This is an article by our guest Editor Helen Duval

Whatever size business, good customer service is essential and is the lifeblood to maintain a positive recommendation from customers and keeping them happy. Sales are all well and good, but the approach to customer service is the thing that will determine whether they will come back and give referrals.

No matter how many promotions or offers reducing prices that can be conjured up, unless the back up support is there, a company will not be profitable for very long. For many SMEs recommendation is the route they trust to make their business grow.

Building business relationships is of course all part of the process but without the service to back this up then these won’t last long. As the saying goes, ‘actions speak louder than words’ and there are plenty out there looking to snap up customers if they spot a weak link.

For smaller businesses there are some key things that can get overlooked which will tarnish a business if they are not addressed.

We’ve created a few tips to keep customers happy for tradesmen with frantic schedules who may find prioritising not always top of the list.

Answer the phone. It is vital that this happens in one guise or another, so whether a phone has call forwarding or an answering service – make sure it is switched on and that people have a route to resolve any queries. Making answerphone messages appealing will be an important part of leaving the right message about a company.

Only make promises that can be kept. Being reliable and trustworthy as an SME is another very important part of business communications. This strengthens business relations and demonstrates that customers are important to the business. If you set a delivery date, or appointment make sure it can be kept. Plan these things carefully as there is no quicker route to a bad reputation than broken promises.

Listening is a great approach in business – by paying attention during discussions ensures that customers know they are a high priority. They will also be more forgiving than having to deal with people where they have to explain things over and over again.

Those added extras of being helpful when there is no profit in it for a business actually goes a long way and will always attract the right attention. By going the extra mile when occasions warrant it, without putting a cost to it, will take a tradesman way ahead.

If there is a team in place, ensure that they understand how to handle customers at all levels, from managing directors to clerks and the production team. Queries and questions with genuine attention paid to any problems will again put customers in a better mood.

Incentives are always draw a big crowd as well as loyalty benefits for long standing customers – these make the long standing customers feel special and will give them good reason to return and refer.

Gestures need not be large or dramatic, but if manufacturers add small additional extras that are needed to complete a job, then this will keep people coming back for more.

These simple consistent rules will ensure that a business is recognised for its excellent customer service rather than any gimmicks to try win new sales and will take a business further forward as a new year begins.