I'm going to cut straight to the chase today. Do you know what the number one thing people want from their customer support? Human. Service. They want this more than live chat. More than an in-depth knowledge base. More than fancy (and possibly unnecessary) bells and whistles.
Stalk your customers (nicely)
One of the joys of having a small business is that you have the opportunity to really get to know your customers. You see the same people pop up over and over again. It’s crazy to not take advantage of this personal relationship, and here are my two suggestions of how to do this:
Research your customers in real life
This probably doesn't come as a shock to you but customers are people too, they have families and friends and heartache. The internet has made it really easy to get to know people personally (for better or worse), and although I do caution you not to overstep your boundaries there are some respectful ways you can get to know your customers in real life:
Check out their Instagram or Twitter: One of my most exciting moments last year was when one of my business heroes Hilary Rushford commented on one of my Instagram posts. The fact that someone with 150k+ followers would take the time to look at my feed and comment was so touching. It really is that simple to reach out, and you have no idea what it might mean to the person at the other end.
Read their blog: If they have a link on their social media profile click on over and have a read. You never know, you might find a business that you want to purchase from, or maybe just an interesting read.
Hit reply when they email you: Don’t do this as an opportunity to try to upsell to them. Just say hi, and tell them you’re curious to hear about what your product or service is helping them with. People love to talk about themselves, and this is a great way to get to know your customers as people, not just numbers.
Want to reward people for coming back with positive feedback? >>> I have some suggestions right over here.
Know their history with you
I love the documentary series Chef’s Table on Netflix (I'm sure I’m not alone in this) and one of the things that comes up is the fact that many of these restaurants have records of every customer they have ever served. This means when the customer calls to book a table again the restaurant immediately knows what they ate on that first visit, or if anyone has any allergies.
Imagine how it would feel to walk into a restaurant and have the waiter informs you they already know your husband is allergic to shellfish, or that your favourite dish is being specially prepared. Personally, I would be putty in their hands at such a thoughtful gesture.
The reason they are able to do this is that they don’t have tens of thousands of customers walking through their door every year. They only have a few thousand, and this gives them the space to dedicate the time to these records.
Small online businesses have this benefit as well, you are not likely to have a million customers every year, and this means you can take some time to remember what your customers prefer:
If you have a product: When they place an order throw in a bonus that they have on their wish list. It doesn't have to be really over the top. It can just be something on the cheaper end (or even just be a sample size if you offer that) but how great will they feel getting their order and finding something inside that they didn't pay for.
If you have a service: When they get in touch make sure you show you remember them from the first time you worked together. Ask them whether *insert service here* helped them achieve the goal you discussed in your email. You can even take it a step further and check in on their personal life. Ask how their kids are doing, or if they had fun on the holiday they were going on.
Great service is always better than fast service
When I worked on the check-out of a supermarket one of the things older ladies would always say was, “Less haste, more speed” (normally whilst they were trying to find their credit card in their overstuffed wallet).
There is absolutely nothing wrong with having an efficient customer service process. People really appreciate not being delayed. Just don’t confuse “efficient” with “rushed”. When you slow down you can make sure that you understand what they need and make it feel like you personally care.
Follow up a purchase with something helpful
If you have an online business you’ve probably heard of a sales funnel. If you haven't the point of a funnel is to take your customer down through a series of steps that leads them to make a purchase.
An example might be reading a really good blog post > signing up to your email list > getting more useful content > learning about the products you sell > making a purchase.
What about after the sale? Does your funnel just stop the second you get their money? It shouldn’t. After the sale you should continue them through the funnel. The point of a post-sales funnel isn’t to encourage an upsell but to help them get the most out of their product or service. It could be:
A video of how to keep their new website design updated
A series of posts about how to use their new gadget
Suggestions of how to style their new dress
Just be human (really)
If I could leave you with one final thought on how to add a more personal touch to your business it’s to just be human. I know it sounds so dumb and overly simplistic but it’s so hard when you’re front and centre of your own business.
It’s really difficult to let go of the feeling that you need to be professional 100% of the time. That you can’t screw up. That your customers won’t understand when things go wrong or when you are less than pleasant to them because they emailed you on a day where EVERYTHING went wrong.
I’m not saying you should drop all pretence of professionalism but there is no harm in opening the door to your humanity just a little.
Really big corporations struggle to keep the “human” in their business because they have hundreds of staff working for them, all with slightly different agendas and different ideas about what good customer service means. As a small business, you are lucky to be in complete control, and to keep the human in your business.
Want to know how to be personal with your customers without stepping over the line? >>> My thoughts are right over here