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Thursday, April 11, 2013

5 Ways To Improve Your Customer Service 04-12

5 Ways To Improve Your Customer Service

By Sunday Steinkirchner

The pace of technology is ever-quickening. Feel like your business is struggling to keep up? We do– It’s no secret that the online marketplace and popularity of e-readers have forever changed our business of bookselling. Whenever we feel the push of technology, along with getting the push we need to learn something new, we remind ourselves to focus on what has always helped us to stand out—our customer service.
Offering second-to-none customer service could help your business to succeed no matter what the economic climate or latest technology craze. Here’s how:
1) Let Customers Get to Know You– If you’re running your business from an unknown (or internet-only) location, it makes you more anonymous. This is common nowadays, but adding a “face” or an address to your business could help assure customers that you won’t disappear overnight. You don’t have to rent office space if you don’t really need it; just be upfront about where you operate from and consider ways of contacting customers aside from email. A little personal information can go a long way, and could minimize concerns of accessibility, trust, or safety.
2) Be Available – If a customer can’t get hold of you when they need to, you could lose them forever. We recently changed both our insurance provider and web developer, and the decisions were based on availability and accountability. With the new companies, we get the owner on the phone every time, and they’re there day or night if a catastrophe happens. In our own business, we value face-to-face interaction with customers, which is often a rarity these days. Whether it’s traveling across the country for trade shows or taking time for a quick coffee or Skype session, our strongest relationships are with the customers we know personally and keep in contact with regularly.
3) Specials Services / VIP – Are there special discounts or services you can offer that your competitors don’t? Can you offer something special for existing customers only? Could your services be considered “luxury”? Offering special treatment to your customers will help them to feel taken care of, and it’s also something they might be willing to pay more for. There are so many “bait and switch” offers and promotions “for new customers only”– reward the customers that have been with you the longest.
4) Offer Knowledge – Building strong relationships with our customers is great, but we also get to offer and trade knowledge with them. In our trade, a customer can compare several competing copies of a book online, but they won’t get a conversation about the title’s complicated printing history. When we’re speaking with customers, we spend the majority of time talking about the merchandise itself, trends in the market, and the customer’s own collecting habits. Afterward, we negotiate a deal. A customer can even know more than you do on a particular topic! Take advantage of this opportunity to learn more.
Trade shows are another great way you can offer knowledge to your customers. Organize seminars with expert speakers to draw potential customers interested in your product or services.
5) Offer Community – Bringing face-to-face interactions, special services, and knowledge together could help you to create a unique community for your customers. This could be an interactive part of your website, a weekly or monthly webinar, or an open house at your physical location. Better yet, organize with similar or local businesses to set up an event, street fair, or convention that could draw a large crowd.
Creating a community is also possible when you’re on the road. Our professional organization works hard to make trade shows part of a larger destination for attendees. We collaborate with other institutions and events, and even plan the location of shows according to the weather (who doesn’t want to go to Southern California in February, when there’s also an exhibit at the local museum?) Not only will traveling make it easier for customers to find you, but coinciding events could be a bigger draw for their attendance and encourage them to spend more time with you.
These tried-and-true methods could improve your relationships with your customers. Have other ways to engage them? Comment here, or join the conversation on social media:

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