Establishing great customer service requires intentional planning.
From being accessible to showing appreciation, good customer service leads to repeat customers. — Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

The level of customer service you provide demonstrates your priorities and the value you place on your customers. Good customer service can generate new and repeat business, build a positive reputation and differentiate you from your competitors. Bad customer service can have a negative impact on these same areas of your business.

Being intentional in a few key areas of your business can help you develop healthy customer relationships that accelerate business growth. These few steps can put you on the right path:

Be accessible and responsive

Customer service—whether it’s run by a whole department or just you—needs to be accessible and responsive to customers. How easily customers can contact your business and how quickly they receive a response are key factors in their decision to be loyal to you or move on to another brand.

Make it easy for customers to contact you. If a customer needs help making a purchase, using your product, returning a product or even lodging a complaint, they should be able to do so easily. Information for contacting customer service should be clear on your site, on your sales receipts and in your store. Consider offering multiple ways for customers to contact you so they can choose which works best for them. Some options include:

  • Phone
  • Email
  • Web form
  • Online chat
  • Social media messaging

Monitor all communications. Not responding to an inquiry should not be an option. You don’t want someone who was unable to reach you via phone to then email and wait days without getting a response. This may motivate them to take the situation public by posting on your social media accounts. At that point, you’d have to both respond to an angry consumer and do some cleanup of your reputation. To avoid this scenario, only offer the communication channels you’re able to monitor and make sure that an employee is always monitoring and responding.

Respond in a timely manner. According to a Google survey commissioned by Zingle, a business-and-consumer communications platform provider, the number one customer service priority for consumers is a speedy response. One helpful technique is to automate a response on your email account and social platforms letting customers know you’ve received their message and giving them an estimated response time frame. If you are not able to always answer when customers call, make sure your voicemail message indicates an estimated call back time frame. Setting this expectation lets customers know they are important to you and can help you reduce customer frustration while they await your response.

Utilize technology and external services as needed. There are many options for getting help if you cannot respond quickly and effectively to inbound communications. You may benefit from implementing a CRM system, hiring a call center or accessing administrative support through an outsourcing service.

[Read: Need Customer Service Help? Time to Consider a Call Center Service]

The best way to understand how well you are serving your customers is to get their input.

Value customer feedback

The best way to understand how well you are serving your customers is to get their input. Giving them ways to communicate their experience and opinions will also help them to feel valued. There are several channels for gathering customer feedback:

Follow up on recent purchases. How might a customer feel if they receive a “thank you” message from you within 24 hours of making their purchase? Technology makes it easy to follow up to ensure a customer is happy, give them a way to ask questions and encourage them to review your company. You can text them, send an email or message them on social media. Your audience demographics should help you to determine the best way to connect.

[Read: Want to Improve Customer Retention? Try These 3 Expert Strategies]

Create spaces for dialogues. Rather than talking at your customers, engage them. Make your social media accounts places where you and your customers share comments and photos of your product and other things related to your industry. Invite customers to take surveys to help you improve your product and business, and ask happy customers to post reviews.

Respond to reviews. Getting online reviews improves your search engine rankings and helps potential customers assess your business. How you respond to these reviews helps consumers get to know you. Monitor review sites, learn from the feedback posted and respond in a timely and appropriate manner to both positive and negative reviews.

[Read: A Complete Guide to Managing Online Reviews]

Show appreciation

If an issue does arise, helping your customers is a lot easier if they’ve known from their first interaction with you that they and their patronage are appreciated. There are several ways to demonstrate this to them:

Personalize the customer experience. Each of your customers is unique. Some are brand new while others have been with you for years. Some spend a lot at one time and others make many small purchases over time. Your customers’ selection of products varies, as do the ways they want to learn more about your offerings (e.g., through email, social media, website visits, etc.). Review data of your customers’ purchases and preferences so that you can communicate with them in a more personal manner.

[Read: Welcome Back! How to Boost Customer Retention and Drive Repeat Business]

Create a loyalty program. What better way to demonstrate appreciation than by rewarding repeat business? Set up a loyalty program that not only shows that you value your customer but also incentivizes them to purchase from you again (such as through a points program) or to rave about you to friends (such as through referral rewards).

[Read: 5 Ways to Build Trust with Your Customers]

Customer service at its core is about valuing your customers and ensuring helpful two-way communications. Paying attention to this area of your business can go a long way toward building a loyal customer base and a positive reputation.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Want to read more? Be sure to follow us on LinkedIn!

To stay on top of all the news impacting your small business, go here for all of our latest small business news and updates.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

Interested in a small business membership?

Find out how the U.S. Chamber of Commerce can help your company grow and thrive in today's rapidly-evolving business environment. Connect with our team to learn how a small business membership can benefit your bottom line and help you achieve your goals.