I like to believe that I am an easy consumer. Not only do I avoid dramatic scenes at all costs, I am also (generally) not a fussy shopper.

Perhaps it comes with age, but lately it seems as if less and less businesses really want to take my hard earned cash.

I hate that I’ve started noticing the bad service trend that has become so acceptable in South Africa. I hate that some of my positive friends turn into cynical moaners when discussing their service providers. And I absolutely cringe at the idea that visitors to our beautiful country might have the same shopping experiences.

It doesn’t matter what industry your business is in, there is a massive gap you can fill. All you have to do is make sure your customer service outshines your competitors’ in every way possible.

Don’t believe me? Do yourself a favour and visit the Facebook pages of big South African businesses. You will find plenty of them littered with complaints from customers. You also won’t have to spend too much time on sites like HelloPeter to be convinced.

Here are 5 small things you can do to improve your customer service.

Remember: details matter

There should never be a gap for bad service to creep in. The tone in which emails are answered, the “voice” you use on social media, the signs you put up in your store, the wording on forms customers fill in, and even the song that plays when a customer is placed on hold. Every detail can make or break someone’s shopping experience.

Give the people on the ground decision-making power

This is where big companies are failing big time, and your small business can easily reap up customers if you make sure all your employees has the power to satisfy your customers. Rules and guides are important, but it should be flexible enough to deal with unusual circumstances.

If you do not trust your employees to make the best decisions for your business and customers, you might want to reconsider your recruitment strategy.

Treat every customer like it is their first time using a service like yours

It’s terrible when you go to a restaurant for the first time and there is no one to greet you or show you where you can go and sit. Or when you visit a small business or office for the first time and there are no signs to indicate where the entrance is.

You deal with your business every single day, and you might also have regular customers who know the ins and outs and feel at home when dealing with you.

But do not assume that all customers know exactly how your service or product works. Treat every customer like it is their first time using a product or service like yours. (Without making them feel stupid.)

Be proactive, not reactive

Educate your customers. Customers get upset when they are surprised (in a bad way). If your customers need an ID document to receive your service, for example, make sure they know this. Most people don’t mind waiting a bit longer, paying a bit extra, or filling in a form and so forth – as long as they know beforehand what will be required.

Use your website, social media pages, blog, point-of-sale material, emails, voice recordings, and any other medium available, to educate customers about your products, services and processes.

Offer solutions

If you are just selling a product or service, you’re trying to beat your competitors at their own game. Instead, you should be changing the game.

If you own a guesthouse and you have no availability when someone wants to reserve a room, what alternatives do you offer? Do you perhaps have an agreement in place with another establishment to whom you can refer the customer?

And what if you sell cakes and you get a customer who is allergic to wheat? Do you offer to try and bake a cake without that ingredient or do you simply say “sorry, all my cakes contain wheat”?

As a small business you are setting yourself up for failure if you are not willing to go the extra mile when it comes to customer service.

About The Author

Enrique Grobbelaar

Enrique is the eternal entrepreneur: his first venture was selling off his parents’ household goods at bargain prices to their neighbours at age seven. All other endeavours thus far have been entirely above board.

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