The holidays are hectic. We tend to get so blinded by urgency and overwhelm that we lose our patience, our steam and our stamina. For business owners, this is a BIG no-no, which is why it always pays to be prepared. When you’re prepared, you keep your cool and, as a business owner, that’s your most important job. You, my friends, are the referees, the ringleaders, the trailblazers. It’s your level of service that sets the tone and that’s why your ability to keep up is most critical. That quality of service you provide is also what determines your business’s success. I’m just saying….
A business becomes a brand when it provides an all-encompassing cohesive experience and, when that happens, you are no longer just a business owner – you’re a brand manager. Your customers are what help you keep that brand strong so, you gotta keep ’em psyched! When you go out of your way to embrace your customers as a community that you’re willing to help [especially during the busiest times of year] versus as a following or a number, you position yourself as an industry leader and build excitement that leads to loyalty. Therefore, your goal, beyond that of generating sales, should be to create a memorable, positive experience for those you serve YEAR ROUND and not just when it’s convenient.
So, how do you keep your stamina strong and your customer service top notch? Well, from brand manager to brand manager, here is my #1 piece of advice:
Be proactive instead of reactive.
If you don’t already, you should have a structured customer service plan for you and your team to follow. Often times, this will be a hefty part of your business’s marketing plan. This is because your social media networks, website, and any other affiliated marketing campaigns act as free flowing communication channels of which you encourage customer participation. A customer service plan will allow you to set clear parameters for how you will use each of your channels to serve customers, how you and your team members will maintain consistency in properly serving those customers, and how you and your team will handle crisis communications in unfavorable situations.
For example: I once represented a client who had a strict customer service plan set in place but, it was because of this that they never missed a beat and were able to own their space. Though they had large followings on their social media channels, they used their website as their main customer service funnel. They did all of this simply by having a process in place that allowed them to maintain clarity and accessibility. It included some of the following:
- A comprehensive FAQ page that was visible on the homepage of their website, along with a company email address and phone number.
- Their online response time was always within 24 hours.
- They had autoresponders set in place for email, phone, AND social media messaging portals so they could automatically follow up with customers outside of normal business hours, and then provide even more info upon return.
- They used systems like Sprout Social, Hootsuite and Tweetdeck to track inbound and outbound communications across their social media networks.
- They had a communication disclosure note on their Facebook page, which promoted transparency about their customer service policies. “We want to hear from you! While this forum is to discuss [brand name]-related news and information, this is not an official customer service forum. If you have a specific question or concern and need to reach us, please call [phone number] or email [email address].”
- Their social media content was pre-planned and helped personalize their networks so customers felt they could reach out and were confident they would receive a response.
- When customers commented on that social media content, it was always acknowledged with a Like and/or reply – whether positive or negative. They had a strategy for the positive wall posts and comments and a strategy for the negative wall posts and comments.
- Finally, they used their social media channels to proactively assist customers by observing and reaching out with convenient solutions and answers to industry-related questions.
Fact: This brand was successful in their endeavors because they were committed to a proactive approach of consistently building a COMMUNITY instead of a following and did so by being accessible, transparent, accommodating and thorough. These customer service tactics and more consistently strengthened their community of followers and drew an abundance of new customers to their brand.
Bottomline: When you treat your audience like a community versus a following, you have the ability to become one heck of a brand. It doesn’t matter if your workforce is 1 or 100, customer service is 99.9% of the gig and you HAVE to own it. When your customers know that you’re there for them and that you care, they’ll stick around. The fact that they can rely on and relate to you keeps them wanting more. Tis’ the season to humanize your business and be there for your customers because, at the end of the day….
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