We’ve all heard that familiar story. It almost always goes like, “I decided to support black business and got service provider X to provide me with service Y. Service provider X was late and delivered a sub-par service. I’ve been trying to contact service provider X and he tells me stories A, B and C. I regret supporting black business.” Sigh.
Bad service is more than just an inconvenience. It can cost your customers real time and money and ruin the reputation of an entire race. Up and coming entrepreneurs have an obligation to change things around. There are some simple steps that you can take to ensure that you give great service to your customers.
Price for good service
The key to good service begins when you set the price for your goods or services. At its very core, service is about giving your time to your customers. When running your business, time is money. Every minute you spend servicing a customer is a minute that you could spend on other activities. You should price for that time. Figure out how much you or your employees should be making per hour, that’s how much your time costs. Estimate how much time you’ll spend servicing your customers. Add the ‘time cost’ of that servicing to the price of your product. By pricing well, you won’t feel like the time you spend servicing your clients could be spent finding new business.
You will be tempted to make grand promises to win your clients over or because you truly believe you’ll deliver – don’t do it!
As an entrepreneur, you are an inherently optimistic person. This character trait is crucial for growing your business even in the highs and lows. It also helps you see opportunity where others see risks. That optimism, however, should not filter into the promises you make your clients. There’s nothing that ruins your reputation faster than broken promises. And, there’s nothing that delights your customers more than delivering much faster than you promised.
Use the right channels to talk to your customers
How do you talk to your customers? WhatsApp? Phone? Text? Email? Instagram? Choosing how you talk to your clients is one of the most important servicing decisions you’ll have to make. The method you use to talk to your customers should be sustainable and accessible. Can your customers text you at any time? Will they follow up on an order at 10 pm on your personal phone? Are you able to respond to those types of enquiries? Setting the right expectations is essential. It ensures that your customers understand when and how you’ll respond to their enquiries.
Using WhatsApp to talk to your customers sets the expectation that they can contact you at any time. And that you will respond immediately. It also restricts your ability to transfer the servicing of a client to another person on your team.
Using email can set the expectation that you will respond during working hours. It allows you to create an email trail that can be shared with other members of your team. But, your customers may not be used to using email. If you’re going to use email to service then you have to ensure that you use a professional business email service. It is more credible, professional and ensures better knowledge sharing with members of your team. Using personal email services such as Yahoo! and Gmail may actually take away your credibility. If you choose to use email then custom email may non-negotiable – depending on your industry.
I don’t claim to understand the reasons why people associate black business with bad service. I would rather focus on how to give great service. In my experience, great service doesn’t come by accident. You, as an entrepreneur have to plan for it and actively pursue it.