Congratulations on starting your own business! Don’t sell yourself short: It’s the American Dream for so many people, and you are living it. However, regardless of how long you’ve been running your company, customer service is going to make or break it.
There’s always room for improvement when it comes to helping your customers have the best possible experience, from double-checking if they need any help in controlling the factors within the physical location itself. Here are the top six ways to improve your business’s customer service.
Making Updates on a Shoestring Budget
A lag in foot traffic doesn’t need to be a death sentence to your business, but it does mean that you need to start making some changes. Not all updates need to be extravagant and over the top; rather, there are many changes that you can make for free. This is especially true if you don’t have much to spend; the scary truth is that, according to Forbes, almost 70% of Americans have less than $1,000 saved up, so don’t be surprised if your money situation looks bleaker than you initially had thought.
If updating is looking like more of a cost commitment than you had initially thought, think of ways that you can start saving money to make your updates. This doesn’t mean pull a Frank Shirley and cut Christmas bonuses, but it does mean cutting some corners here and there. Some suggestions might be:
- Spend less on your meetings and event conferencing. Instead of having every meeting catered by Top Pot each week, perhaps buy everyone a carafe of strong Colombian brew and a variety of store-bought creamers.
- Executive transportation service is a beautiful thing, but there is a time and place. If Michelle Obama is visiting, by all means, spare no expense. But if your buddy Ricky is dropping by from Seattle, he will understand if you send an Uber from the airport.
- Turn off the lights. If you have an automated system that turns off an inactive room, all the better, but leaving unused lights on all the time is slowly draining your bank account. Leave reminders on the door to turn the lights off when leaving a room, and make it a habit yourself. Lead by example and your employees will follow suit.
Be creative! These are only a few suggestions, but the impact on how much you will save over time is worth it — and will hopefully help to fund your business’s overhaul.
Think About Your Company Culture
Clients appreciate a company that has a strong set of core values and a well-built culture. In fact, Forbes reports that up to 90% of customers research a business before deciding to work with them or not. Based on this number, take the time to ask yourself: What exactly are clients looking for, and how can you give them a great snapshot of your company in their research?
- Make your “About Me” page shine. What prospective clients really want to know about your business is your story. Give them something worth reading! Why did you start your own company? When did you leave your previous profession to make this one your baby? Be specific — clients love details!
- Put good effort into your website. Think about your own habits when you’re looking at a new company. If you were thinking of hiring a professional for any reason, the first place you look is online. Would you be more drawn to a clean, modern website with easy-to-read text and clear navigation…or a jumbled mishmash of text and outdated links?
- Ensure that your contact information is accurate. If customers can’t reach you, then how can you attract new business? Double and triple-check your website to make sure that you’ve got the correct and most up-to-date contact information. This doesn’t only mean your telephone number and address, but your website, email address, and any social media tags that you use as well.
Modernize Your Logo
We’ve already discussed updating your website, but now let’s take a look at your logo. Remember that your logo is the first representation of your business that customers will see, making it one of the strongest marketing solutions available to you. If you’re not sure about where to start, look at well-known logos for existing businesses. These businesses are so well-known that you already know their logos just by mentioning them:
- Social media sites: Twitter, Facebook, Instagram
- Technology companies: Samsung, Apple, Microsoft
- Fast food businesses: McDonald’s, Burger King, Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr
What do all of these logos have in common? Many things: For one, they’re all very clean, modern, and lacking in over-glossy special effects, making them mobile-friendly. For another, And finally, perhaps most importantly, they’re very simple; a single icon or letter backed by a solid color for most. This makes them easy to remember for clients and helps to make associations for your company.
Not everybody has an artist’s touch, though, so if you’re drawing a blank, look into specialists like product design firms. Highly experienced in their field, these professionals can help you rebrand your business from start to finish, designing everything from your new logo to updating the packaging on your products.
Amp Up Technology
It has always been true: To survive as an entrepreneur, you must spend money to make money. While this might seem counterproductive initially, think about the long-term benefits. Now apply this mindset to your current computer system. How’s it working for you and your teams? This is an especially important question if you run any kind of call center or client-facing business of any sort.
Updated IT services are hugely impactful, especially in today’s digital world. Examine every device that you use on a daily:
- Cash registers or other point-of-sale (POS) devices, including tablets and Square devices.
- Desktop computers, laptops, and variants like Chromebooks and Apple AirPods.
- Mobile phones, deks phones, and different applications throughout the day.
Now ask yourself the following questions:
- Do these machines do the job quickly and efficiently?
- Do I need as many devices as I currently have? Is there any way I can combine devices to have fewer of them?
