It’s no surprise that providing good customer service is an important part of running a small business. This post has tips about how to interact with customers so they’ll keep coming back.
Why it’s important
As a small business owner, you wear a lot of hats. The thought of making time to answer questions on social media can be daunting. Kellie with Old Field Farm definitely understands – on top of selling her soap, she also works full time. She said there are a lot of talented makers out there, so it’s important to stand out with fast and friendly customer service.
“I feel like the customer can go anywhere with access to the internet,” she said. “We really try to make our customers feel important. We like to respond quickly to let them know we hear them.”
Beautiful soaps by Old Field Farm.
Reputation is another aspect to consider. Many small business owners can’t afford advertising, so word of mouth is very important. Sarah with Spicy Pinecone said you need to be consistent, fair, and efficient with every customer.
“People talk and share their experiences – both good and bad. In the age of social media, your actions will be spoken about,” she said. “No matter what happens, you must always remain professional and never discourteous, give the customer your full attention, and always use your manners (even if your customer is a difficult one).”
First you need to decide how you want to appear to your customers. You want to be polite and professional no matter what, but you can also choose a specific tone. Do you want your service to be fun and bubbly? Or more laid back and conversational? Pick the tone that feels the most true to you, and then apply that to every facet of your business.
A good place to start is your website. Sarah makes her product descriptions very thorough – she lists the size of the product, what it looks like, a description of the scent, and the ingredients for people with allergies or sensitivities. She also recommends having easy-to-find policies that address how you handle returns, damages, exchanges, custom orders, etc.
“The face you present in person or what your customer sees in your store or website will stick with them,” Sarah said. “And what they see should always be professional and courteous.”
Spicy Pinecone’s gorgeous Spring Garden soap.
Even with a comprehensive website, customers will still have questions. Sarah and Kellie make sure to schedule time at least once a day to answer any emails or comments. Give yourself enough time to provide thorough answers.
For instance, Kellie recently got an email from a customer concerned about the use of sodium hydroxide lye. She responded with information about lye and why it’s necessary to make soap.
“Education is key,” Kellie said. “It was easily cleared up and she just loves her soap.”
Don’t forget to interact in other ways as well. Marcela with Majestic Bliss Soaps makes sure to respond to compliments and tagged photos as well. She keeps the conversation going by asking questions.
“I don’t want them to think it’s a machine they’re talking to,” she said. “I want them to know they’re speaking to someone representing the company and someone who cares.”
Marcela standing next to a display of her products in Whole Foods.
Interacting with unsatisfied customers
Not all contacts are going to be positive. First and foremost, Marcela recommends listening to what the customer is saying and trying not to get defensive.
“When people do respond in a not so great way, we tend to feel our product is being attacked,” she said.
Before responding, Marcela recommends taking a moment to collect yourself. You can switch to a new task, grab a cup of tea, take a walk. Then, come back with a fresh perspective.
Marcela tries to communicate to the customer that she cares and understands their frustration. In a recent interaction, she immediately apologized to a customer and offered to either refund the purchase or send a replacement. Marcela said once the customer realized they were going to work with her to fix the situation, she calmed down and thanked them for the way they handled it.
“We don’t know what they’re going through,” Marcela said. “It could be anything – what matters is that we provide the best service.”
If you’re not sure how to resolve the situation, Sarah recommends asking the customer directly. That can save a lot of back and forth and you can come to a compromise.
“We’ve all had our ‘you’ve got to be kidding’ moments, but how you respond to them is extremely important,” she said. “If it matters to your customer, it should matter to you too.”
If the interaction doesn’t go as planned, consider it a learning experience for next time. As a small business owner, you’re constantly improving as you go – even if you’ve been selling your products for years.
“There’s always room for growth,” Marcela said.