It’s an unavoidable fact of life that problems happen. Systems break, misunderstandings cause upset, and things get lost. For small businesses however, even a small problem can be massively damaging to your brand reputation. Without access to bottomless PR budgets like big corporations, it is vital for small business owners to be well equipped with an efficient communication strategy in order to quickly restore customer satisfaction after a crisis.
With the proper crisis communication tools, mistakes and failures won’t mark the end of your small business, and they don’t have to be the reason your customers break up with you. When difficult situations arise, communication with your customers is imperative and can help to minimize the long term effects felt by your business and maintain your customer relationships. Courteous, real-time support and committed service is the cast that will help to mend those customer relationships.
So, when difficult situations hit your service frontlines, these four customer communication tips can help you turn customer woes into customer wins.
When problems happen – big or small – your customers want to be able to reach you. The best practice is to have an omnichannel approach to customer service: as many channels for customers to reach you as possible. Difficult situations often cause customers to want instant gratification from your company, and that comes from having open, welcoming support.
Using a real-time solution such as live chat software is a great way to provide the immediate gratification that concerned customers are seeking. In the case of a large-scale situation, multiple chats can be handled by one agent, meaning that more customers get the answers they’re after, sooner.
The immediate nature of live chat also demonstrates to customers that your company is there and listening to them. This is unlike email, where for concerned customers, waiting for a reply can feel like they’ve sent their message into the ether. When the issue is a small or isolated incident, chat channels also provide a dedicated, private space to serve the customer.
Listen and Apologize
Wide scale issue or isolated incident, real-time support only works when agents make a point of listening to customers. In any situation, customers want to feel heard. When it comes to problems and customers’ money, stress levels tend to run higher.
So, let the customer explain the problem first. Ensure there is a full understanding throughout the communication. Keeping understanding clear helps customers feel reassured and more willing to trust you. They know they’re being listened to and taken seriously.
Always apologize to your customers, and mean it. With an apology, customer satisfaction doubles to 74%, and helps you connect with your customers, reinforcing the human face of your brand. Remember that concerned customers don’t want excuses, they want their issues validated and a solution to be found.
Don’t Keep Customers in the Dark
Customer communication can turn difficult situations into a relationship building opportunity. Clear communication is the most important thing you can do to reassure customers when things go wrong. So, keep your customers updated on what’s happening and what you’re doing to help them.
Telling customers what steps you’re taking to fix their issue demonstrates that you care about their problem and your attention is on them. This is placating – when customers know you are helping them, they’re likely to be more patient when waiting for a solution.
This doesn’t mean you should tell your customers anything to make them happy. You must be honest – don’t make promises you can’t follow through. If you don’t know the answer to a question, tell them you’ll find out, and then do everything you can to do exactly that.
Learn from it
Customers will forgive you if you handle their concerns courteously when difficult situations hit. But – and it’s a big but – you also need to learn from the difficult situations that come your way. If the same problem keeps happening, no amount of great service will retain the trust of that customer.
Be ready to create and use strategies to prevent the same problem from happening. For example, if parcels keep going missing or arrive damaged, consider changing your delivery strategy. Great service is a plaster cast on a broken bone, but if you keep breaking it, there’s very little it can do. Don’t let difficult situations cause broken bones of contention.
Avert the Customer Service Catastrophe
Difficult situations can be turned into opportunities. By understanding the importance of real-time customer communication, you can turn a customer service disaster into increased customer satisfaction, trust, and loyalty.
So, when difficult situations hit your customer service frontline, have an omnichannel strategy in place to support your customers with effective, real-time communication and maintain customer satisfaction long-term.
The SmallBizRising Blog is designed to be an educational content hub pulling information, best practices and practical advice for the small business owner and features topics including accounting, marketing, technology and more. Be sure to subscribe to stay up to date with new content as it is posted. The blog was created by The Neat Company and receives contributed content from a group of contributing companies that provide technology, services and solutions to small businesses.