Customer service advice for small businesses

If you’re a small business such as a dentist, medical specialist, auto shop, hairstylist, or veterinarian, you know how important each customer is to your bottom line. You can’t afford to lose a customer or patient due to a bad experience, and many of your customers might come to you specifically because they want the “white glove” customer support you can give them.

Every small business should strive to provide best-in-class customer support to its clients. The business that can make its customers feel special is the one who will foster loyalty and return visits. Additionally, your reputation – both online and via word-of-mouth marketing – will improve.

A Starter Guide: Customer Service Advice for Small Businesses 

Treat every client like they’re you’re only client… to a point

For any business, quality customer service and support are vital in keeping customers happy and willing to recommend you to their family, colleagues, and friends. If you strive to treat every client like they’re your only client, it’s a win-win. Just make sure you’re not neglecting other clients. Some advice:

  • If you can, assign a Customer Success Representative to each client, and try to have this be the point of contact for that client. Establishing a consistent representative for your business can help make your customer feel more comfortable and understood.
  • Avoid canned responses, and when possible, tailor your communications directly to your client, making sure to keep their preferred communication method and channel in mind.

Set boundaries and expectations… make sure you’re on the same page

If you’re going to grow your business, you need to recognize that some customers are better for your business than others. What this means is that as long as you show respect for your customers and treat them well, they will (and should) respect you and how you run your business. This is the customer that will help you grow, and the kind you want to keep coming back. If you don’t set boundaries with your customers, they can end up creating unneeded stress and consuming valuable time. Some advice:

  • You don’t need to be a 24/7 business if that doesn’t fit within your business model. It’s important that you run your business on your own terms and establish a clear day-to-day schedule with your customers. If you continue making exceptions, your customers might understandably not even know when you are truly open, and continue to expect “after hours” service.
  • Keep your business listings online up-to-date and send out text and/or email communications to your customers when you have modified or changing hours.

Handle things promptly… remember who your audience is

When you’re dealing with anything on social media, it’s critical to always respond quickly and in a professional manner. According to some studies, over 67 percent of Internet users are on social networks, and this means that you need to develop strong relationships with your customers on and offline. Think of it like a relationship: if one side thinks the other isn’t communicating, listening, or engaging, then a breakup might be on the horizon. Remember…

  • On social media, silence leads to losing customers – no response, or a slow response, can be read as apathy or coldness by customers
  • You don’t need to respond seconds after a post, but you should respond. Some incentive? A Harris study showed that 18 percent of people who posted negative reviews and received a reply went on to become loyal customers. And 70 percent reversed the content, either by deleting the negative comment or posting a follow-up positive one. 

It never hurts to ask… for referrals and testimonials 

If you’ve been in business for more than a few months, you probably know that referrals are one the most effective ways to grow your business and attract new, loyal customers. However, you also may HATE asking for referrals, or just not know how. Don’t assume that your customers will just talk about your business, and your great customer service. Remember: the more you ask for referrals, the more you’ll get. Here are some tips:

  • Make asking for a referral part of your routine. With some systems, like Demandforce, you can automatically send a referral follow-up to customers who have just visited your business. These are great ways to not only collect feedback on how you’re doing, but also allow your customers to review you and post those reviews online. Remember that most people like to help out others, especially if it’s not a complicated process.
  • Combine asking for referrals with requesting testimonials – consider creating testimonial cards that you can pass out at your front desk, so that someone can write one and then either drop it in the mail, or email you back. You can also send a targeted email requesting a testimonial or feedback from customers who have rated you highly in a review.

Looking for more advice on how to provide best-in-class customer service? It’s always a good idea to improve your communications, and Demandforce can help. Contact us today to see a demo. We believe in stellar customer service as well! Every Demandforce customer is paired with a Customer Success Manager, who will help you set up and optimize any and all Demandforce features to best suit your business and business goals. Call us at (888) 272-7821, or visit demandforce.com.

 

Managing client expectations with improved client communications

In any small business or practice, managing expectations is crucial to building and maintaining a successful relationship with your clients. However, if you don’t manage client expectations early, you could find yourself in some tense situations later on down the road, or experiencing low retention of your clientele.

One way to manage client expectations is to communicate early on how you’ll send out notifications, updates, or important information that your clients might need/want to know.

Send a Welcome Email

For example, if you are a salon who has recently seen several new clients, we recommend sending out a targeted Welcome email, thanking them for their first visit, and providing more detailed information on your services and history.

If you use a marketing and communications platform like Demandforce to send these messages, you can track open rates and specify specific people to receive the email, all based on data synched directly from your salon management system. And Welcome messages sent via Demandforce have an average open rate of 50 percent! (Based on 2016 Demandforce data).

Find Out Your Client’s Preferred Method of Communication

Another way to manage client expectations is to take time to chat with your client during their first visit, and ask them for their preferred method of communication. You can even ask for their consent to send text message updates, or special offers you might be running, and you can confirm that the data you have in your system is up-to-date and complete. This allows you to make sure that when you send a message, via email, voice call, or text, it’s not unwelcome, and your client knows that you might be contacting them.

Continue to Reach Out

One common mistake businesses make that can affect client expectations is to stop communicating with them after the first few months. If your salon or small business emphasizes a personal touch, and friendly family atmosphere, you need to make good on your promise. Set up custom email campaigns to send automatically to specific clients, promoting specials, loyalty rewards, or discounts. Celebrate important milestones with them by sending birthday and anniversary greetings. And make sure that your clients never miss an upcoming appointment by setting up automatic appointment reminders and recall campaigns to send out based on data collected in your management system.

If you continue to nurture the relationship you have with your client past the first visit and beyond, you’ll turn a new client into a loyal client—and you’ll always exceed your clients’ expectations.

For more information on how you can use the marketing tools and communications solutions provided by Demandforce to manage your client expectations, visit demandforce.com/salon-and-spa.