Finding success as a young entrepreneur means being responsible for quality customer service. You may have the best product out there or offer the most in-need service. But without happy customers, you have no income.
You are the backbone of your company’s customer service practices. If you run your enterprise by yourself, then it’s all up to you. If you lead a team, then lead by example. Customer service is not something you can afford to skimp on.
When your customers are happy, they are more likely to keep coming back to you for more business. They are more likely to recommend you to others. They give you good reviews on social media and consumer websites. Happy customers are the foundation upon which your business grows.
Here are a few words of wisdom for making – and keeping – your customers thrilled to hand you their money again and again.
TREAT ALL CUSTOMERS WITH RESPECT
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it’s worth repeating to yourself. The customer who spends $1 at your shop is as important as the customer who spends $100.
No one wants to feel like an afterthought, a burden, or like they don’t matter. Show as much attention and delight to the potential customer who is just browsing as you would to a customer making an enormous purchase. Do whatever it takes to make each person feel like they are your favorite customer.
*Your takeaway: ALL customers matter. Treat each one as if they are your best and favorite.
KEEP UP WITH YOUR SOCIAL MEDIA
Being a young entrepreneur, you already have an online presence. Right? Whenever someone tags you, make sure to respond in a timely manner. Naturally, there will be times when you can’t respond immediately. That’s ok. But make an effort to respond within 24 hours. Sooner, if you can manage.
This is where you’ll answer questions and address concerns. Take the time to acknowledge each customer’s issue and respond with respect. If they are being rude or unreasonable, step away and take a deep breath so you don’t lose your temper. Once you post it online, it’s there, so be mindful of your words and tone.
On the flip side, do address positive comments and reviews, too. Show gratitude. Be humble.
*Your takeaway: Customer service is an interaction. Make sure you keep up your side of the conversation with patience and understanding.
BE A PROBLEM SOLVER
When a customer has an issue, they want a little sympathy and understanding.
They also want action from you.
What are you going to do to fix the problem? Perhaps there’s a way to guide the customer through whatever problem they’re having so they get the product working. Or maybe they were sent something defective by accident, in which case you need to offer to replace the product as quickly as possible. If all else fails, offer refunds and future discounts. One of the key qualities of a successful young entrepreneur is the ability to problem-solve.
*Your takeaway: Customer issues are not to be dismissed lightly. They’ve given you their money. Give them a solution.
PERSONALIZE THE CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
If you’ve ever ordered from Etsy, you know that many times the seller will include a lovely, hand-written note of thanks. This is exactly the kind of personal touch that will make your customers feel appreciated. They’ll remember that small bit of kindness. You took time out of your busy day to personally thank them for choosing to do business with you. Printing out small cards with your company logo shouldn’t cost too much. Writing on them with a quick “Thank you!” can have a massive effect.
Service businesses can also show appreciation with a personal touch. Little notes left at the site of the work, or follow-up emails that mention a specific aspect of the job you enjoyed doing.
*Your takeaway: Just as you want your hard work to be validated and valued, customers want to know their patronage is appreciated.
UNDER-PROMISE AND OVER-DELIVER
Don’t overbook yourself. Don’t offer overnight shipping if you can’t get to a post office the next day. Don’t promise to get a task done in less time than you know it will take.
There’s an old saying: “under-promise and over-deliver.” While you don’t want to under-promise to the point where no one wants to do business with you, neither make sky-high, impossible claims. While you may be tempted to stretch the truth or make outrageous claims to score business, doing so will come back to bite you in the butt. Young entrepreneurs are too smart for that.
No one is angry when their product arrives early, or the job gets done sooner than anticipated. That actually looks good for you!
*Your takeaway: Better to err on the side of caution with issues such as delivery times and how long a job will take.
Your business is printing shirts with an original design on them. You worked hard on that design. You’re super proud of the work you did. But now, a customer has asked if you can print a t-shirt for them…with the design in a different color.
You have a choice here. Protect your ego and dig in your heels, or go with the flow and graciously accept the commission.
Of course you can charge a little bit more. And of course you can let the customer know that this may take longer than a regular order.
Good customer service includes the ability to be flexible. This shows you take your customers seriously and treat them as individuals.
*Your takeaway: Giving customers what they want is key to keeping them happy.
ENCOURAGE YOUR CUSTOMERS TO COME BACK
Include a card with a discount code for 10% off their next order. Add a freebie to the package. Offer free samples.
These are a few ways you can keep customers coming back for more. Think about it. Who doesn’t like free stuff? Let your customers know what’s in it for them if they return to you for more business.
*Your takeaway: A little “bonus” from you could mean the difference between repeat customers and one-timers.
At the end of the day, excellent customer service is one of the pieces of your business you must invest in. While this shouldn’t take long (or cost a lot), the returns can be enormous.
The Kantner Foundation offers college scholarships to young Florida entrepreneurs. Ready to learn more? Click here to see if you are eligible!