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Now is the time to put your best foot forward when it comes to improving customer service and relationships. 

Forbes recently wrote to business owners, “Behind the scenes you are undoubtedly doing everything you can, with whatever resources you can muster, to address the concerns of your customers. Assure customers they will be assisted as quickly as possible and allow them to leave voicemail messages, send emails, or use social media channels that enable future follow up. If your business has been hit hard, set clear expectations on customer service and availability.” Here are a few tips on how to keep customer relationships growing, even from 6 feet apart.

Make More Calls + Brush up Your Small Talk Game

An essential way to improve customer relationships is by incorporating just the right amount of small talk in your customer conversations. It helps you to connect with your customer and reminds them that you’re a real human too. Customers want to be treated like people and that means it’s important to get to know them. Here are some great conversation ideas if the art of small talk isn’t quite your forte. Try using one of these in your next conversation:

Current events: “How are you holding up? Is there anything you need? How are you feeling about things?”

Weather: Start with, “How’s your day going in _____. Great weather we’ve been having. Any fun plans for the warm weather?” This may be the easiest conversation starter in the books.

Weekend Plans: Remember that people love talking about themselves… and people also love the weekend. if it’s a Thursday, Friday or Monday… turn the conversation to the weekend. Ask about plans or fun things to do in their local area.

Work: We all have this in common. Ask if they’re having a busy time right now. How has working from home been going? Empathize with that Monday grind. Compliment their branding. 

Make a Connection: This is one of the best ways to make a lasting impression on your customers. “I noticed you’re located near ______. Have you ever been to Joe’s Pizza in that area? It’s the best. What restaurants are offering take out specials? Who is open for dine in?” or “I’m actually looking for a good dentist, do you know of anyone?” A connection will happen if you’re focusing on naturally making one. 

Use Positive Language

Customer interactions should be honest and transparent, yet tinted with rose colored light. For example, instead of saying “sorry to keep you waiting,” say “thanks so much for your patience.” Switch, “no we can’t,” for “here are all the great things we can do for you.” This small shift in wording can change the entire outcome of a call or meeting. It’s also important to keep your customer in the present moment, rather than dwelling on issues of the past. So use future tense to keep things present and positive. Some examples of this would be: “I will find that out for you, great question,” or “We will work hard to find a solution.”

Empathize

Micah Bennett of Zapier said, “I’m constantly blown away at how appreciative people are when they get human replies. Years of uncaring or even hostile support experiences have set the bar so low for their expectations that they get excited by genuine answers.” 

Empathy is everything when it comes to customer service. Even if you aren’t naturally an empathetic person, you can acquire the trait through practice. It will make your customer feel understood and quickly calm down a conflict to create a productive atmosphere. Even if you can’t fix the situation right away, use empathy to affirm your customer’s feelings and show that you understand their frustration. Use phrases like, “I can see how this must have been very frustrating,” and “I see where you’re coming from.”

Ask Your Customers for Feedback

Good customer service takes constant practice and dedication. It also depends on customer data and analytics. The only way to really know how you’re doing is by asking your customers. A great gage to understand where you’re at is through your Net Promoter Score (NPS). To calculate your score, you ask your customers, “How likely is it that you would recommend our service to a friend?” They then respond with a score from 0-10. People who reply with a 9 or 10 are called Promoters, while those with a score of 0-6 are Detractors. Anybody who gives a score of 7-8 are labeled Passives. Your NPS score is then built over time and gives you a gauge of where you stand with your customers. The score can be as low as -100 and as high as +100. Generally, a score above 0 is considered good and 70+ is exceptional.

The whole goal of the Net Promoter approach is to motivate an organization to become more focused on improving the customer experience and their service offerings. Since it measures customer loyalty, it will allow you to significantly improve churn rates and lengthen the lifecycle of your customer. At Lift Local, we even use the NPS method to gauge the loyalty and satisfaction of our employees. Collecting feedback from employees in this manner allows us to focus and improve overall culture and organization. It’s a simple way for both your customers and employees to express feelings and concerns. And the best thing about the NPS system is that it’s trackable and consistent.  

Try Something New

Here are a 7 great ideas from Yotpo on engaging with customers in new ways.

1. Video chat with customers

Give your customers some face-time. Show them around the store, do live videos of your products, and answer questions in real time. This can help create an in-store feeling and build trust and assurance during what may feel like an isolated time.

2. Go virtual

Have an upcoming event that had to be postponed or canceled? Try a virtual webinar or panel. Recreate the networking component by creating a Slack channel or Facebook group for participants or encouraging questions live via social.

3. Spotlight your reviews

Build trust and transparency by refocusing on reviews for those traditional brick & mortar customers that are now shopping online.

4. Go live on Instagram

Go live on Instagram to answer any questions and help customers who may be concerned about the impact of the Coronavirus.

5. Over-communicate!

Your customers are your community. Let them know how you’re responding to the Coronavirus, if anything has changed about how you’re conducting business, and what health precautions you’re taking. Ask them how you can support them during this time, and let them know how they can support your brand as well.

6. Offer gift cards

If you had to close down shop or have customers that shop on an as-needed basis, offer online gift cards for customers to buy now and use later.

7. Meet customers for 1:1 appointments

If you’re able, offer in-store appointments to give customers the full experience while still respecting guidelines of the CDC, WHO or other state and local health departments.

Keep on reaching out.

Let us know if we can help you with any customer engagement questions or needs. We are here for you and are just a phone call or email away.

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