patterns in the feedback (read: complaints!). Pattern recognition will help with a root cause analysis.

Tips for small- and medium-size companies

  • Have all employees spend significant time (read: at least a week) in a customer service role. Marketing and Sales people will learn how customers talk about their product. Operations and Manufacturing folks will learn about issues with delivery, or product flaws. And executives will get beyond the numbers and see the qualitative side of their business
  • Weekly reporting from the front-line customer service representatives that will be shared with the entire team. This is where the pattern recognition comes in
  • Rate the entire company on customer service, not just the customer service employees. Make sure that goals for every department are tied to fixing some of the more nagging customer complaints
  • For small companies, do not scale your business faster than you can scale exceptional service. You cannot afford to frustrate a customer segment - you might go out of business. Better to grow slowly and delight your fans
  • Finally, engage with your fans on social media, and tackle any complaints head-on. Don’t hide, but reply publicly when a customer posts something negative on Facebook or Twitter. If you reply in private the company will look like its hiding something. Further, a public response will probably help other customers who have similar issues!

We all know that a disappointed customer will tell 20 of her friends about a poor experience. This can literally crush a small business. What’s often missed is that a business with a limited marketing budget can gain a huge – and loyal – fanbase by simply offering great customer service. You cannot afford not to treat your customers right!