Customer Service

Providing excellent customer service is essential for the success of your business. Free tips, tools, and templates to improve your business's customer support.

10 tips for getting better customer input

Surveys are an excellent way to find out how your customers feel about a new product, service, location, store policy or virtually anything that's important to your business. A survey will tell you what your customers expect of you and your company, and clarify how well you are performing in their eyes. If executed properly, you can achieve impressive results without spending a lot of money. These 10 tips can help you create an effective survey.

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5 straightforward implications of the Consumer Protection Act regulations

The Consumer Protection Act (CPA) has implications for the way you run your business. Make sure you know what your rights are as a consumer and as a business owner. In particular, the article speaks to: mechanisms to block direct marketing communications; maximum duration for fixed-term consumer agreements; promotional competitions; prohibited times for contacting consumers; and exemption for certain categories of goods, services, or circumstances of trade from providing sales record. Read on for more information.

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A process approach to service delivery

It should come as no surprise that operational processes enhance your small business's service delivery. If you're starting out as a business owner, this article will answer two main questions: 1) What is a business process? and 2) How do you create and document your service delivery process? Here are some helpful tips for implementing an effective service delivery process in your small business.

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Broaden your client base

Clients are and remain the treasure of every business. This article will try to answer the following question: “Who is the ideal client for my business?” by identifying which demographic indicators to use if your ideal client is an individual or a business. It also encourages you to think about whether your product/service fits the problem/need of your identified client as this will help determine if they are an ideal client or not.

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Creating loyal customers

How much time do you spend looking after the customers that consistently come back to you? Attracting a large volume of clients and customers with flashy advertising and discounting should not necessarily be your ultimate approach. No matter what gimmicks you use, numbers can dwindle depending on the season, the economy and what your competitors are doing. So why not focus at least some of these resources on doing good business with your loyal customers?

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Customer satisfaction survey form – Example 1

An effective customer satisfaction survey program should focus on measuring customer perceptions of how well the SME delivers on the critical success factors and dimensions of its business. These usually include factors like service promptness, product quality, staff responsiveness, and understanding of the client's problems and expectations. The document that you can download here intends to provide an example of such a survey. You may adapt them to reflect your particular business needs.

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Customer service action form

The customer service action form helps prevent customer problems from being overlooked, while at the same time providing for an orderly hand off to someone who can address the matter. It also sets a clear procedure for your employees to follow when a customer is unhappy. This is intended to be a simple and practical tool to be adjusted and used by SMEs working in all sectors. You may adapt it to reflect your business needs, type of clientele, products and services you offer.

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Customers aren’t obtained with pretty pictures and empty promises

The title given here was the title of an article that appeared in the GIBS Review in September 2006. The article reinforces the key points already made about how to deliver great service. Starting with the self is the key to it, behaving well towards our customers is the proof of it. In a nutshell, the article argues that the key to excellence in customer service resides in people, not in marketing gadgetry.

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Do people talk about your client service?

When I came across the quote from Dr Ken Blancard, business writer, which reads: “Providing good service, on time, every time, is not good enough”, I was astounded.  Is this not the essence of service excellence? In this article I quote some of Dr Ken Blancard’s tips that brought about a positive change in my way of thinking about service delivery. Read on to find out how to better approach your customer service.

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Free marketing ideas

A common mistake for SMEs is the tendency to overspend on marketing efforts. However, having a large marketing budget is not always realistic, nor is it the best option for SMEs. This article, therefore, looks at various ways for you to improve your brand image and visibility at zero cost, or maybe even less than that. To do so, it uses examples to highlight what you should do, what you should stop doing, and destructive things you probably don't even know you're doing.

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Get customer feedback on new products or services

The greatest challenge to the traditional product/service development approach lies in the fact that we ourselves are often not the potential buyers/users of our products/services. It often comes as a surprise that our ‘no-one has ever thought about this’ product/service does not perform according to expectations. There is a simple alternative: obtain the opinion of your target market on the product/service at the start of the development cycle. Products/services designed this way have a much greater chance of being successful.

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Get more customers than you can serve

You may have tried new ways of reaching prospective clients like using social media, more traditional ways of getting out there like distributing leaflets, focused on optimising your website, or you may have targeted networking events. There are many options available to reach out to your audience. However, none of your efforts will work if you are not very clear about the key elements of your plan. Here is how to grow your customer base by creating and implementing an effective plan.

