In today's switched-on world, it can be both harder and easier than ever to provide excellent customer service. Harder because customers have become more demanding and more vocal with their views. Put one foot wrong and they take to social media to complain, telling thousands of your misstep. But it can also be easier to provide excellent customer service through channels such as online FAQ sections, phone self-help, live chat and SMS notifications - whether automated or on demand.

Everything is automated these days, from booking theater tickets to checking in at the airport, so why not customer service? Of course, speaking to a real human is the ultimate in excellent customer service but with the choice of an automated service and no response at all, being heard is better than radio silence. Automated customer service can save your business a lot of time and money, as long as you keep it personal.

Here are ways to build sound relationships by keeping in constant contact with your customers:

  • Keep them informed:  Plan ahead - if your office is going to be closed or systems down, keep your database in the loop in a timeous manner. A well-phrased email will make them feel like you've considered their needs.
  • Marketing messages:  Make customers feel valued by offering them regular exclusive discounts or telling your database first if you have a sale or offer running.
  • Reminders:  Appointment reminders work both ways - you don't risk no-shows and a customer won't forget. By implementing a two-way SMS service, you could also give them the option to cancel an appointment via 2 way SMS.
  • Reassure paying customers:  If your business accepts credit card or Paypal payments online, transaction notifications are a must these days, ideally by email and SMS message.
  • Progress reports:  The next important step in online ordering is a regular progress report. These can be driven by email and/or SMS - once an order has been received, once a delivery has left the warehouse, when it is en route for delivery, if a delivery is delayed for any reason, etc.
  • Collection notifications:  If you are in the service industry - for example automotive repairs - consider sending customers notifications when something is ready for pick-up. You could keep a customer in the loop at every stage, e.g. when the car moves into the workshop, into the finishing area, into the car wash, etc. It will make them feel valued and give an impression of efficiency.
  • Resolving complaints:  South Africa's satellite and TV service, Multichoice, offers its customers relevant SMS short codes to resolve customer service issues such as on-screen errors, registering for email statements, etc.
  • After-hours support:  Electricity company Eskom uses SMS to provide customer service by SMS. This enables its seven regional sites to minimize waiting time and provide a prompt response to customer queries around the clock.
  • Follow-ups: Care what your customers think by inviting them to take part in a simple follow-up survey on email or SMS. This could take them to a web link where they complete a Q&A or could be done via 2 way SMS.

You put a lot of hard work into finding clients. The next step is to make sure you keep them loyal through constant contact. Being in touch with your clients whenever necessary is what will give you the competitive edge.

For more ideas on how other companies are using SMS to drive excellent customer service, download our 101 uses for SMS guide.

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