Customer Service: Lessons from Small Business Owners
Here’s what I’ve learned from observing the customer service practices of small business owners
Learning from small business owners
As my wife and I celebrate our third anniversary in business together, we are grateful for the experience. We‘re especially thankful for the small business owners with whom we’ve become acquainted. They’re impressive individuals, and I’ve learned a lot from them. However, the “quality” I admire most in every one of them is their steadfast commitment to customer service.
Customer service: Set high standards
These business owners resist the common practice of blaming others in reaction to a product or service complaint. I’ve never heard a small business owner claim that a customer service problem must be the fault of someone else. Instead, I’ve learned the following principles from observing their customer service practices.
- Take a complaint professionally, instead of personally. Obviously, no one likes to feel a customer is blaming them for a problem. I’m sure that’s especially true when the trouble is someone else’s fault. As a small business owner, this one of your professional responsibilities, and you need to act accordingly.
- When you consider customer service issues from the customer’s perspective, blaming others makes a bad situation even worse. Customers would much rather have a speedy resolution to their problem rather than an excuse. They don’t care as much about who’s to blame as you might think.
- If a customer suddenly has a problem with a product or service, they want to know that you understand what went wrong and who or what was responsible for the issue. Your understanding of the circumstances puts you in a position to solve the problem quickly and that you’ll do what’s necessary to make sure it never happens again.
- Demonstrate responsibility, take ownership, and work hard to resolve your customer’s issues successfully. Doing so seems to be the proven formula for a positive outcome. That is to say; every customer service issue is your opportunity to restore their confidence in you and your business.
Customer service: Do “right” by your audience
I recently read the book “Company of One: Why Staying Small is the Next Big Thing for Business” by Paul Jarvis. In his book, he writes: “Too often businesses forget about their current audience—the people who are already listening, buying, and engaging.” Later, he says, “…if you’re not doing right by [your audience], right now, nothing you do regarding growth or marketing will make a lick of difference.”
When small business owners make excuses and blame others, they look ineffective in the minds of their customers. Blame doesn’t solve a customer’s problem. Instead, it creates an appearance that the small business owner is either inept or irresponsible.
At this point, customers are more likely to become hostile. If the situation escalates further, you risk losing their business altogether. We can avoid this type of situation entirely by adopting the high standards (listed above) and “do right” by our customers.
Listen, communicate, and help
Small business owners understand that message. We need to make sure we listen to, communicate with, and help the people who are already supporting us. Undoubtedly, being responsible, and taking ownership of customer problems is hard work. Then again, if it were easy, everyone would be doing it.