When you’re a small business looking to grow, you need every advantage you can get. For many, that means considering a wealth of different marketing strategies, new channels, and maybe even changes to the product or service itself.
One area that we often overlook is customer service. The research shows, however, that a focus on customer experience and personalization leads to increases in revenue and loyalty. With that in mind, here are some things that can help you get a competitive service advantage.
1. Conduct a Customer Experience Audit
As we mentioned, customer experience is a huge differentiator that can make a big difference in whether or not someone decides to continue doing business with you, and even go the extra mile with a referral. Do it right, and you can convert a customer into a fan who will always be in your corner.
If you’re looking for a competitive advantage, a good place to start is with a customer experience audit. That starts with getting specific about what you’re trying to achieve. In short, what are your customer experience goals? To increase customer engagement? Boost referrals?
Stating your goals is the first step towards seeing if you’re actually effective at reaching them. From there, it’s a matter of mapping out each touchpoint in the customer experience and asking yourself what you’re doing to meet those goals.
Hitting your customer experience goals is ultimately about removing friction. Customers expect seamless integrations between the online and in-store experience, and your technology needs to support that.
It should be easy to test this online, whether that’s by confirming that a particular item is in stock at a particular location, or booking a reservation from mobile. Make things easy for your customer at every touchpoint, and you’ll reap the rewards.
2. Conduct a Customer Data Audit
The amount of data we have at our fingertips is larger than ever before, but we need to make sure we’re using that data to impact the customer experience. Depending on where you do business, for example, California, you may already need to take a second look at your data for data compliance. While you’re doing that, take a step back and think about how you’re leveraging that data.
If your customer tells you something about their preferences, remember it. Get that important information in the hands of someone who can make a difference in the customer experience: your employees.
If a customer bought something from you in the past, maybe there’s an opportunity for someone on your team to ask them about it at the next interaction. Go through your touchpoints and leverage the data you already have to make the experience more personal, easy, and positive.
3. Live Chat
If you’re not using live chat already, you’re missing out on a simple way to increase customer satisfaction. Here are some quick stats via Nicolas Cole at Inc.com.
- 42 percent of consumers say that they prefer live chat functions because they don’t have to wait on hold.
- 92 percent of customers feel satisfied when they use the live chat feature.
- 44 percent of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person during an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer.
- 51 percent of customers prefer live chat for multitasking purposes, with another 21 percent preferring live chat so they can shop while they work.
For customers that handle much of their communications over SMS and messaging apps, live chat is a lot more convenient than having to dial a number and potentially wait on hold. Live chat is easier to implement than ever before, with several different solutions on the market to help you get up to speed.
4. Focus on Employee Engagement
We all want to feel good about our job, and experts tell us that the customer experience and employee engagement are intrinsically linked. If you’re looking to gain a competitive advantage from your customer experience, you need to take a second look at how you’re enabling your team to make that happen.
At every service interaction, your employee is the face of your brand. They have the opportunity to step in and turn a customer service problem into an opportunity. To do that, they need to be empowered to use their best judgment and not blame things on “company policy.”
You need to create an environment where going the extra mile is rewarded. It’s not a mistake that many negative restaurant reviews focus on the service without mentioning the quality of the food (or even say that it was good).
What You Can Do Right Now
If you’re looking for competitive service advantages for your small business, you need to be focusing on the customer experience. That means knowing every touchpoint and what you’re doing to meet your customer experience goals.
Creating this advantage involves leveraging the data you already have, but it also means empowering employees to treat customers the way that they would want to be treated. It also means removing friction wherever possible, and tools like live chat can help make that happen. Focus on customer experience, and you’ll have what you need to gain an edge.
- Conduct a customer experience audit to understand your goals and how you can meet them.
- Take a second look at what data you have and where you can use it in the customer experience.
- Use live chat to remove friction from customer service interactions.
- Empower employees to go the extra mile.
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