‘The customer is always right,’

Except of course on the many occasions that they are wrong. At times like this you need to bring all your customer service skills in to action, or that customer could cause your business a lot of damage.

Even one customer, if they’re treated badly, can spread the word among their friends and family, and before long, everyone seems to know how bad your customer service is. With the rise of social media, word can spread like wild fire and before you know it your business’ reputation is being dragged through the mud.

In 2006, Harriet Rae went shopping in her local Superdrug. While she was there, two employees decided to discuss her appearance and what they thought of it, and their comments were not complimentary. They were also made extremely loudly so not only Harriet heard them, but other customers too. Harriet went home and told her story on Facebook, and thanks to the power of social media her post was shared all over the country. It was one bad incident of customer service in her local store but it didn’t take long before Superdrug customers everywhere knew about it.

Hardly surprising that Superdrug head office soon got to hear the story and got in touch with Harriet with a private and public apology. Had they failed to do so, their customer service reputation would have been in tatters.

Small businesses just starting out have to make sure that their customer service makes every customer feel valued: the slightest slip could have disastrous consequences. You must remember that people are more willing to tell other people about bad experiences, than they are about good ones.

When it comes to your customers there are a number of dos and dont’s which can help or hinder your business.

The good and bad of customer service

Never be rude

If a customer has had a bad experience with you or your business, they may get angry. If you respond with anger, things will soon escalate and not only will you lose their future custom, but your business reputation too. If they swear at you, never swear back.

No matter how angry a customer is, always stay calm. Encourage them to explain the problem to you so that you can help them. If they feel that you really want to listen, they will calm down and you can begin to resolve their issue. A little patience can go a long way to maintaining a reputation for caring about your customers, and will often mean that you don’t receive any negative comments online.

Never ignore

You know how it is: you walk in to a store and the staff are so busy chatting that you feel ignored. If you send an email enquiry and don’t hear back, you feel ignored. If customers feel ignored, they will go somewhere else.

Even the smallest of businesses will experience times when they have to make their customers wait before they reply to them, and that’s fine, as long as you handle it properly.

Customers do not know if you are busier than normal, or if you have staff off sick. If you know that you may not get back to them immediately, acknowledge their enquiry so that they at least know you have received it and you will look in to it. If they have sent an email, then it’s easy to set up an automatic response to keep your customers informed.

A simple action could help prevent someone telling everyone they know about how you simply don’t care.

Respond to feedback

You many not ask for it, but some customers do like to provide you with feedback. Mostly this is negative, but on occasion they could be complimentary. Whichever it is, always react to it.

If a customer has praised a product or staff member, thank them. If they have provided negative feedback, do not send them a negative or insulting reply. Even the worst feedback can be constructive, so instead look at their comments and consider if there is a way for you to act on it to improve your service.  You may find that they have highlighted an issue which you were not aware of.

Having done this, thank them for their comments and let them know that you will act on it. If they think you have listened to them, they are likely to use you again and let others know just how good you are.

Provide clear information

One of the most frustrating things for any customer is to receive confusing or conflicting information.

This is often unintentional on the side of the company, but it can pose enormous problems. If you have sent out information about an offer, for example, make sure everything is clear and easily understood. If it is not, then you may find that your customers expect more than you are prepared to give them – and that poses you a problem. It’s always worth asking someone to read through any information before you send it out so that you can create a professional attitude from the start.

Customers can also be angered if you prefer to quote terms and conditions of any offer, rather than listening to their complaint. Terms and conditions are there to protect you, but if you have made a mistake, it won’t give the best impression if you simply rely on them, rather than resolve the complaint.

Treat everyone as an individual

This is possibly the most important point when looking to give good customer service. You may have heard the same complaint 10 times that day, but never give any customer the impression that you are simply going through the ropes and you don’t really care.

Every customer matters, whether they only spend a small amount with your company, or a large amount. When it comes to spreading the word to others about your poor customer service, it’s just as easy for a small buyer to make their issues known publicly, as it is for a larger one. Treating everyone equally will soon get you a good name and people will be happy to recommend your services.

The golden rule of customer service is to treat everyone with the same respect with which you would like to be treated yourself. One word of anger can soon spread on social media, so if you take the time to consider your customers, you will find that word spreads about how reliable and respectful you are, and that’s the best way to build up a successful business.