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Give before you expect to receive

In business, the general view is that there is no such thing as a “free lunch”. This implies that, if a consumer within your target market receives something free from a business, there is always an expected quid pro quo. If this is the conventional wisdom, the question remains as to how a business may provide value, without the potential future client experiencing it as “bribery” to buy something from the business? Here are a few examples of value-adding that may make a positive impression of your business on the client.

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How can I market my business’s good service?

In and of itself, good service is a “hygiene” factor. Put differently, it is what a prospective client expects of business. In South Africa, however, it can be a distinctive benefit, as the overall level of service delivery is not up to standard. Your level of service delivery can actually determine whether the client will clinch a transaction with you or not. Here are a few practical ways to market good service without making it “cheap”.

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How to be visible to your clients

The expression, “out of sight, out of mind” is also relevant in the business-to–consumer relationship. How many times haven’t we ourselves done a transaction with a business, just never to hear from them again? It is relatively simple and inexpensive to make continual client contact a strategic priority in our businesses. Here are a few suggestions that you can consider applying.

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How to create a great customer experience strategy

Statistics show that buyers are now willing to pay more for a great customer experience and companies that prioritise customer experience are gaining higher profits. What’s the secret behind businesses with a great customer experience? Find out what you should be doing to create an outstanding customer experience. Here are a few great strategies you can use.

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How to follow up with customers

When you have made a sale, follow up with customers, to make sure they are happy with the product and to ensure future sales. Following up after you've made a sale will enable you to capture repeat business, the cornerstone of most successful small businesses. You can follow up by phone, in-person, or through the mail. Here are some tips for you to try in your business.

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How to identify your most valuable clients

Without clients you will not have a business. But it so often happens that too much time, effort and resources are spent on the wrong type of clients, who drain resources without adding much to the bottom line. Change the cards by applying the following two guidelines: 1) Determine the profile of a valuable client; and 2) Know what makes a client valuable. Read on for more information on these guidelines.

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How to keep and not scare away your clients

Clients exist because people need services or products they themselves can’t do or create. You, as a business, provide these services and hope to be the one most customers come to for that service. Imagine a small town: if you are the only baker, and people want bread all the time, you will probably have a secure job. Every business, in reality, wants to be the equivalent of this small town baker, but in an increasingly competitive world. How then can we utilise the tools to retain, obtain and not scare away customers?

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How to learn your prospect's needs

In any business in any industry, customers play a critical role in determining success. Having adequate customer service and retention strategies are therefore invaluable to the small business owner or entrepreneur. However, before you can sell anything to anyone, you must first understand what it is they need. This article offers advice on how to learn your prospect’s needs.

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How to make your clients happy

The first sign of a business failing isn’t necessarily loss of profits, but getting too set in its ways. As soon as tradition becomes part of a company policy, instead of based on data or constant improvement, then you are on a road to failure. The reason is that other businesses, of which there are many, are trying to improve – which means you will be left in the dust as other businesses find better, unique and more efficient ways to be better. Here's how to make your clients happy.

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How to manage client relationships

These days, clients expect a lot more from the companies they work with: many of them want a more consultative approach to doing business. They expect you to find out more about their business and how you can help them achieve their strategic goals. They all have two or three “buttons” or points that are close to their hearts. It's imperative that you take the time to find out what is important to a specific client and then to deliver accordingly. Here are some tips to help you out.

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How to retain customers

One of the biggest challenges for SMMEs (Small, Medium, Micro Enterprises) is retaining clients. So how do we retain our customers? How do we ensure that we not only find new customers, but that we continue to sell our services and our products to current customers or even customers who we have not sold anything to in years? Well, there seems to be a whole host of different options and tips – here are a few of them.

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How your product or service guarantee can differentiate your business

A guarantee is a formal assurance (typically written) that certain conditions will be met; specifically that a product will be reinstated or replaced if it does not live up to the specified quality, or that a service will be reviewed if it does not deliver the expected result. When you consider a product or service guarantee it should be in line with the “best promise that you can deliver on”. Here are some guidelines and examples to help you differentiate your business with a product or service guarantee.

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Make a difference through service excellence

Service standards in South Africa, on the whole, leave much to be desired.  That is why this article focuses on the rendering of service. In particular, the theme for this article is: How do I link my value proposition to service excellence? In order to effect any meaningful interaction between the value proposition of my business and service excellence, I need to know what my “forms of value” and “knowledge of the service experience of my client” are.

