Customer service should be a given unless you’re a bank, in which case everyone knows you can’t afford it but will charge anyway. The customer is king and other clichés – you know this stuff.

Thing is, the customer isn’t always in front of you. This is particularly galling when you’re supposed to keep them happy but you can’t actually tell what they’re thinking.

So here are a few pointers, gleaned from various interviews with small traders and indeed my own experience:

  • Treat emails as though they were from real people. I once had occasion to hire a car. I emailed a rental company – who mailed back two weeks later, by which time I’d gone elsewhere, hired the car and returned it.
  • Remember customers can be phoned as well as emailed regardless of whether they’ve contacted you electronically. One of the best pieces of customer service I’ve had was when we ordered some food from a farmer through his website – and got a call a week later to make sure the quality was OK.
  • If you have an online response form, check whether anyone has responded every day – I once left a potential customer dangling for four days. I didn’t get the business.
  • Make yourself available. If you’re on Twitter or Facebook, respond to people – don’t look aloof.
  • If you can automate it like this, don’t process people’s credit card payments until you have sent their goods – it’s technically unlawful although so many e-merchants do it nobody will worry, but people will notice when it’s done right.

This is a guest-post from Guy Clapperton, a freelance journalist who has specialised in the small business arena for over a decade. 

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