11 ways to improve your customer service and reputation

Satisfied customers are loyal customers; impressed customers are extra salespeople

Editor’s note: This is the final post in a three-part series by guest blogger Alex Lau, Managing Director of SeeSharp Productions. The series looks at ways technology has changed the landscape for small business, covering day-to-day operations, marketing and communication, and customer relations and service.

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In the first two blogs in this three-part series, I looked at some of the ways you can employ technology to streamline the way your small business operates and ways to improve marketing and communications.

Both of those things definitely contribute to the way your business is perceived and, as I advocate strongly (until I’m blue in the face), perception is everything.

As a brand agency, my company, SeeSharp, helps small businesses improve and leverage the way people see them, because your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.

Online reviews, either through dedicated sites or on a business’s social media pages, are now hugely important and, just as bad ones can hurt your reputation, good ones can vault you to the top of the list, ahead of any of your competitors.

Word of mouth has always been highly valued, particularly for businesses that garner much of their clientele from a local area, however “word of mouse” has multiplied the impact of reviews, good and bad, to the point that one could argue nothing is more crucial to the success of many small businesses.

So to conclude my short series, I’m going to look at some of the ways you can use technology to improve your customer relations and customer service and, in turn, enhance your reputation.

1. CRM

CRM is Customer Relationship Management, but it has come to refer to the online tools or systems that capture all of the details about not only actual customers but also leads – potential new customers.

A good CRM captures as many details as possible about a person who interacts with your business, even via a simple contact form on your website, and stores those details in a filterable, searchable, easily updated online interface.

Ideally, your CRM will not only capture the essentials (such as contact details) but also let you record every detail of your relationship with that client or customer, from the date the initial contact was made, through every subsequent interaction – including dates of purchases or rendering of services – all the way to details of payment.

Even better, it should allow you to set prompts or reminders for follow-up contact to proactively pursue relevant further business, such as an offer of replacement parts or the next scheduled service.

If you’re not capturing these details and not using your CRM to help you follow up, you’re missing out on business.

2. Appointment reminders

Whether this function is integrated with your CRM or not, make sure you use a calendar that not only schedules your appointments but prompts you when it is time to get going. There’s no point being reminded that you have to be somewhere in half an hour when you’re an hour away.

Keep in mind that in customer surveys across a wide range of sectors, punctuality and reliability always rate extremely highly. Sometimes being late is unavoidable, but at least 90 per cent of the time you should be able to be on time, which will only enhance your reputation.

3. Client notification

Hand in hand with your own reminders are client notifications. When someone is expecting you, the worst thing you can do is leave them hanging, so set an automated notification for the day before to confirm that your appointment will be kept, then send another when you are pretty much on your way, whether that’s an hour before or 30 minutes out, telling them just that.

The first one will save enormous frustration and wastage of valuable time, as the customer won’t have the excuse that they got the day or time wrong when you turn up and they’re not there.

The second one will ensure that the customer isn’t just down the street getting the paper or out the back where they can’t hear the doorbell.

Most importantly, they’ll really appreciate the courtesy and the peace of mind you’ve provided.

4. Navigation

If your work is all about being out and about, use a digital navigation system to plan your route and travel time. That way you can be reasonably accurate with your ETAs.

You’ll have some reassurance that you can get where you need to go in time, which will reduce your stress, and you’ll appear more professional because you’ll know where you need to be and when.

5. Feedback

Many customers are only too happy to offer feedback, if asked (although they may never do so otherwise).

Nothing is more valuable, as the people you have worked for are best placed to let you know what you’re doing well and what you might be able to improve on, from the all-important customer perspective. It’s quite possible that even a satisfied customer could have a good idea that would never have occurred to you.

Additionally, if you ask people if it’s okay with them, positive feedback can be perfect as a testimonial on your website and/or social media pages.

6. Follow up

Slightly different to feedback, this is mainly a courtesy, but can lead directly to more business.

By sending a follow-up email a day or two after you’ve done some work you can not only check that the customer is satisfied  – which they are sure to appreciate – but also upsell, by reminding them what else you might be able to do for them and/or asking whether it’s okay to contact them again.

Of course, if there are any issues, better that you find out by proactively following up than have a disgruntled customer chasing you – while complaining to anyone who cares to listen.

7. Online help

If you have someone answering phones and generally looking after the office, consider offering online help via your website.

These days a lot of people don’t really want to have an initial phone conversation when they’re not yet prepared, but they still would like to have an initial question answered, perhaps to just check that your business is what they’re looking for.

It’s essentially like having a Messenger chat, so it’s easy for anyone to do, and even if the online helper can’t answer any detailed questions about the work itself, he or she can at least capture the customer’s details and offer a follow up call from someone with the appropriate knowledge or expertise.

