Regardless of profession, you'll be hard-pressed to find a job that doesn't require customer service skills. This is especially true for entrepreneurs, who are tasked with forming relationships and winning customers in order to make something out of nothing.
No matter how great your initial idea or business plan may be, the success of your business will depend on successfully forming relationships with others. You could have the most innovative mind in the world, but if you don't have customer service skills, that innovation will be wasted.
Customer service, of course, doesn't come naturally to everyone. Not being inherently great at customer service doesn't mean that you're unpleasant or a bad businessperson; it just means that you'll have to put in extra practice to master the finer skills of providing a top-notch customer experience.
Luckily, you won't be wandering in the dark when it comes to improving your customer service skills. There are proven techniques that will help you impress your customers and form lasting business relationships. To get started, take a look at the following tips, which should give you a solid customer service base.
1. Learn to compromise.
We all know how hard it can be to be an expert at something and have to listen to someone who doesn't know as much about our passion as we do. Unfortunately, this is much of what customer service is. You'll have to take input from people who weren't there when you were making your product, and you'll have to make appropriate adjustments in accordance with their suggestions.
The success of your business is at the mercy of your market. Customers who are coming to you with issues have those issues for a reason. Sure, you may think that reason is because they have no idea what they're talking about, but you have to remember that, regardless of the level of expertise your consumer has, you have to create a product that meets their needs.
2. Go the extra mile.
While it may seem like a hassle in the moment to go out of your way to address a customer's concerns, doing so will go a long way toward establishing your reputation as a dependable businessperson.
If your customer has an issue with your product or has had any negative experience with your business, don't just make it up to them – make it up to them and then some. You want each customer to leave having had a net positive experience with your business. For this reason, the way you address concerns must completely overwhelm the initial negative experience.
3. Start by listening.
When it comes to marketing products you're passionate about, it can be easy to fall into the trap of dominating the conversation. Believe it or not, most of your customers don't care how much you know about your product; they just want to be heard.
Furthermore, listening gives you a professional advantage. According to Success Path, entrepreneurs must work consciously to understand both seller and buyer motivations. From there, they can leverage each group's motivations to ask for higher or lower prices – all from being more willing to listen than to speak.
4. Be friendly and approachable.
One of the best ways to gain and retain customers is to always be friendly to them. Being friendly doesn't mean being a pushover – you have to be firm and assertive as a business owner – but a genuine smile when meeting someone goes a long way.
Your personality when working with customers is what forms lasting relationships, and these relationships are what keep your business afloat even when times are tough. Just as you should go the extra mile when addressing customer concerns, really go out of your way to be kind.
5. Know your audience.
In addition to knowing who your target audience is, you should have the awareness to get a general idea of each individual customer you're working with. Think about it this way: You wouldn't walk into a boardroom full of executives and begin your presentation by saying, "What's up, guys?"
In every customer service opportunity, treat people the way they want to be treated, and address them in the way they feel is most appropriate. This means that you'll sometimes have to be more formal or serious than you'd like. In the end, it's worth it.
6. Never judge a book by its cover.
While you should make educated observations about each individual you speak with, don't just assume you know everything about them based on their appearance or profession. As an entrepreneur, you would never want to be pigeonholed into some preset notion of who you're supposed to be, so don't do this to your customers.
Customer service is, above all, about reaching out to people and making connections with them that will provide them with high-quality service and you with lasting relationships.
Work to get to know your customers, listen to them, treat them appropriately and go the extra mile for them, and you'll find that you've gained lasting partnerships and customers that will buoy up your business for a long time.