- Can I or my employees easily use and learn this system? Is it user-friendly, or is it outdated and difficult to use?
- Do I have substantial data on my cloud/desktop storage? Will I have enough room to grow over time, or am I already nearing capacity?
You know your business better than anybody. If you are completely honest with yourself and your current needs, how well does your technology actually serve your business and your clients? There’s no shame in outsourcing help, whether that’s through data center services, an IT consulting firm, or simply asking your tech person what they suggest.
Look at Your Physical Location
Again, put yourself into a client’s shoes. If you look at your work environment objectively, what kind of place is it? Customer comfort is a big part of a good experience; an uncomfortable customer will feel edgy and ready to leave as soon as possible.
Examine the whole environment using all five of your senses:
- How does it look? Do you have a clean area with fresh paint, floors that are not stained, and a lack of clutter?
- Walk outside for a little bit to clear your nostrils, then walk back inside your office. Do you notice any unpleasant smells that might put off a client? These might include cigarette smoke, mold or decay, and unclean bathroom odors. Remember that some people have more sensitive noses than others, so this could in fact cause someone to feel like they can taste any gross smells.
- How does it feel? Do you have a quality HVAC installation circulating fresh air? Is everything in good working order? Look at well-traveled spots like hallways and elevators, and don’t forget that commercial elevator installation also requires yearly maintenance. Have your building or workplace inspected to check for any problems, and to quickly get broken items repaired.
- Listen carefully. Do you hear any noises that don’t belong? Squeaky door hinges, rattling floors, and wheezing computers can all contribute to an unpleasant customer experience. It’s worth remembering that sensory issues are not at all uncommon, and even small, easy-to-forget noises like these might bother some people more than you realize.
Though we mentioned cutting costs earlier, one luxury you might consider hanging onto are your professional cleaners. Everybody hears loud and clear that clean is the new black these days, and it’s reassuring to see that companies take value in a sanitary space. Ensure that your space is cleaned, disinfected, and is as free of germs and sickness-causing bacteria as you can make it. Besides, if your space is too big for you to clean it alone, then the service pays for itself in no time at all.
Provide Employee Training
It could be that the reason your business is having a lag is that your employees are improperly trained. Customers that have a negative experience with a service person are far less likely to come back to the offending business, so everyone must be on the same team when onboarding with you.
Speaking of onboarding, look at your processes. When you hire a new employee, what kind of materials are they given? Do you have a handbook or guide of some sort for new employees to follow? On the other side of the token, do you have too much paperwork that you’re overwhelming new employees? Materials aside, take a look at the physical on-the-job training they’re given before you send employees out on their own. Are you providing enough time for newbies to learn, to make mistakes, to ask questions?
Additionally, have a clear chain of command set in place. Staff who are unsure who to approach in a crisis will become overwhelmed, and the last thing you need is a frazzled staff in the midst of an emergency. Make it very clear to all of your employees:
- Who their direct supervisor is
- Whom to contact down the line in case the next person is unavailable
- What to do in case of a serious emergency
The more comfortable your staff is at work, the better they will perform for you. Proper training helps not only staff morale but also instills clients with confidence that they are in capable hands.
A terrifying thing happens when you don’t advertise your business: Nothing! An advertising campaign doesn’t have to be flashy and expensive, but if you don’t see enough fresh faces coming through your door, then this could be a good step to help. Some easy, effective advertising strategies for your company might include:
- Taking out ad space online. Sound hard and scary? It isn’t. In fact, it’s quite easy and can generate quick clicks, especially if you’re advertising on a local scale. Facebook ads, for example, can be as low as $.26.
- Printing business cards. Yes, the old school methods still work! Companies like VistaPrint will oftentimes offer specials, offering 500 business cards for less than $10. Give them out to your local bars, gyms, other small businesses, and anyplace else that you can imagine.
- Use window decals. It might not be your favorite idea to use your car as a billboard, but you can find custom window decal designs on Etsy. Design something just for you, and make it as big or as little as you like. This way you’re not sacrificing your entire vehicle, just the part that you want to use.
- Print out flyers. Again, old school methods are sometimes the best ones. Even if you’re not a whiz at Photoshop, you can find free templates online to help you print out a professional, classy flyer to hand out to customers. These can also be treated the same way as business cards: Bars, churches, restaurants, schools, etc. Hand them out anywhere you can think of!
Dream come true or not, nobody said that entrepreneurship would be easy. Contrarily, the small businesses with the most determination and will to succeed are the ones that do the best — and that takes hard work. Happy clients are the backbone of the business, and it’s not always easy to take care of them, either. But going above and beyond for your customers reaches farther than you might think.