February 29, 2016

By Dave Golokhov

The big box pet stores may have a few advantages over the local shops, but one area where the small businesses can outclass is customer service. That’s because smaller companies have fewer layers to the onion, which means less employees and less red tape. They can provide the individual, personalized attention to customers that the massive stores often cannot.

If you’re looking to build stronger and closer relationships with your customers, follow these four steps to improve your customer service.

Know Your Customers

Just like the theme song from Cheers, we all want to be—and shop at places—where everybody knows our name. That personal touch and familiarity is a key element of customer service. The more your pet store grows, the more you’ll want to rely on some technology to help you remember the details of your clients. You can build customer profiles to get to know your clientele, understand what they want and better cater to their needs.

For example, if you have a regular customer who owns a poodle, a POS system like Lightspeed can keep track of their details, allowing you to connect with them and their pet on a first-name basis. You’ll be able to track their previous purchases and gather data on their shopping habits and preferences and then create sales and discounts that will appeal to them and their pooch.

Small businesses thrive on relationships. Customers often feel like they’re just another number at a big box store. By staying on a first-name basis with your clientele, remembering their pets and noting their special dates, you’ll show them that you care about them as individuals.

Be Flexible

Customers get frustrated by hearing “no” or “sorry, we can’t do that.” It’s a common line they hear a lot from cable companies, banks and airlines. If you want to make your customers happy, learn to be flexible. Sure, every business has its limits, but remember that great customer service is about catering to the customer’s needs. If an elderly person needs some help carrying dog food down the block but delivery isn’t a service you provide, try to accommodate. If a regular customer is returning a product 32 days later even though you know you have a 30-day return policy, try to cater to the request.

Small businesses make these little sacrifices all of the time; this type of flexibility is added value to the customer. That’s what leads them to pick local shops over the big chains.

Keep in Touch

Try to collect a little bit of your customers’ information when they’re shopping so you can connect with them even after they’ve left the store. We’re not referring to upselling or spamming, but by following up with personalized, targeted e-mails. By doing so, you can show your patrons that you really care about their satisfaction.

Simple questions like “How’s Bruiser enjoying the new dog food?” or “Did the kennel fit your space?” indicate that their comfort is important to you. They’re not just a number to you because you’re building a relationship with them beyond the store.

If you feel that emails are a little too intrusive, guide your customers to your social profiles where you can keep them in touch with new products, promotions and what’s happening in the store. Staying in touch, in any fashion, shows customers that they are important to you even after the transaction is made. That’s quality customer service.

Be a Problem Solver

Problems arise in a pet store every day; it’s just part of the challenge of running a successful business. However, look at these problems as opportunities to display your strong customer service. Address the problem in a prompt fashion and take immediate steps to resolve it. When issues linger, it shows laziness and a lack of care. Show your customers that they’re important to you by handling matters right away.

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