These small customer service actions can lead to big payoffs.

May 17 2019 | PayPal editorial staff

Keeping customers happy can be your secret weapon for sustaining and building your small business. But unless you have a dedicated customer-service staff, it can be easy to forget day-to-day customer cultivation when you already have a lot on your plate.
This list of customer-relationship tips may seem like common sense – but remember, it can be the little things that pay off most. Make it a habit to ask yourself if you’re taking these steps to heart during every customer interaction. If you’re not, there’s no better time to start than now.

1) Respond promptly.

Never forget your customers are just as busy as you are, and that, at the end of the day, they’re paying to keep your lights on. Adopt a service-oriented mindset and make sure your customers can see it in action. Hold yourself accountable by establishing a response-time service level agreement (SLA), like 24 hours. When you respond to someone in a timely manner, you start to establish trust. Your customers will see that you’re reliable and available to them. 

2) Meet customers in person.

Find ways to show your customers that you’re in business not because you have to be, but because you believe your products and services are the best ones out there. Meeting your customers in person – at farmers markets or craft fairs, for example – shows that you’re personally invested in your business. Jeff Malkoon, founder of Peanut Butter Americano, sells his natural nut butters at farmers markets for this very reason: They’re a great place for small-business owners to gauge their products’ success and get direct feedback from customers.

3) Be confident.

Make sure your customers know they're getting the best product out there. Don’t be afraid to show off a bit at times by demonstrating your abilities or expertise. This is the face you put on for marketing. Customers want to be impressed and reassured that you truly believe in your product. You’ll reinforce their confidence in your product, which means they’ll click on the “buy” button more readily.

4) Apologize quickly and offer solutions.

Problems will arise – that’s the nature of running a business. And some of those problems you can foresee. Others? Not so much. For common customer-service issues – like needing to exchange for a different size – have a response and solution ready so you can reply to customers promptly. For more-challenging problems, let your customers know that you’ve heard them and are working on a resolution. And don’t forget to apologize for any trouble or inconvenience it’s caused them – empathy can be powerful. After you offer a solution, follow up with a call or email to make sure that the customer is happy with the result. 

5) Bring positive energy.

Every interaction with customers adds up. Hopefully, if you’re happy to be in business, the positive energy will come naturally. Share your pride through a friendly interaction, or even a little bit of humor, and you’ll give your customers a good feeling that they’ll associate with you. Be upbeat. 

6) Be transparent.

This is part of developing a service-oriented mindset. Make sure that customers know what product or service you’re providing, exactly how much it will cost, and how long it will take to get it. Nothing fouls up a customer relationship like unpleasant surprises. 

7) Listen to customers.

The only way to understand what your customers need is to ask them – over and over again. Chances are, their needs will evolve over time. Remember that a good idea can come from anywhere (customers, employees, and friends and family). When people give you feedback, accept it eagerly and with an open mind – and let them know that you’re listening. 

8) Get invested in your customers.

Don’t take your customers for granted, even if they seem secure. You’ll cement a connection with them if you show them that you don’t just want a sale, but you want to please them individually. This is service with feeling – which is a philosophy embraced by Lisa Brooks, founder of Heart & Soul Personal Chef Service.
 
“People do business with people they like and who they connect with,” she explains. “If you don’t have the passion behind the thing you’re doing, customers will see right through that.” In her case, it’s why Heart & Soul’s customers stick with her: “They’re paying for me – for my passion.”
 
Your customers have a lot of choices for which businesses they want to patronize. No doubt in your own market niche, there’s plenty of competition. That’s why customer-relationship building should be a daily focus in every part of your business – from merchandising products, to giving customers lots of payment choices, to delivering promptly and solving problems.
 
Don’t forget, customers choose to do business with people who respect their needs. Inspire customer happiness, and you’ll inspire their loyalty.

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The content of this article is provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent business, tax, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.

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