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Managing the flow of information

Managing information is a crucial part of offering a professional service. Clients (customers) are frustrated these days: many feel that they have become a number to large companies. The personal touch is disappearing as large companies bring more uniformity and structure into their processes. This is a great opportunity for SMEs to add value in a way that the larger companies are unable to do.

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Practical management tips when dealing with customers

Customer service is one of the most important parts of running a business. In fact, it often acts as a gauge of how well a business is performing, depending on the quality of the customer service provided. Poor or inadequate customer service may not only lead to customer dissatisfaction but also a lack of customer retention. As a manager, it is therefore necessary to ensure your business's customer service is of a high standard.

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Recommended reading: World Class Customer Service for South Africa

World Class Customer Service for South Africa is a consolidated resource on 175 high-quality customer service tips written by Basil O’Hagan (with Hagen Engler). The tips contained in this book are the results of O’Hagan’s decades of customer service experience, and through these tips, businesses will be able to build customer loyalty, grow their profits, and deliver sensational service. The book is straightforward, easy to digest, and the tips themselves are simple, accessible, and actionable. It is an invaluable tool that will help you learn world-class customer service that will improve the relationship you have with your customers, thereby boosting your business’s bottom line

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Staying on top of clients’ expectations

The new Consumer Protection Act is a vehicle for all business owners to review their practices and procedures when dealing with client expectations. We can choose to see it as a threat or we can see it as an opportunity to improve our mode of interacting with clients. In fact, this act forces both parties to do their homework properly. The important starting point is to ensure that you have a thorough understanding of a client’s requirements. Here's how.

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The best ways to provide better service to clients

Customers deserve exceptional service rendered by businesses. They are after all the ones who pay the bills at the end of the day. The client’s expectation of any business should be exceeded through excellence. They expect service to be rendered in a timely fashion and for costs to be worth every penny. At one point or the other any business owner becomes a client to someone else. Your mantra should be: Treat others the way you want to be treated. Here's how to improve your customer service.

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The Consumer Protection Act and its implications for your business

The wild-west landscape in which some of South Africa’s retail and related business has been conducted has been tamed by the Consumer Protection Act, consumers and businesses have had to redefine their relationships, recognise a fresh equality of power and tread very carefully in navigating new ground. Consumers are now armed with more power than ever before. Here are the implications the Act may have on your business.

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The importance of getting people talking about your business

People telling others about their positive experiences of your business sends a far more powerful marketing message than any advertisement. Word of mouth is credible, personal, and admiring. The best advertising cannot match that. Word of mouth is also free, so it is a great marketing medium and deserves more attention that it normally gets. Here is how word of mouth can market your business effectively.

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Three activities to grow your business

It is said that business is simple, but it is definitely not easy. This article aims to highlight three ways for you to grow your business: by recruiting new clients; by selling more to existing clients; or by selling to existing clients more often. Read on to find out more about these strategies for effective business growth.

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Treat client information with care

Clients are the life source of a business. They are also a source of future business, provided we build a relationship with them and a positive association with our business. This requires a certain client centredness, administrative discipline, and process capabilities from us. This article explores how to treat your clients' sensitive information by looking at the approaches you should adopt for new and existing clients.

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Who is your customer?

Marketing is not about chasing any customer at any given price. You have to decide which groups of customers (called segments) are most attractive to the business and are most likely to boost profits. If you work in a niche industry, such as manufacture or mining, your target market will be alot more obvious and the process below can be simplified. However, if you provide services to the average Joe and Jane Public, more research is required. Here are some tips for identifying your customer (or market segment).

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Work smarter to plan increased turnover

Most businesses would like to increase their turnover, but often struggle to do so. One reason is that businesses simply set a growth target with no focus on where that growth should come from, or why people would buy more from the company. Increasing turnover means more sales to existing customers, more new customers, or higher prices. This article focuses on how you can increase your business's turnover by growing your existing customers.

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Your employees are the first impression

A company's image can be its greatest asset or its biggest downfall. Large corporate companies know this too well and spend huge amounts of money on their corporate branding and reputation-building. This includes making sure that their employees live up to the company's good name. As a small business, image is equally as important and the first place to start building your brand is by taking a step back and looking at the way you and your employees come across to your clients, customers, and/or service providers.

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