Customer satisfaction is tricky, isn’t it? It’s almost like a tightrope walk. If you lean too far in either direction, you’ll surely fail. Some businesses will struggle when they refuse to bend to any of a customer’s demands, others will struggle when they cave to all of them.
As 2020 tragically shook up the status quo, 2021 offers hope that the dust, in fact, will settle. When it comes to your customers, it’s important to analyze what spending trends will stick and which will revert to the norm—as the world fervently tries to figure out what “the norm” will look like. The societal fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the speed of globalization, and with it, has stripped away many of the remaining regional and national boundaries that dictate consumer spending habits.
So what does this mean for you? And how does this tie into the importance of customer satisfaction?
Well, to put it simply, it can be broken down into three points:
- Your customers have a wider selection of brands and products to choose from than ever before.
- Your customers are willing to leave their comfort zones to sample a wider selection of brands and products than ever before.
- Your customers will look to businesses to provide safer, faster, and more personalized service than ever before.
When competition is intense, it’s important to stand out. The best way to do that? Provide the customer with a level of service that is unrivaled in its compassion and attention to detail. Let’s explore 7 ways you can make this happen—without breaking the bank, either.
1. Prompt Reply Times On Social Media
No matter your industry, you’ve almost certainly realized the power of social media and how it can grow your business. Sure, sometimes it’s frustrating, and it certainly has its downsides. But at the end of the day, it’s where your customers can be heard the loudest.
The importance of customer satisfaction is all too prevalent on social media. A single, public instance of second-rate customer service could stir the social media hive mind into a feeding frenzy that ultimately leaves your business in the dust. (And by dust, I mean lots of 1-star reviews, negative—and profane—comments, and a surge of existing customers abandoning ship.)
Social media—especially on a tight budget—is never easy. So what’s one simple thing you can do to simultaneously keep your customers happy while keeping your bottom line in order?
Answer messages quickly. 19% of consumers say that excellent communication is their number one value for loving a brand, trailing only product quality in priority.
Most social platforms offer some sort of “badge” or have some way of letting their customers know how quickly a business page will respond to them. The higher the response time, the happier the customer—it’s as simple as that. They say 80% of success on social media simply comes from showing up (and replying, too).
2. Make it Personal
Customers, at the end of the day, are the same as you and me. They crave respect, inclusion, and the feeling that their needs were adequately met. When someone is buying something, no matter how consequential, it pays to respect the golden rule.
A worthwhile sentiment could be something as simple as signing your name and smiley face on an order—yes, actually using a writing utensil. Sending complimentary pens, t-shirts, coffee mugs, and whatever other branded knickknacks you can muster up always puts a smile on people’s faces.
It certainly doesn’t hurt in your quest to achieve as many positive customer reviews as possible. Don’t be afraid to mix it up. As long as your customers are able to promptly receive their order, get creative with your packaging. Let your customer know that Harry M. or Leslie H. helped fulfill their order, not just the “ABC Company Staff”.
3. Hire Empathic, Detail Oriented Talent
When it comes to personalities, your employees probably fall all over the spectrum. Different personalities work in different ways. When it comes to customer satisfaction, not everyone is equipped to handle the highs and lows of customer relationships.
The best way to make sure your customers are getting the most out of their experience? Keep them in your mind as you are vetting candidates to join your organization. Ask yourself some of the following questions as you go through an interview:
- Will this person respond professionally to an unruly customer?
- Do you feel this person would go the extra mile to leave a lasting, positive impression?
- Do they display above-average levels of emotional intelligence?
Some people are wizards behind the keyboard, ultimately doing things that would be out of depth for most others to accomplish. But does that mean they would be apt at handling a customer service position? Not necessarily.
A resume can tell you a lot about what someone’s technical skills are and what they have accomplished professionally, but it’s limited in its scope. As you scour candidates in the future, just keep in mind that in today’s consumer-centric market, interpersonal skills are a huge asset—even if the communication is entirely handled remotely.
