Customer service lessons for sole traders

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Every one of us can learn a lot from successful big companies. Be it from leaders’ attitude towards constant development, or their abilities to fend off problems, we can always get some useful textbook example from those who have reached the top.

Today we will focus on the lessons a sole trader can learn from big companies in the customer service realm. We will present to you three well-examined tips of how you can improve your interaction with customers and achieve better business results.

Professional telephone answering

You know how big company managers have secretaries who pick up calls for them and then put the callers through to the big fish. It looks impressive and works for the reputation of the highly-positioned individual as a busy person who is not easily reachable by everyone.

It’s now so easy for a sole trader to achieve a similar image with a receptionist answering the phone for them and dealing with the calls efficiently and professionally.

First

You get someone who knows the thick and thin of call answering, can assume the right tone of voice and will know how to deal with various, potentially challenging, situations.

Second

It creates the impression that your company is bigger, if it can afford to employ an in-house receptionist. In reality, you will be relying on an offsite-working virtual receptionists who will not be directly employed by you but by the telephone answering service you choose as a provider.

Third

A virtual receptionist will take a rather big chunk of workload off your chest, and can even be the bridge between you and potential new customers.

Operating as a sole trader means that you rarely have much time for, let’s call it “creative freedom”. You often need to attend to phone calls yourself instead of searching for ways to expand your business or better your product or service. Phone calls are often distractive and inevitably some of them carry little value to compensate the time spent on dealing with them. Outsourcing the telephone answering function unties your hands and frees up more time to take on more significant business matters.

Moreover, a telephone answering service ensures that no new leads are missed due to unanswered calls.

Imagine the following situation – you are having an important meeting with a client that lasts for 2 or 3 hours, during which you better leave your phone aside. Alas, 2 or 3 hours on a work day are a way too long period of time to leave your phone lines unattended. This is where the receptionist serves the role of a bridge covering the gap between you and a juicy new sale. They will answer the phone, inform the caller that you are in a meeting (or whatever you have instructed them to say and do), so that you can get back to them as soon as you are available and hopefully strike a deal that will make you profit.

Make memorable gifts – enhance customer experience

This practice may be seen as having turned into a conventional one over the years, but it will always hold the potential to enrapture customers and forge such a strong bond between them and the provider, that even little errors on your part (they happen, let’s admit it) will be unable to snap it.

The idea is to apply a strictly personal approach to your clients. Sole traders are expected to know their customers well and should be able to perform insightful analysis of their behaviour and relationship with the company in order to decide what would be the best way to pamper them.

Two rules for what the gift should NOT be. Nobody expects it to be expensive or least of all, unimaginative.

All it has to be is memorable and amusing. The end goal is to get the customer remember what you have done for them and spread the word about your approach. This is a buzz marketing button to press if you want to get in the spotlight, gain recognition, and drive new curious customers.

Remember that the 6 buzz marketing buttons defined by Mark Hughes (not Sparky – the former Manchester United player and current Stoke City manager) are “taboo”, “the unusual”, “the outrageous”, the “hilarious”, the “remarkable” and “secrets”.

There is no “one size fits all” approach here and we cannot provide detailed tips on what will work for different businesses. As we mentioned earlier, it is all about you knowing your customer base and acting accordingly.

Sole traders are always in immediate contact with most of their customers, therefore, they should know something more about them, aside from the business relationship. This should theoretically make it easier for them to determine what a particular client will like. All in all, buzz marketing is an efficient customer retention tactic we strongly advocate.

Build a good website

The phone call remains the easiest way to contact a business, and is still very much preferred by the majority of customers. Nevertheless, providers are often more likely to be found nowhere else but on the Internet. Well, unless you are strictly committed to target only a specific local area, but this is nonsense. Everybody is looking to grow and stand out from their competitors and the place to do this is the infinite web space.

This is the reason why a usable website is a necessity for every business, regardless of its size. Let us tell you of our recent experience that proves our point.

We will spare you the details of what exactly we were looking for and in which area, but we wanted to find a service in a not-too-big city in the UK. We had the time to review every relevant company in the area on the first 3 pages of Google.

What we noticed was that with every following result, the site quality was deteriorating. While services that had climbed up to page 1 had bright and engaging sites, those towards the end of page 2 and top page 3 results looked quite plain and did not strike us with much of a powerful first impression that would have us return to the same page.

We feel that first-time customers are quite impressionable, and a good-looking site does the trick for a business and enchants the visitor to come back to it.

Sure, creating a fancy site and, more importantly, getting it rank on page 1, costs money and consumes a lot of time. However, you cannot go without it. Not if you are ambitious to make a name for yourself in your selected industry. Just like with telephone answering, there are plenty of outsourcing opportunities ahead of you. Digital marketing agencies who know their game will be able to help you create a user-friendly site and make you visible for wider audiences.


Learn more about what a telephone answering service can do for you!


Vladi Nikolov is our resident copywriter and SEO expert. With a BA in Media, he is a skilled writer with a passion for research. Vladi is also an active member of a supporters’ trust taking part in various community-oriented events.