What constitutes good customer service? Is it always being there for your customers? Is it the speed with which you respond to them? Is it making sure your customers can get their questions answered quickly and in any number of ways? To put it simply, the answer is yes. These aren't the only aspects of a good customer service strategy, but they are definitely important ones.
In the technological age, even the way we serve our customers has changed. People want information at their fingertips. They want answers to their questions fast. It is a time of instant gratification and everybody wants to get their information in a different way. Some people want to speak to a real person, others enjoy their anonymity and self sufficiency, while others still want just a little reassurance and assistance. There are a number of ways small and home based businesses can ensure that they are giving their customers the same, if not better, customer service than their bigger competitors.
Clickable Customer Service
The internet seems like an obvious place to start. Most people, when looking for information, are now looking online first. It is important that you have a presence on the web. But you can't just stop there. Having a website up is just the start. Now you have to ask yourself, "What is it that people are going to be looking for when they come to my site?" This question needs to be applied to people that are already customers, as well as people that you hope will become customers because great customer service starts well before the person decides to do business with you.
Once you have that question answered, you need to make sure that whatever information they are going to seek can be found in a number of ways. A good to place to start is a comprehensive Frequently Asked Questions section. This database of questions and answers should be an ongoing project and not a stagnant list that is never revisited. Make sure you are updating and adding to your FAQ's on a regular basis.
Another online customer service tool is a live chat program. This allows your customers to chat with you or representatives in real time instead of sending an email and waiting for a response. This is a great tool for those quick questions and for those people that just need a little confirmation.
These two customer service solutions coupled with a comprehensive and easy to navigate web site take care of about half to two-thirds of people that have come to look for information. But believe it or not, there are still people out there that want to pick up the phone and call you.
Reaching Out To Touch Someone
I know it may seem strange to some, but there are people out there that would still like to speak to an actual person when they have questions or problems. Too many companies are trying get away from the one on one personal contact and that is a grave mistake. By relying too heavily on automated information, you can easily frustrate and alienate your customers.
As I said before, a lot of people are going to look for you first online. Once they find you however, there are going to be some that want to make sure there is someone behind the text and graphics as well as want to speak to a real person to get their questions answered. For small and home based businesses a good solution is a virtual PBX system. A virtual PBX is an automated phone system that has all the same functionalities of the phone systems that Fortune 500 companies use, without the large bulky equipment and for the fraction of the cost. Two of the features that are going to help with your customer service needs are the automated attendant and the call forwarding.
The automated attendant is going to serve two purposes. It is going to project a professional image to your caller and it is going to direct your caller to the information they need quickly. For example: "Thank you for calling ABC Company. Press 1 for sales, 2 for technical support or 3 for billing. If you know the extension of the party you are trying to reach, you may enter it at any time."
For those businesses that do not have enough employees to have created such departments, no worries. Virtual PBX systems are flexible and you can actually have all the calls directed to the same place regardless of what the caller presses. However, your caller is still given the impression of a larger and more established business.
Secondly, virtual pbx systems are also flexible in the way that they forward your calls to you. With a virtual pbx, you can forward calls anywhere you wish - home phone, cell phone, business phone - and then change it anytime you wish as well. You can also program in more than one number so that if the call goes to the first number on the list and is not picked up, the system will try the next number. This allows you to make sure your customers can always reach a live person.
If for some reason you are not able to take the call, a virtual pbx will usually have a missed call notification system in place such as an email, page or call letting you know that you missed a call and have a voicemail waiting. Nothing impresses customers more than having someone answer when they call or someone getting back to them in a timely matter if they do have to leave a message.
In this age of instant gratification, you need to make sure your customers can get the information they need, when they need it and how they want to get it. That is just a basic part of good customer service today. It is always a good idea to revisit your customer service practices and see how you rate. Ask yourself the questions. Can my customers get the information they want easily, quickly and in different ways? If not, it may be time to adjust your customer service strategy and tools.
Brandi Cummings, an expert in the field of virtual telecommunications, recommends checking out Freedom800.com (www.freedom800.com), for more information on how a virtual PBX can enhance your customer service.