Building and Maintaining a Vibrant Customer Base



BY ADELE CASANOVA

Every successful business needs a loyal customer base. How do businesses create such a base of clients for continued support? The answer lies in large part in the quality of customer service a business continually offers. Oxford Languages Dictionary defines customer service as “the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.” Another way to define customer service is to say it is the prompt and personalized assistance given to clients with their satisfaction as a main goal. Here are some techniques that a business can employ to achieve this level of service that results in creating that important loyal customer base.

Consistency and Competence

An all-important aspect of customer service is the consistency of quality of services and products. When customers visit a business regularly, they expect the quality of the experience, service, and product to never vary. The way to achieve this quality of service is through the combination of vision, documentation, and employee training. All of these pieces of the customer service model will result in competence on the part of the employees. Combined with customer loyalty rewards, these techniques will lead to satisfied customers.

Vision and Mission

For any business, the vision and mission statement should be the starting point for their definition of successful customer service. The vision and mission statement of the business should be shared with employees on a regular basis in order to maintain focus on the ultimate goal of customer satisfaction.

Documentation

Careful and complete documentation of expected procedures, services, and product features should be compiled and available to all employees. This should be a part of a comprehensive training offered employees that will result in competent and consistent customer service.  Knowledge of the business’s products and services is the core of successful customer service.

Employee Training

Consistent, ongoing training is a key component of this customer service model. Training should include a variety of aspects of needed job knowledge for superior customer service:

  • Product/Service Knowledge – Product features, service details, and pricing. This information can be included in training documentation and must be kept updated.
  • Communication Skills – Greetings, persuasion techniques, positive language choices. Live training sessions will allow employees to practice and perfect these verbal techniques.
  • Crisis Management – Handling complaints calmly and with empathy. Role playing during training can be extremely helpful in preparing employees for a variety of potential service complaints.
  • Time Management – Staying on task in a timely manner to maintain organization. Training employees to work through tasks in orderly sequence. This ensures the staff is ready with all needed supplies to carry out services on schedule.
  • Empathy – Connecting with the customers and keying into their needs and wants. Listening skills should be included in training.
  • Connection – Finding commonality and noting personal information for personalized service. Keeping records of customers’ purchases and service preferences can lead to special attention customers will value.
  • Inventory Tracking – Real-time inventory information that guarantees quality service. Have a system set up that automatically updates inventory and have that information readily available to all employees.

Customer Rewards

Customers love to feel valued and rewarded for their loyalty. There are many ways to reward customers, including loyalty cards, special sales, exclusive sales events, and rewards for reaching purchasing goals. Depending on the type of business, either product or service or a combination, there are many ways to combine rewarding incentives to encourage customers to return regularly. These loyal customers are a prime source for new clients through a referral program that can reward the referring client with bonus products and services. It is easy in today’s world of electronic communications to keep customers informed about incentive programs and sales. It is critical to gather contact information from clients in order to reach them with special incentives. Though most communication in today’s marketplace between businesses and customers is electronic, don’t forget the value of handwritten notes of thanks and appreciation.

It is certainly more cost-effective to serve returning customers that it is to recruit new customers. That is why a business’s loyal customer base is critical for continued success. Excellent customer service is a multi-faceted concept and requires vision, training, and incentives. New or small businesses without an extensive team of training professionals can follow trade magazines that highlight the successful techniques employed by larger businesses. Any techniques for customer service success on a large scale can be customized for any size business and made to fit that business uniquely.


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