5 Ways to Kick Your Customer Service up a Notch

Business trends come and go, and new technologies appear every week. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the importance of customer service. Marketing efforts will help bring new customers to the door, but great customer service will ensure that you keep them—and keep them happy.
Even if you already have effective customer service practices in place, you can always find ways to improve. Here are 5 things you can do to make a difference with your customers:

1. Be Available

Do you need to host a 24/7 customer service hotline? Probably not. But you should make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch with you. Display your key contact information—business hours, phone number, social media channels, email address—prominently on your website and business listings to promote communication. 

2. Point out Problems Early

Does a customer look unhappy with a dish they ordered, or uncertain about a purchase they’re making? Don’t wait for them to complain—ask if you can do something different then and there. Addressing a problem early is the best way to ensure that it gets resolved quickly. It also lets the customer know that you’re paying attention and care about their overall experience.

3. Resolve Issues Quickly

The best way to turn a negative customer interaction into a positive one is to handle issues quickly. If a manager is required, have them respond to escalated requests immediately. If someone asks to speak to the owner, make yourself available for a conversation. Fast, attentive service can change someone’s mind about ditching your business—92% of consumers agree.

4. Keep in Touch

Once you’ve resolved a problem, don’t let that be the last time a customer hears from you. Send a thank you note to follow up, or ask for their feedback on the customer service experience via email or a survey. Knowing that you’re continuing to think about them—and to value their input in your process—is a great way to solidify a patron’s brand loyalty.

5. Reward Great Service

While helpful and prompt customer service should be a top priority for any employee, some may need additional motivation to go the extra mile. Rewarding great customer service, either individually or as a team, can provide additional incentive for your staff to bring their A-game when helping clients.

The Bottom Line

Improving customer service leads to happier customers—and happier customers lead to better business. Repeat customers spend 67% more than first-time customers, and make larger purchases in general. Spending the time and effort needed to cultivate great customer service is an investment that will pay off in the long run for your business.

[News] Marketer, Consumer Instagram Usage Grows

Here’s a highlight of some of the top local-business-related news of the week:

[Social Media News] Instagram Usage Grows Among Marketers and Restaurant Customers

News Sources: Inside Facebook, Nation’s Restaurant News

This week was full of Instagram news. A new report from SimplyMeasured indicated that 71% of the large brands worldwide now have an Instagram account, and 65% of brands have active accounts (up 23% from Q3 of 2012).

Over half of marketers on Instagram are posting new content at least once a week, and brand engagement has grown 350% year over year.

On the consumer front, monitoring platform MomentFeed tracked a 2.8% increase in Instagram usage for customers of 65 major food brands. More than 500,000 photos were tagged to restaurant locations in Q3; Starbucks topped the charts with 127,000 tagged photos.

Key Takeaway: If your business already has an Instagram account, the good news is that consumers are now engaging with brand photos more than ever before. If you don’t have an account, it’s a great time to jump in and try it out—especially if your business is visually-oriented.

[Restaurant Industry News] Consumers Plan to Dine out Less in 2014

News Source: Nation’s Restaurant News

The latest North American Restaurant Consumer Sentiment Review revealed a decline in consumer dining during 2013, a trend that is projected to continue into 2014.

For the first time, the top reason survey respondents gave for planning to dine out less in next 12 months was due to health concerns. This was followed closely by financial constraints.

The survey also found that 64% of respondents feel that healthy menu options are an important factor in choosing where to dine.

Key Takeaway: If you own a restaurant, bakery, or cafe, you may want to review your menu to make sure you have plenty of options for health-conscious diners. And don’t be shy about promoting these dishes online so that customers find out about them. 

[Holiday Retail Trends] Holiday Shoppers Turning to Smartphones

News Source: eMarketer

A new study from Deloitte revealed that almost 70% of consumers plan to use their smartphones more often his holiday season, with 56% looking for store locations, 54% researching prices, 47% looking up product information, and 45% browsing products online.

Social media will also play a bigger role in holiday shopping, with 45% of survey participants indicating that they plan to consult a social network when considering purchases.

eMarketer estimates that holiday eCommerce spending will reach over $61 billion this year, up 15% from 2013.

