The customer experience continues to be a key differentiator for businesses and organizations across all industries. According to research compiled by Salesforce, 75% of consumers expect a consistent experience, no matter where or when they engage with a brand. This means that providing top-notch service is more critical now than ever.

Consumers value personalization, prompt service, and proactive resolutions when they engage with small businesses. The majority of Americans believe smaller companies place more emphasis on customer service than larger companies.

It may be difficult to maintain your focus on customer service when you are juggling the day-to-day challenges of running your small business. However, the good news is that making improvements doesn’t require a big expense or a massive operations overhaul. As we celebrate Halloween and kick off what is for many businesses the busiest time of the year, here are some simple steps you can to take to help ensure that your team is “treating” customers to stellar service – now and throughout the holiday season.

Get Everyone on the Same Page

Many business owners assume that their entire team understands the importance of customer service. The reality is that each employee is likely to have his or her own ideas about why it matters and what standards they are expected to meet. To ensure top-flight service, you need to get everyone on the same page.

This can be as simple as creating a customer service “declaration” for your business. It should make it clear that the customer is your number one priority, and that everyone who interacts with a customer must fully embrace company standards. If you plan to hire and train seasonal staff for the holidays, be sure to include your entire customer service team in any education sessions so everyone has a chance to refresh their knowledge.

Take the Temperature

In order to provide a quality customer service experience, small business owners need to understand what customers expect and what matters most to them. Keeping current with the latest trends in customer preferences as well as leveraging your own customer data can show you where to focus your efforts.

Many business owners are unaware of what it’s like to be a customer of their own business. Every time you interact with a customer or client in person or over the phone, have a quick discussion to gauge how things are going. This simple step will help you get a read on their satisfaction level and allow them to raise any issues or concerns. It also demonstrates your commitment to continually improving your service.

Be a Good Listener

Many customer service issues could be avoided if small business owners paid close attention to customer feedback. Listening when customers voice their opinions and encouraging them to express how they feel will not only help you identify areas of concern and pinpoint issues that need improvement, but it will earn their loyalty and differentiate you from the competition.

It is equally important to speak with your employees and to take the time to really listen. Your sales, customer service, or relationship management staff has in-depth knowledge of how your customers feel about working with you and using your products or services. Their insights are invaluable when it comes to understanding customer behavior and establishing the ongoing engagement that builds retention. These teams might also see opportunities for creating or improving your products or systems and generating new business.

Be Accessible

If a customer can’t reach you when they need to, you could lose them forever. They want to know you’re there for them day or night, whether it’s to answer a simple question or come to the rescue when there’s a catastrophe.

Think strategically about steps you can take to minimize concerns about accessibility. Depending on the nature of your business, being available could mean providing 24/7 phone or Internet access or opening satellite offices in strategic markets. Sometimes there is nothing better than old school, face-to-face interaction with your customers. Whether making time for a quick coffee or traveling across the country for quarterly sit-downs, getting to know them personally is often the key to forging  long-term relationships.

Just as you train your customer service staff to deliver prompt service in person or over the phone, you should monitor your online contact center technologies regularly to make sure they are working properly. Menu choices should reflect any current issues like product recalls as well as promotional offers. Responding quickly to customers through optimized practices is essential to winning their trust.

There will be times when, despite your best efforts, you or your service staff will be unsuccessful in meeting a customer’s needs or resolving a particular problem. However, showing genuine concern and a willingness to help will go a long way towards establishing your reputation as a brand worthy of their trust.

A Positive Customer Experience Improves Your Bottom Line

It’s critical to establish customer service measurements of success and to make sure these measurements are understood by every member of your staff. For example, if you want to increase the dollar amount of the average purchase your regular customers make, measure that as a goal for which your customer service team is responsible. If you have a customer survey process, use the results to determine areas where your team can continue to improve.

Delivering a positive customer experience is crucial to your bottom line. Research has shown that financial success is directly linked to customer satisfaction, and providing first-class customer service can help your business succeed regardless of your competition or the current economic climate. While it’s true that improving your service is never “one and done”, it is an investment that pays endless dividends.

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Summit Financial Resources specializes in working capital financing for small to medium-sized businesses that need increased cash flow. We provide working capital financing through invoice factoring, asset-based lending, inventory lending, and equipment financing.