• How to Provide Outstanding Customer Service

How to Provide Outstanding Customer Service

Everyone wants customers who come back and who tell their friends great things about your products and services. So how do you do it? By delivering a great customer experience. Read on for ten ways you can wow your customers, with specific examples for inspiration.

How to Provide Outstanding Customer Service

1. Provide Outstanding Pre-Customer Service

Customer service doesn’t just refer to those who have already made a purchase. It encompasses the entire experience, including that of becoming a customer. After all, the way you treat a person who’s considering your business will impact their decision to go with it. Outstanding service to those who are interested in becoming customers might look like:

•  Providing a guide to help them determine which product or service is right for them (this could be a page on your website, a printed guide in your store, or a downloadable PDF
•  Accommodating unique needs of your shoppers, such as by setting up an area or station for children to stay entertained while their parent(s) shop or obtain information.
• Offering free consultations and helpful information, completely independent of whether your prospect is going to commit.

Treating your potential customers with careful thought and attention gives them a taste of what it will be like to be a customer. Even if you do not land that customer, a memorable and pleasant experience is often enough for them to spread the word about your business anyway and help to strengthen your reputation.

2. Seize Mini-Opportunities

Take advantage of every opportunity to show your support for your customers.  You don’t show great customer service through big and flashy events (at least not always); it gets revealed through what non-outstanding-customer-service-providing businesses see as seemingly unimportant actions over time. Every time a customer engages with you on social media, sends you an email, or calls your business, they’re giving you an opportunity to deliver great customer service.

Be grateful for those opportunities and make the most of them. In fact, that “gratitude-first” attitude alone will help you to do so. Here are some mini opportunities to provide outstanding customer service:

• If a customer engages with one of your social media posts, engage back on that thread and also select one of their posts to engage with.
• Respond to email inquiries immediately, even if you have to acknowledge that you’ve gotten the message and will get back to them within 24 hours. You could even include a link to a helpful blog post or attach a help doc for them to refer to in the meantime.
• When on the phone with a current or potential customer, refer to them by name. As Dale Carnegie says, “A person’s name is the sweetest sound.” This isn’t meant to manipulate or “sweet talk” them. Simply inserting their name into the conversation gives them assurance that you’re focused on them, and may even help you with your focus throughout the conversation.

3. Go the Extra Mile

This may seem like an obvious one, but when you think back on your recent experiences with different businesses, you’ll probably realize that only a handful of them actually went the extra mile and left a strong positive impression on you as a customer. Going the extra mile might look like:

•  Staying open for 15 minutes later to allow a customer who’s running late to pick up their order.
•  Making an exception to a particular “rule” or charge for a deserving customer.
•  Presenting finished products with a personal touch. For example, instead of simply providing photos through a website link, a photographer could have their client over to view the photos together over coffee.
•  Send customers a note on their birthday with a special discount.

Going the extra mile doesn’t only make for outstanding customer service, but also helps to set you apart from competitors and strengthen your brand.

4. Provide Honest Recommendations

Another way to provide outstanding customer service is to stay true to adding value to your current/potential customers—even if it means recommending a different business or less expensive option because it better fits their circumstances. It may mean less business for you today, but this type of honesty leaves a lasting impression and comes in handy for opportunities down the line.

5. Empower Your Customers

It’s important to emphasize the word service in customer service. While your business exists to help your customers, this should not be positioned as you being able to do something they can’t or having more knowledge about your industry than they do. They are investing their money into your business,  and you are using your skills and resources to serve them.  Make sure that your approach (to content, conversation, advertising campaigns, and more) is that of empowering the customer to get what they need. You exist to equip them. Examples of offering outstanding “empowering” customer service include:

•  Publish blog posts that educate your audience. You can even teach them how to DIY what you do. This emphasizes that your main goal is for them to get what they need. If it means learning how to do it themselves, that’s okay. You’ve earned their trust and down the line when it comes to something they can’t or do not want to do themselves, they know they can count on you.
•  Curate content and promote it on social media. You can be a thought leader and an expert in your field while also sharing useful content to your target audience.
•  Use empowering words and themes in your marketing content, such as with “You deserve it.” or “Take control of your ______”.

6. Offer Customer-Exclusive Benefits

Offers exclusively available to current customers provides outstanding customer service that will help to nurture relationships and retain those customers. They became a customer in the first place because they decided that your products and services were worth the investment. It’s important to continue reinforcing that their decision was the right one. Here are some examples of customer-exclusive offers:

•  Offer sneak peeks, free trials, or free samples of upcoming products/services only to existing customers.
•  Give birthday discounts.
•  Give out discounted tickets to your events for those who are customers.
Here are some more sales promotion ideas to give you some inspiration.

7. Make it Easy

Think of the most important and most frequent actions being taken by your target audience with respect to your business and make sure each and every one is easy to perform. Whether it’s getting in touch with someone, making a purchase decision, finding information, or something else, your customers should not face any barriers. A seamless experience is an outstanding experience. Here are some ways to make it easy for your customers:

•  Implement live chat on your website so visitors can connect with someone immediately and at their convenience.
•  Create help documents for common issues, place them in email templates on a FAQs page or a resources page on your website.
•  Make your website navigation intuitive and designed around common scenarios for your visitors.
•  Limit the number of fields for your forms. Only ask for what you need, make it easy for your audience to obtain your offers.

8. Build a Culture of Customer-Centricity

As a small business owner, you have the opportunity to build your business’s culture. Your culture incorporates elements of your company’s mission, traits of your individual team members, and common values you all share, but you can maintain that “recipe” while also making your culture customer-centric. Every interaction with your business, no matter who it is with or under which circumstance, is an experience with your business, and if it is ingrained in your entire team to value and prioritize the customer (or even audience member), you place your business on the path to becoming word-of-mouth-worthy.

9. Let Your Customers Define “Outstanding Service”

There are many general best practices for customer service, but there are also niche-specific actions you can be taking to really wow your customers. Not only are you facilitating customer satisfaction, but you are also showing that you’ve taken the time to learn about how to best serve them. To understand the ways you can show outstanding customer service to your niche, try these tactics:

• Conduct customer surveys (but don’t forget #7—make it easy to do!) to measure satisfaction and obtain feedback.
• Announce when changes or updates to products, services, or features are due to feedback.
• Have one-on-one conversations with your customers, and be intentional about wanting feedback and suggestions on how to be better.

10. Engage Your Customers

Don’t just serve your customers; develop and nurture your relationships with them. A relationship is a two-way street, so it’s important to get them involved. The more you engage with your customers, the more you can organically learn about them and their needs, and the more valued they feel. Here are some ways to engage your customers:

•  Ask questions in your social media posts where customers and followers can provide their input
•  Host community events where you can get to know your customers and community members better.
•  Run an Instagram contest using a custom hashtag
•  In general, stay in touch with your customers in helpful and relevant ways. Newsletters with updates, announcements about promotions, information they would want.

11. Bonus Tip: Use Surprise

Going the extra mile is one thing, but doing it at a time that they least expect it is another. Adding an element of surprise to your customer service efforts, much like with guerrilla marketing,  can make the experience more memorable and meaningful.

Providing outstanding customer service consistently will not just wow your customers; it will also help you to stand out from your competition and generate word-of-mouth referrals. Make it a priority to go the extra mile, and the impact will carry your business for miles and miles to come.

Kristen McCormick
Kristen McCormick
Kristen is the Content Marketing Manager for ThriveHive, where she geeks out daily over SEO, organic traffic, and A/B testing. When she's not equipping business owners and marketers to get their name out there through effective content, she's out pedaling the streets of Boston on her beloved bike.

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