Key Takeaway: Being present and standing out on mobile will play a key role in your business’s success this holiday season. Make sure your website and local listings are easy to find and view on mobile devices—SinglePlatform can help!

Other news catch your eye this week? Leave a comment and let us know! 

Holidays in the Food Biz: Thanksgiving Edition

Thanksgiving. It’s a holiday that conjures up visions of plates heaping with food, families gathered around a table (or television) together, and turkey-induced naps on the couch. It also calls to mind big dollar signs for businesses, especially those in the food industry.
SinglePlatform’s restaurants, bakeries, and food wholesalers have tapped into the Thanksgiving spirit in a variety of ways to boost their business. Here are a few ideas to help you make the most of the upcoming holiday.

Help with Dinner

Hosting Thanksgiving can be an ordeal for home cooks, even experienced ones. Our businesses have extended a helping hand by providing fresh ingredients such as the main-event turkey, shellfish for stuffing and appetizers, and specialty produce. Other clients sell bread, pies, cakes, and other baked goods to take the pressure off shaky bakers. Some of our users even provide the entire feast, letting customers focus on socializing rather than slaving over a stove.

Entertain the Night Before

Out-of-towners often show up the night before the feast—but few people are eager to cook a big meal two days in a row. Our restaurants have run specials and discounts on “Thanksgiving Eve” to give hosts a break from entertaining their guests’ taste buds.

Host the Whole Family

Whether it’s a rustic buffet, multi-course prix fixe menu, or something in between, dining out can be a great way to celebrate Thanksgiving. Some of our businesses open their doors to their customer family every year, hosting feasts that are worthy of advance reservations.

Take Time Off

It’s rare that small business owners take a break, but Thanksgiving is a great time to consider a day off. Many of our clients close up shop so they can rest and recharge with friends and family before the holiday season shifts into high gear.

Whatever your plans are for Thanksgiving, be sure to tell your customers how thankful you are for them.

A big thanks to all of our SinglePlatform clients. We’re lucky to work with such a great group of businesses!

How Loyal Are Your Customers? 4 Ways to Boost Retention

Every business owner knows that customer retention is key to long-term success. Studies have shown consistently that acquiring a new customer is much more expensive than keeping one. However, figuring out what makes customers leave—and what makes customers loyal—can sometimes be a guessing game.
While the specifics may vary, the root cause is usually the same. According to a recent study by RightNow, 82% of US consumers stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service.

Here are 4 simple ways you can improve your customer service and boost retention:

1. Always Be Friendly

It’s easy to underestimate the power of a friendly face, but your staff’s behavior has a huge impact on customer retention. 73% of people who stop patronizing a business leave because of a rude employee. Although it can be difficult to remain upbeat with challenging customers, resorting to snarky behavior will damage both your relationship with individual patrons and your business’s overall reputation. A prime example from this year: Amy’s Baking Company.

2. Provide Readily Accessible Information and Help

Whether a consumer is trying to decide on a dish at a restaurant, obtain more information about a salon product, or select an auto repair service, they want the same thing: quick information and assistance. Make sure your staff is well-versed in all of the products and services your business offers, and encourage them to be proactive in offering help to customers, both in-person and online.

3. Create Personalized Experiences

In today’s custom-crazed culture, a little personalization can go a long way toward retaining customers. Birthday-specific freebies, tailored recommendations based on previous purchases, special discounts for teachers or veterans—the possibilities are endless. Do some research to find out what kind of personalization would be most valuable for your customers, and test out a few different offers to see which ones have the greatest impact.

4. Maintain a Great Reputation

If consumers have heard wonderful things about your business, they’re more likely to remain a customer. Conversely, if they’ve heard bad things about your business, they may hesitate to purchase from you again. Maintaining a good reputation can be a lot of work, but it’s work that needs to be done in order to keep customers’ respect and loyalty.

The Bottom Line

When it comes to retention, great customer service is essential. Make sure you and your staff are making the most of everyday opportunities to go above and beyond for your customers. You’ll get the best kind of thanks for your efforts—happy clients and repeat business.