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One of the key ways a small local business can both differentiate themselves and also gain a competitive advantage over bigger businesses is relatively simple—providing great customer service. For the vast majority of respondents, all they really want is to have their questions answered. When asked if they wanted answers to questions or for companies “to know my mood and respond accordingly,” an overwhelming eight in 10 agreed that answers were more important. Almost half (47 percent) said that the one thing that most created a favorable impression was a quick response.
When it comes to customer service, there is an ongoing struggle for companies trying to find the right balance between privacy and personalization.
For young Americans, the balance was more in favor of personalization at 59 percent, compared to just 46 percent for those over the age of 35. For “high relationship” sectors such as banking, dissatisfaction with service most often came from mistakes or an uninterested staff. The results of the study suggest that providing good customer service is essentially a simple process, with speed and convenience being the top priorities important for your customers.
Delivering on that means having well-trained first contact and frontline staff, ensuring that they have real-time information available to answer customer queries, and empowering your team with the authority to quickly and effectively resolve customer issues.
In addition, it means employing keyword alerts and other tools that allow you to listen and monitor the social media space, and being smart when it comes to proactive reputation management strategies.
Great customer service invariably leads to happy customers, even if that stemmed from a mistake or complaint.

You can find out more about the Verint study and Infographics summarizing the results at Customer-Centricity: The Rules of Engagement (registration required).
The study, The New Rules of Customer Engagement, questioned more than 18,000 adults worldwide to find out more about their customer service expectations and experiences.
Despite the clamoring from brands and marketers for “engagement” and “relationship building,” from the customer perspective, they see customer service as more of a transaction. To further complicate matters, that balance—and the reasons for not liking the service provided—can lie in different places depending on the sector. On the other hand, for supermarkets and other retailers, price was said to be key in driving a preference of personalization. The research found that, when compared to a similar study completed in 2012, the proportion of consumers that maintained a relationship with a provider for three years or more had dropped from 85 percent to 60 percent. It means building systems throughout the organization and (hopefully) maintaining an up-to-date CRM system.
Most importantly it means staying in touch with your customers after the sale, and communicating with customers regularly as part of your email marketing efforts. Please download the latest version of the Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Apple Safari, or Windows Internet Explorer browser.
The reality is that what customers want is pretty simple: They want to be heard, they want their issues understood, and they want their questions answered quickly, preferably on first contact. That way, the same information is available to all members of your team on a moment’s notice, and a consistent approach is adopted, whether contact is made by phone, face-to-face, by email, online, chat, or by way of social media channels.

Take a look at this graphic emarketer produced from the Verint research that summarizes what respondents are likely to do if a company goes that extra mile. That’s powerful fuel for any business, but for a small local business, it’s a way to level the playing field. Longevity of relationships varied significantly between sectors, with banking, supermarkets, grocery, and clothing earning the most loyalty. It’s not easy to compete against big brands, but when you can win at customer service, you’re on the right path. At the other end of the scale, phone and broadband providers, as well as online retailers showed the most churn amongst customers. Just remember, your customers want speed, convenience, and an understanding of who they are and what they need. The business that has the tools, people, and processes in place to give them just that will be the most likely to succeed. Going above and beyond to not only deliver great customer service at the time of sale, but strategically putting systems in place that allow you to stay connected to, and serving, your customer base can go a long way toward building relationships that endure.

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