4. Offer a Free Trial, Sample, or Refund
Who doesn’t love free stuff? Well, the easy answer would be “I don’t like when my business just gives away what we’ve worked so hard to create.” That’s fair.
But look at it from this perspective—the revenue you lose by giving away a small portion of your product or service for free isn’t lost. It didn’t just vanish into the wind. At the end of the day, you’re making an investment.
Just as email marketing is a great way to generate exposure, awareness, and eventually leads, offering a free product, service, or even just a refund is a great way to accomplish the same thing. Your email marketing platform is most likely a paid service, so think of the money you will temporarily spend to create free products as the same kind of service. Eventually, the positive feedback generated from your investment will pay off.
5. Offer a Free Demo
What’s one degree better than a free sample of your product or service? A personally tailored free sample that a representative is able to guide you through. For a product, this could come in the form of an interactive video designed to bring you up to speed on the intricacies of the product. For a service, this is where customer satisfaction can be taken to the next level.
When conducting a demo, it’s important to view the interaction as a two-way street. Encourage them to ask questions, and make sure to ask them in return. Silence from a potential customer is usually not a great sign.
It can be easy to let a demo drag on for too long. Your product is your blood, sweat, and tears, so it’s natural to have the inclination to wax poetically about all of the amazing things it can do.
However, as committed as you are, most people won’t have the attention span to keep up. In recent years, the average human attention span has slipped down to the 8-second mark, followed closely by goldfish. Ouch.
We can discuss human attention span and its relationship to technology another time, but when it comes to demos, stick to this simple rule—keep them under 15 minutes.
6. Be Transparent, Especially About Negatives
No one likes when things go wrong. But, as Murphy’s Law dictates, they do. Instead of shying away from negative incidents, lean into them. Acknowledge what went wrong, what the ideal outcome should’ve been, and how it can be prevented and solved next time.
“The biggest mistake is for brands to hedge their apology with phrases such as, ‘We’re sorry to those who were offended.’ Such language places the burden on the offended person and stops short of accepting full responsibility.”Brad Phillips, President of Phillips Media Relations, Author of the Mr. Media Training Blog and the Amazon PR bestseller The Media Training Bible.
Own up to your mistakes. It’s as simple as that. If a customer had a lousy experience, reach out to them. If a project collapsed and people were let down, make it known. Either way, when it comes to social media, people will find out what went wrong. It’s best that they hear it from you, first.
7. Reward Their Loyalty
There’s no one as valuable as your loyal, returning customers. How valuable are they? According to research conducted by The Bain Company, increasing customer retention rates by just 5% led to a 25% increase in profit.
While it’s still important to continue the work of attracting new customers, the customers you have already won over are your biggest potential future customers. What’s the best way to keep them around? Reward their loyalty.
Common loyalty program rewards include:
- Free shipping on certain items (with spending minimums and maximums)
- Providing access to a premium service for free or at a discounted price
- Giving priority on limited time offers
- Accumulating “points” that can be redeemed for rewards
- In subscription models, reward continued payments with a free month
- Reward customers with third party benefits (coffee, gift cards, etc.)
If you have customers that tend to stick around, give them a reason to stick around longer. Over time, this small-but-mighty-few that you retain will give your business a boon for years to come.
Customers, like the rest of us, are all very different. There’s no single way to accomplish the task of keeping them all happy. However, with a plethora of digital tools up your sleeve, you can work towards pleasing even the most persnickety people.
Just remember: Make it personal, show you care, and don’t be afraid to trust the value of your product by offering a little bit for free. The way that you handle the customer service, sales, and adoption processes will speak just as loud—if not louder—than the product itself.
Keep it simple, and keep the importance of customer satisfaction at the forefront of your mind.
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About the Author
Matt Bernot is a business analyst for Striven, an all-in-one business management software. He has spent the past eight years working in customer service for software, banking, and finance. He specializes in business technology solutions and teaching efficient processes to help organizations accomplish more. Matt is a huge fan of the Philadelphia Flyers and a father to a pair of incredibly goofy cats.