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The Internet changed every aspect of business. From the ways companies market and sell their items to how they handle inquiries, complaints and praise. As a result, the nature of customer service itself has changed and evolved. In some cases there are entirely new ways of approaching problems while in other ways, going back to basics is the best way to stay ahead of the pack.

  1. Don’t Ignore the Bad Stuff

Sometimes people don’t call or write until they’re so upset they start off the conversation in an aggressive or confrontational way, which can be off putting. Rather than ignoring or dismissing these people, make an extra effort to understand the situation. Often just actively listening is enough to begin diffusing their anger and will calm them down. Then identify the problem and if it’s something you can fix, take action immediately. If their problem is something out of your control (changes made by a vendor or problems with a specific delivery service) explain the issue to them and suggest alternative solutions.

  1. Give Customers Up to Date Information

Use integrated sales and inventory management to maintain accurate stock level alerts for retail employees and online shoppers. When an item is getting close to re-order, advertise that supply is limited throughout your sales channels and have those alerts also initiate a re-order from vendors.

  1. Reward Good Service

Don’t overlook your customer service team when it comes to handing out praise and recognition. Give customers plenty of ways to offer feedback on the service they receive and publicly recognize employees who make it a point to go the extra mile. Offering this type of employee focused service is an organic way to encourage a spirit of service at every level of your business.

  1. Welcome Returns

Make your returns policy as liberal as possible. Customer returns are a great way to gather data on what works and what doesn’t. It’s also an effective way to spot problems with specific products. If a vendor changes the fabric they use on shirt sleeves, for example, you may not know it until customers begin returning shirts. If you accept returns happily, you’ll learn about the issue quickly and can take whatever steps you need.

  1. Be Accessible Both Online and Offline

There’s been plenty of focus on offering online chat and quick email response over the past few years. But online support isn’t a replacement for real life support. Be sure you offer ways for people to get in touch directly by including phone numbers, direct contacts and a well-trained team within your main office.