Just seeing “Online Help” available on your website sends the message that your business is naturally friendly and helpful (check out the chat box in the bottom right corner on the ServiceM8 website as a good example).

8. Remote consultation

Another way to use real-time communication to win over someone who’s just at the inquiry stage is by offering a remote consultation.

Rather than having to pay a visit to a location to provide an initial quote, you could schedule a Skype video call, during which they could show you what their problem looks like.

This might be the ideal way to not only come up with a reasonably accurate estimate of the time and cost, but also to ensure you have everything you need for the job when you do attend.

9. Customised communication

Once you have people’s email addresses, and permission to contact them (note that by law you can’t send out unsolicited emails if the person hasn’t opted in or been told up front that you might send them emails), you have to consider how to make the most of that resource.

It goes without saying that your communication should start with a personalised salutation (“Dear {firstname}”) and that it should read as if it’s directed at the recipient alone, but there’s much more that can be done to customise communication to show people some love.

One example is sending people a birthday greeting with a special offer if taken up during that month.

A newsletter update email is much better if you send different customers information that’s relevant to them, for example if you have installed or serviced a particular piece of equipment, send those customers an email with a link to the cleaning and maintenance tips on the manufacturer’s website.

It doesn’t take much to tailor your communication – even if the majority of the content or text is the same for everyone – and people respond much better when they feel that you are communicating with them specifically, rather than to a very large group which just happens to include them.

10. Loyalty programs

Once you have “won” a customer or client’s business, hold on to them for dear life, because it costs your business a lot more to win a new customer than to retain an existing one.

Depending on your business, consider the value of a loyalty program which offers people some sort of added incentive to keep using you, rather than looking around for or being swayed by the pitch of another business.

It might even be tiered, with incrementally greater rewards for more regular custom or larger purchases.

11. Referral programs

If you have a satisfied customer why not incentivise them to act as a salesperson?

If they tell a friend, relative or neighbour that you did a great job and that they’ll definitely call on you next time they need someone who does what you do (or sells what you sell), you’re well on your way to gaining a new client without a lot more effort or cost of acquisition.

Now imagine if you were to offer a satisfied customer five or 10 per cent off their next purchase if they refer a friend? I think we all know people who would take advantage of an offer like that, and the bottom line of gaining both a new customer and repeat business from an existing one is surely worth the “outlay” of the small percentage discount.


There are quite a few things for you to choose from in the above list to improve your customer relations and customer service, and well done if you’re already doing some of them. Given that technology makes them all relatively easy, once you’ve implemented the first couple, it gets even easier to put others in place.

I suggest deciding which five or six are the most relevant to your business and the way you work, and aiming to have them in place within three months.

Once that’s done the next three or four might take another two or three months to get going, but in six months’ time you’ll have improved your customer service and satisfaction significantly, and not only with minimal additional effort or cost, but the bonus result of streamlined and less stressful day-to-day operations for you and your staff.

Remember, you can’t beat repeat business and positive word of mouth for keeping the work coming in and the cost of acquiring new customers low.

If you have any stories about how you have improved customer service and satisfaction, whether through any of the things I have listed or other methods, please share them in the comments section below.


 Alex Lau

Alex Lau - front small

Alex is the founder and Managing Director of SeeSharp Productions, which specialises in turning regular small businesses into premium brands. He advocates working smart and streamlining operations using technology, unconventional marketing and strategic branding to enable small businesses to reach their full potential. For more of Alex’s insights, check out the SeeSharp blog here, and look out for his upcoming book “Marketing Reengineered”.

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4 Comments

  • Kobus Buys April 6, 2016, 10:58 pm Reply

    we are an Artificial Grass installation Company, and is trying ServiceM8
    But in the Article your first mention was CRM,
    Any good recommendation on small and easy program, (all out there cater more for the Big Corporate companies)

    • Michael April 10, 2016, 5:57 pm

      Hi Kobus!

      ServiceM8 was developed specifically for small field-based businesses, so it could be perfect. I’d recommend getting in touch with our Support Team by emailing support@servicem8.com – let them know the problems you are looking to solve and they can help you decide whether ServiceM8 is a good fit for your business.

      Cheers,
      Michael
      ServiceM8 Support

  • Deano July 20, 2016, 9:56 am Reply

    I agree with Michael. ServiceM8 is good. It could be better for CRM but it was not designed as CRM.
    I worked sales for decades. CRM is not as much the point as being organized. It’s possible to become unproductive because your time is filled by updating and filling in forms. ServiceM8 builds a data base of history which is key. Creating appointments somewhere to do those tasks in the article i

  • Mattia Orsi April 14, 2017, 8:29 pm Reply

    This site is excellent and so is how the subject matter was explained. I also like some of the comments too. Looking forward to your next post.

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