Effective Customer Service – Have you ever read any report that says a certain percentage of businesses fail before the fifth birthday? This means if businesses were kids, parents would mourn on or before they were age five. This is like giving birth to a business idea that won’t outlive you. Let’s put a print to a report I read. About 20% of small businesses fail in their first year and 50% fail in their fifth year. The data shows that in March 2016, 80 %( four-fifth) of the businesses failed. In that same report, from 2014 to March 2016, 66 %( two-third) of small businesses that operated failed. From 2011 to March 2016, 51% (one-half) failed and just 30% (One-third) of all businesses opened in 2006 made it to March 2016- fundera.com.
The statistics above show what can go wrong with businesses than go right at a given time. Only 30% made it through to the ten years pass mark. Whatever happened to other business after one decade?
WHY THE MASSIVE SME FAILURE IN THE FIRST TEN YEARS?
A CBInsights analysis of 101 failed start-ups put the reasons for business failure to include inadequate or non-availability of the market for product/service, low cash flow, wrong team, competition, pricing, poor product/service offering, poor business model, poor marketing strategy, and customer neglects/poor customer service. Of all the causes of business failure, neglect of customers or poor customer service is the only reason customers might go and never look back. Customers can forgive you for having a bad team, ignore your pricing, manage your offering and completely unconcerned about your business model and marketing strategy, but with customer experience, it’s always personal. They would have seen the ugly side of your business and want an end to it. Everyone wants to look at something beautiful, not an ugly-faced customer approach. Unfortunately, churned customers naturally take up the unsolicited job description of spreading a bad gist like a burning bush. This further extends any business’s churn rate. Nigerians would run before seeing what’s pursuing. Just to hear ‘it is coming’ and everywhere is dispersed. Same with the market, it only takes to hear about the bad service for customers to make exit decision.
COMPETITION, TECHNOLOGY, AND CONSUMER EXPECTATIONS
In recent times, Technology and competition have increased consumer expectations of improved service. Fact about this expectation is that it refers to the needs of a consumer in the market place. These needs are driven by opinion on a product or service. It is why consumers would go for a good/service over another, or chose a company over the other. There are now highly informed preferences for exceptional service. Customers are now informed about what to expect from a business and what to do if they aren’t getting what they ought to get.
How do competition and technology then affect customer expectations?
The level of competition in the business environment suggests that if an individual isn’t satisfied with a service received, he has a variety of options. He understands that if a business isn’t able to meet his expectations, there are arrays of other businesses that would. For instance, as a newbie, I bought a particular brand of clippers for a commercial haircut. After few shaves, I realized the Clippers were getting so hot. Later, I was informed the brand I bought was good for only private use. I was so disappointed in this brand and moved on immediately to another brand that was good for commercially barbing.
Here is my point. How best your business would enjoy a reasonable market share is mostly hinged on the quality of your product/service. This, on the other hand, can’t hold an angry customer from leaving. Increasing competition is the reason businesses now pay attention to satisfying customers at every given opportunity.
Customers used to know about a product or service through formal communication like advertisement and campaigns. This mode of product/service awareness still plays a major role, but what plays a differential role is the level of information available to consumers through informal platforms. Customers can now get information about any product on a social platform like Twitter and Whatsapp. Information influences expectation, product evaluation and the extent it satisfies the need. Unlike before, now you can do the most market search for a good/service online without going from one shop to another due to technological advancement. Consumers now do research on product and service; comparing cost, product composition, and other benefits before making brand and buying decision.
WHAT IS THIS EFFECTIVE CUSTOMER SERVICE?
Customer service is often relegated to mean the response or feedback you get from call centers or service care unit in an organization. Whilst this is part of it, it is not all of it. Customers have basic need hence their patronage. However, customer service basically addresses the way you take care of this need professionally. It is the help you give to your customer before, during and after their requirements are met. For instance, Mr. A needs a Television and thus needs information on size, model, and cost. He either checks your website or calls your customer service to get valuable information (Before). After adequate information, Mr. A decides to come to the office or showroom where he would be attended to by the sales team who delivers impressive service (During). After the purchase, an experienced person is then assigned to deliver the TV, install and do an after sales follow up to make sure he enjoys the product (after).
Effective customer service is when you know what your customer wants and you give it to them the way they want it. It is improved relationship between your customer and your business. No matter how great your service/product is or the set of skills acquired by your staff, customer experience gets solidifies by the interaction they have with your brand. As an SME, you seek the best way to deliver your offering such that it promotes customer interaction, appreciation, and feedback.
A service isn’t effective until you have customers that can vouch for you. It is like the throw pillow of your business coach. Your customer will not only be loyal to your business, they will make excuses for you, refer your goods and service to others (unpaid marketing) and create awareness for your brand.
HOW TO ENSURE EFFECTIVE CUSTOMER SERVICE
- know your product; If you don’t know your product and service in and out, you can’t help your customers when the need arises. Effective customer service starts with the basic knowledge of what you offer and how it works.
- Know your customers; gather enough feedbacks from your customer, this way you will know what delights or irritates them.
- Minimise bottlenecks; try to enforce seamless approach to resolving queries whilst you take full responsibility. Don’t make your processes tedious or exhausting.
- Under promise – although you understand what to do to make your customer happy, do not over promise. Rather, under promise and over deliver.
- Go the extra; there is always that extra thing you can do to blow your customer away
- Communication skills; your customer service skills should include knowing how to interact with customs clearly enough you are neither misrepresenting nor misinterpreting either party’s interest. Keep every interaction simple and clear leaving no doubt whatsoever?
- Be Patient; customers may come across as frustrated and confused a few times. You need to stay patient with them to understand they need you. More so, confused customers tend to confuse your more unless you stay patient.
- Be Attentive; I got badly drenched sometimes ago and it affected my wristwatch. The next day, I took it for repairs. Whilst the repair guy was checking it, he was using the other hand to press his phone and using one eye to watch the T.V. I showed my displeasure but he didn’t even care. The thing is not every customer say things the way they feel. Some don’t even say anything at all. They just exit through the door.
- Response time; this has to do with how quickly you respond to inquiry, sales, complaint, request etc.
- Follow-up; there should be a system in place that allows adequate follow-up on customers after sales through mails, calls, Sms etc
For your business to stand a chance, you should be willing to inculcate effective customer service in your dealings. There are many businesses that offer the same thing as you, but the experience you offer would have your trademark.