Shop Local

3 customer service practices that can make consumers happy

In 2009, a handful of protest songs posted to YouTube created quite a stir. After their guitars were mishandled and damaged while traveling on United Airlines, the Canadian folk duo Sons of Maxwell attempted to negotiate with the airline in an effort to be reimbursed for the damage. Those negotiations ultimately proved fruitless, so the rockers took to YouTube, posting a series of comical songs and videos.

While the songs became viral and drew many a laugh, the people at United Airlines, and their shareholders, were not laughing. The bad publicity sparked by the videos caused United stock to plummet, costing shareholders as much as $180 million.

Incidents like that highlight the importance of exceptional customer service, especially in regard to small businesses. Industry giants like United Airlines can no doubt afford some bad publicity, but small, locally owned businesses operate on much thinner margins.

In recognition of the effects bad customer experiences can have on their businesses, business owners can emphasize the following three strategies to keep customers happy.

1. Encourage customer input.

Business owners may not have their boots on the ground every day, so encouraging customer input may be the only way for business owners to get a handle on what it's like to be their customer. That input can be used as a springboard to making positive changes that make customers happy, and it also can be used to help business owners recognize which staff members are going above and beyond to make sure customers have positive experiences.

2. Respond to reviews.

A 2018 survey from Review Trackers found that 63 percent of reviewers never received a response to their reviews. Engaging with customers is vital for small businesses. Consumers appreciate it when business owners respond to their reviews. Customers who leave negative reviews are more likely to put such experiences behind them if business owners reach out and seek their input while assuring that they'll work to provide better experiences in the future. Responding to customers who share positive experiences takes little or no time at all and it's a thoughtful gesture to thank customers who take the time to leave positive reviews.

3. Get personal with customers.

A personal experience drives many consumers to support local businesses. Taking time to be cordial with customers also is a great way to learn about their needs and wants so you can better serve them, potentially turning them into highly valuable repeat customers. Repeat business is vital to the survival of small businesses. In fact, a 2018 survey from InMoment found that 77 percent of consumers acknowledge having had relationships with specific brands for 10 years or more. Getting personal can lay the foundation for customer-business relationships that can last for years to come.

Customer service is vital for small businesses, which can employ various practices to keep customers happy and coming back.

The Press-Republican