Luxury brands have long been admired for their product quality and how they treat their customers. They serve a demographic that expects nothing but the best, and these brands constantly strive to raise the bar.
But luxury-level service doesn’t have to come with products that cost thousands of dollars. You can implement these high-end customer service practices in your small business.
Crown & Caliber – a company that consigns watches from brands like Rolex, Breitling and Cartier – believes the luxury market is all about honesty and comfort.
“When dealing with expensive items, it is important to portray trust and professionalism,” said CEO Hamilton Powell. “Excellent customer service is the best way to put a customer at ease. Successful customer service representatives will portray empathy and will make the owner feel comfortable placing their beloved [luxury item] in safe hands.”
We spoke to several small business owners to find out how they incorporate luxury-level customer service in their businesses. Here are seven essential tips to follow.
Your perception of your customer service doesn’t matter, Powell said. What matters is how your customers think you’re doing. For instance, Crown & Caliber performs quarterly net promoter score surveys with its customers to get an idea of how the team is doing and where it needs to improve.
“Ask, ask, and ask,” said Thalia Toha, brand and business strategist. “Ask better questions, and don’t let [complaints] fall flat with no visible improvements afterward. The extra mile is not crowded for a reason.”
You can’t improve what you’re not tracking. Powell noted that his company’s customer service team has precise metrics reported to them daily, such as the percentage of repeat customers and the amount of time spent on the phone.
These are some other key customer service metrics to track:
Customers want to know their voice is being heard, and their concerns are your concerns. Using social media for customer service is an effective tactic. Social media, especially Twitter, is a great way to immediately listen and respond to customers who may have an issue, Powell said.
But being quick to respond to online reviews, tweets and comments isn’t the only way you should be available to customers. Powell emphasized the importance of taking phone calls for customers who want to speak directly with a service representative.
“It is difficult to build a strong rapport with a customer when the only form of communication is [digital],” he said. “Speaking with customers on the phone does take a bit more time than just emailing them, but it shows them they are worth the customer service representative’s time.”
Jared Weitz, founder and CEO of United Capital Source, said that businesses should avoid leaning too much on feedback bots and artificial intelligence to provide a customer experience. “Remember that you are serving people. AI, service bots, and automated content are great resources, but they should not be the only resource for providing service.”
Although AI chat shouldn’t be your customer service focus, live chat remains a viable option. In fact, 41% of customers prefer live chat to other customer service channels. You can follow several live chat best practices to incorporate live chat into your customer service options.
For starters, remember the word “live.” A person should be behind your chat tool, ready to respond to incoming queries. Your live chat technology should also keep a complete record of what your team and customers say during each conversation. You should also include a survey at the end of each interaction to determine how your customers feel about your live chat.
Look over your agents’ conversations and analyze the data you obtain from surveys. If you see concerns about response time or your representatives unclearly communicating via live chat, train your team to do better. As you improve your live chat service, you’ll help a substantial portion of your customer base feel more satisfied.
So much of consumption these days is about the whole experience rather than just the product or service. Customers want to feel special and valued whether they’re shopping for a Porsche or a new paint color for their house.
Jason Taylor, co-founder of Prestige Transportation, said that he pushes his company to go the extra mile in personalizing and creating value in his customers’ experiences. “For many of our regular clients, we keep notes in their account and bring them their favorite Starbucks drink when taking them to the airport in the morning.”
Another way to personalize your service is starting customer loyalty programs. Loyalty programs can include direct mailers, rewards programs, card-linked offers and other purchasing incentives. You could also ensure that actual people speak to your customers during key interactions and make recommendations based on their buying history.
The Ritz-Carlton’s motto is “we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” This concept goes along with the idea of empowering your employees to create stellar experiences for your customers. If you give your employees the same respect you do your customers, they feel valued and motivated to pass on a positive experience.
Furthermore, as a CEO or business owner, you should make a point to interact directly with employees and customers.
“Even as CEO, I get on the phone with customers myself,” said Bob Seidel, private jet pilot and CEO of Alerion Aviation. “No request is too small for me to listen to, which makes the client feel important.”
Powell reminds business owners that the customer should always come first, regardless of your company’s size, industry or target market.
“It is important to build a relationship with the customer so they feel like they are more than just a transaction,” he said. “Smaller companies should make this the foundation of their company. Build your company on the idea that it is built to fill customers’ needs, and their needs should be the priority. No company is too big or too small to provide customers with excellent service.”
Sometimes, providing luxury-level customer service means knowing you can’t make that happen in-house. Maybe your skills and knowledge pertain solely to your products and not the art of interacting with customers. Or maybe you can’t quite build the infrastructure or afford the costs of building an in-house customer service staff.
If this is the case, choose a customer service call center for your business. You won’t be alone: Roughly 1 in 4 customer service lines are outsourced.
All kinds of factors play into whether a particular call center service fits your needs. For example, a domestic call center may offer more services than an international one, along with superior technology and agents who may be better suited to work with your customers.
Other considerations include whether your agents will be dedicated to your company or distributed across many clients. You should also look into the service’s policies on outages, minimum monthly call volume, availability and reporting. Reporting is particularly crucial: The best call center services report real-time data, record calls, and offer maximum transparency.
Some of these services, such as Go Answer, excel at handling inbound calls (read our Go Answer review to learn more). Other call services are better for outbound calls, primarily involving lead-generation tactics that not every business may need.
No matter your customer service needs, you can likely find a call center to help.
Max Freedman contributed to the writing and research in this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.