The Art of Customer Service for Small Businesses
-By Sonja Robinson
What is customer service?
“Customer service is the support you offer your customers — both before and after they buy and use your products or services — that helps them have an easy and enjoyable experience with you. Offering amazing customer service is important if you want to retain customers and grow your business.” by PhilipKotler, Consultant, Professor and American Author of over 80 books including many textbooks on marketing.
Simply put, customer service is your bread and butter to making a sustainable and profitable business both as an entrepreneur and a company.
Why Customer Service?
I have been working in various sales roles for different industries. One story around customer service that stayed with me was at the Four Seasons, New York. As an employee at the Four Seasons, we each received a small pocket card that had the Four Season’s mission, vision, and value statement for us to memorize. They made it mandatory for us to call each guest by their name, know their preferences, worries, special requests, and more. It is customer-centric and makes them feel unique at every hotel stay – no matter where they stay.
Why all the hassle? Well, the company wanted to make sure their customers would stay longer, return as often as possible to their properties around the globe, and refer new clients. They needed to set themselves apart through their distinguished rules on how to treat their customers. A home away from home was their motto, and it worked very well.
You may be familiar with one of the greatest and well-known marketing gurus; Philip Kotler, and his magic formula with the 4P’s (product, price, promotion, place). While marketing is not directly related to customer service, it is very interconnected.
Coming back to the art of customer service; how and what can I contribute?
Following my bachelor’s in Hotel Management, I worked for McKinsey (management consulting), FIFA (event marketing), Right Management, and ultimately Korn Ferry (Leadership Development Consulting). During this time, I completed the MSc in Change Management – I always had a sales hat on!
Selling was constantly at the forefront of my role: reaching my targets and winning clients to create work that I am passionate about. I learned early on that the client is king and never forgot that.
What can you do to make your client feel valued?
It all starts with curiosity about that person and their business.
Continue with sincerity and authenticity to find their needs or obstacles.
Make them feel understood, trusted, important, unique, and irreplaceable.
Ask open-ended questions and listen carefully. Paraphrase and confirm to make sure you understood their needs.
Provide feedback and ask for feedback.
Marketing Management is the art and science of choosing target markets and getting, keeping, and growing customers through creating, delivering, and communicating superior customer value.
– By Philip Kotler
This is not a recipe for success, but if you get your 4 P’s right, this will surely increase your chances of success and distinguish you in the art of customer service. The Sales Cycle Model illustrates the natural flow of the sales process. However, these soft skills will ensure you are getting to a successful closure. They act like spices around the main dish without which, your dish will taste bland.
You can go a long way with a product that is not the ultimate hype, a price slightly too high, mediocre promotion, and selling in the wrong places if you have the greatest customer service.
Customers have a world of choices. They are the decision-makers on where and when to spend their money. In such a diverse and saturated market, it is tricky to find a product that stands out. However, your customer service soft skills are what your customers will treasure and value enormously.
Even if you are not yet ready with your 4Ps and have not made final decisions on your service and/or product, there is a lot you can do. Such as:
You can start using customer service skills to connect with colleagues, companies, suppliers, and competitors. It will help you understand the needs of your ideal customers, streamline your offer, and finding your target audience.
Putting yourself in the shoes of the person you are talking to, use the soft skills, and observe what happens.
Keep observing and taking notes on how people react, what they want, what makes them curious, what they do not like about the products and/or services.
As passionate as you may be about your newly developed product or service, you will go nowhere if you do not master the art of customer service. You may ultimately find out that you are much more passionate about your product and/or service than the actual customer.
Thank you for your attention and wishing you continued success on your entrepreneur journey.