When you start a new business, your focus will be on creating a better product or service and establishing a presence in the marketplace. It will not take long, though, for customer service to become a big consideration. Steering clear of customer problems should be part of your plan for business growth and health from the beginning. These tips will help you get a jump start on good customer service from day one.

Avoiding Customer Problems

Invest in quality control. When production is light, you’ll probably have a good handle on quality control issues, but once you start to experience some growing pains, standards may begin to slip. Worse, you probably won’t realize it until the customer complaints start rolling in. To combat some of the potential problems associated with increased volume, additional product offerings, or educating new hires, plan for future growth now by putting systems in place to standardize and bulletproof your processes. Cross train your employees and have them write (or video) instructional how-tos for their most important tasks. Perform regular production checks to make sure quality stays high.

Value good customer service. Good customer service employees do more than smooth ruffled feathers, they use tact and diplomacy to take the sting out of “no” and make “yes” sound like a friendly gesture instead of an acknowledgment of error.

Keep your ear to the ground. Customer feedback is invaluable when it comes to heading off problems. If your installation instructions are confusing, your customers will know it. If the pictures of your product are misleading, your customers will be the first to recognize it. If you have a problem with an overzealous salesman or a surly cashier, your customers will see your people in a way you never will. Use questionnaires, your company website, and any other means you can to elicit intelligence from your most valuable and well-informed resource — your customers.

Recognize you don’t want every transaction. Sales clerks trying to hit an aggressive quota and managers eager to reach another benchmark may make every effort to woo reluctant customers into buying decisions they’ll resent and regret later. These transactions are often very challenging from a customer service standpoint. If it looks as though a customer is going to be a poor fit for your product or has unrealistic expectations, consider passing him by. Even though unhappy customers are in the minority for any thriving business, these are the days of instant online communication, and one very verbal and aggressively unhappy person can do a lot of damage.

Be consistent. From the salesman who says he’ll be with a customer in a minute and promptly goes to lunch to the customer service representative who promises to call back in fifteen minutes and doesn’t, small things, like exaggerations and inconsistencies, can be huge red flags to customers. One small lapse may not be all that significant, but when two or three lapses occur in a short period of time, customers lose patience — and you lose customers

Although you can’t please everyone, you can keep complaints to a minimum if your production processes are consistent, you listen to customer feedback, and you insist on providing a customer experience that’s honest, professional and courteous.

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