Quick, easy ways to identify customer service problems

Dissatisfied customers usually won’t come back. In fact, we’ve all heard the startling statistics of how a bad customer service story spreads so much faster than a good one. That’s why it’s so important to continually take the pulse of your customers’ happiness.

However, happiness is difficult to measure. Unlike traffic and revenue figures, happiness can be elusive in nature. In addition, unhappiness can have a lag effect on revenue that you won’t feel for months, or even years.

Fortunately, there are several easy ways to check in on your customers. Build these tactics into you customer service rituals and you’ll be the first to know about potential problems.

Just ask

The easiest way to find out if your customers are happy is to simply ask them. This can take the form of a quick question at check-out, such as “Did we measure up to your expectations today?” or “Is there anything we can improve?” These simple, quick questions can be easily tracked and may reveal things you haven’t noticed or anticipated. Another way to ask your customers about their experience is with a quick survey conducted via email or phone. The key word here is “quick.” Your survey should ask five or fewer questions, and be clear and easy to answer. Here are a couple for starters:

  • On a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the best), how would you rate our service?
  • Will you visit us again? (yes/no)
    Why/Why not?
  • Will you recommend us to a friend? (yes/no)
    Why/Why not?

Check and encourage online reviews

If you’re not already in the habit of checking search engines for mentions of your company, add this task to your list. You should also set up alerts to let you know when your business is mentioned on the Web. Once you’ve got a handle on where people are talking about your business and have claimed your listings, ask for reviews from your customers. And remember, LOVE unhappy customers because they give you an opportunity to know something about your business that you may not have found out otherwise.

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The first step to constructively using online reviews to improve your business is to professionally and diplomatically address the reviewer. Acknowledge the mistake and offer to assist the reviewer offline. The second step in using these reviews is to look for patterns of the complaints. Are customers more likely to be unhappy during peak hours or when being assisted by a particular department? These answers can point you to trouble spots. Thirdly, DO something about the problem.

Talk to your employees

Your salespeople, customer service reps, and phone operators are gold when it comes to great information about your customers. Make it a regular habit to check in with your employees about how they feel your customers are feeling about your business. If you’ve changed a policy or upped your prices, get their read on your customer’s reaction. All information — however trivial it may seem — can be helpful.

Measure loyalty

Keep a tab on repeat business. It can be your first, very sensitive, indicator that trouble is brewing. If you’re getting great traffic and revenue numbers, but are failing to secure repeat business, there may be something in your customer service processes that doesn’t measure up. New traffic is increased by sales and promotions, whereas repeat business is increased by great customer service. If and when the new traffic decreases, and your repeat business isn’t there to take up the slack, you’re going to be in trouble.

Remember the big picture

The payoffs for keeping your customers happy are obvious. However, there is a big advantage to showing your customers that you’re concerned enough to ask them how they feel. People like to feel like they matter and are important. Giving them an opportunity to express their opinion can help this. What better compliment can you give to your customers than, “You’re so important to my business, I want to know how you think I can improve.”

Kimberly Hazen is the regional director for the southwest region of the Wisconsin Better Business Bureau. In her role, she works to advance marketplace trust between buyers and sellers and to promote informed buying decisions.

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