The equine industry is one of the oldest industries around, way back it was all about transport, agriculture and power. After all, horses were the original cars. And whilst the equine industry is still going strong today, it is no longer out of necessity, and today it is surviving as a sport and hobby. Surviving yes, thriving no. But why is this?
The equestrian world is a highly competitive arena, and that extends far beyond the confines of the show ring. Of course, healthy competition is a necessity in any industry, but there does happen to be an unfortunate association with elitism in the equestrian world, and this could prohibit growth.
Thanks in no small part to the many outspoken critics of elitism, and bullying in the industry, we are finally making great strides together towards stamping out this kind of behaviour and becoming a truly inclusive community that we can be proud of.
In the age of technology, as industries rapidly move forwards, can we in the equine industry benefit from this development and continue on this path, and rebrand equestrianism as a warm and open community?
Great customer service will be the key factor. Most notably when it comes to shaping the opinions of industry outsiders, but also, those on the inside too.
What is great customer service?
Great customer service is just open and polite communication, it’s the way in which we represent ourselves and interact with our customers, potential customers, and former customers, basically everyone.
It can be anything from the way you talk with a potential customer on the phone, how you respond to an email from an unhappy customer or taking the time for a small personal chat with a current customer.
So when or if you have ever wondered what it is that differentiates the equine professionals who enjoy the spoils of success, from those just scraping by, is it superior knowledge? Lower prices? Knowing the right people?
In fact, it’s something that we can all integrate with ease, and that is - having great customer service!
In fact, research proves that companies with poor customer service can lose 82 percent of customers, whereas a company with exceptional customer service can not only increase their prices but retain 87 percent of their customers in the process. That’s all thanks to the added value of great customer service. An interesting read about customer service from RightNow (pdf)
Eight top tips for improving your customer service right now
Treat your customers how would like to be treated if you were in their shoes
Follow up with emails, and offer a solution quickly.
Answer all emails within 24 hours during the working week, if you don’t have an answer to the customer’s query; at least let them know that you’re looking into it for them.
If a customer comes across as unreasonable, take a second and try to understand where they are coming from and do your best to calmly find a solution that works for both of you
Add the personal touch, from remembering a pet’s name, or that a customer’s kids birthday is coming up. Going above and beyond will really make you, and your company stand out
Send personalised messages to customers within orders, after all, it’s thanks to each customer that you have a business to run. Something as simple as remembering that they are a repeat customer can go a long way to keeping their loyal business for the long term
With every customer you deal with, have it in the back of your mind that you want to make their day a little brighter. Whether that means helping them find the perfect solution for them, or just being so gosh darned jolly that they can’t help but smile!
Make sure that your entire team are as passionate about customer service as you are and ensure that they understand the way a company communicates is vital to the company's, and therefore, their own success
Remember, each person you meet could be a potential customer, or even recommend you to a friend, don’t give them the old sales pitch - nobody likes that. But be helpful if they ask questions relating to your niche, and if you have valuable advice, share it. Sharing is caring!
Is the customer always right?
This is a phrase that is often thrown around, but is it true? No, the customer isn’t necessarily always "right" but let us switch out the word "right", for the word "happy". This is the true test, and what we should always aim for when trying to provide great customer service.
The majority of customers are a joy to deal with, but, ever so occasionally, you may have a customer who just isn’t terribly easy to deal with. It is an unfortunate yet very human trait that sometimes if we are annoyed, we can take out that frustration on the wrong people. Therefore, if the customer is unappeasable, you might need to realise that all you can do is rectify the situation to the best of your ability based on the unique circumstances.
Small vs large business'
The difference between being a one man band, and a multi-national company is immense, but that does not mean that the little guy should take shortcuts when it comes to customer service.
Sure, larger company’s have a heck of budget, but you have something that they don’t have, the ability to focus on the personal touch for each and every customer!
In my opinion, providing great customer service is one of the most enjoyable and rewarding parts of running a business, and you should enjoy it while you can. Pretty soon your company might grow, and you might not have as much time to spend interacting with your customers!
How to deal with an issue
If an issue does occur, it is not the end of the world. And even if it is your mistake, it is possible to save the relationship with the client by rectifying the situation and making up for any inconvenience. This can be anything from providing a freebie, to a discount on future purchases.
Every company has its own brand personality. This is not always what YOU think that it is, rather - it is what your customers think of your company.
The best companies actively work to shape their company’s brand personality so that it fits with their objectives, target market, and principles. This can be from publishing blog posts, to sending out christmas cards. Be original, be unique and be you!
With so many companies, and professionals vying for business within this same pool of customers, it is imperative to stand out. Of course, having a superior product, or service is important, but more often than not, companies with phenomenal customer service can outperform those with exceptional products.
So take your time, be personable, and above all, treat your customer how you would like to be treated.
About Nadia Aslam
Aslam is an entrepreneur and a seasoned Equestrian writer with over ten years of experience of writing for publications across the globe. She currently travels the world full-time, reporting on competitions, writing equestrian travel guides, and working on her own pet projects.