If you really care about customer service at your small business then you’re not afraid of bad feedback. You’re not afraid to learn that a customer is unhappy, that a problem has occurred, that a complaint wasn’t resolved in time, that a product is defective or a service wasn’t performed up to par. No business performs its job perfectly every time. But when mistakes are made, the best and most profitable businesses respond quickly. And the better ones try to reduce the likelihood of problems before they happen.

This is why good managers rely on reports—to keep them informed about what’s going on. And if you’re truly interested in providing the best service possible you’ll use the data in your accounting, customer relationship management or help desk system to drive your efforts. 

What kind of data should you look at? Here are the reports I’ve learned businesses need to deliver great customer service:

1. Know what the open problems are every day.

Get a report of Open Issues. Hopefully, your customer service department is logging any problems into your CRM or service desk application. Or maybe just tracking issues on a spreadsheet. One of my clients insists on a daily report of open service tickets. He wants to know who’s having the problem, when the problem started, what the problem is, and what’s being done to fix it. It’s not a fun report. But it’s essential because he takes that information and oftentimes reaches out to customers directly or checks in with his service people to make sure things are on track. By staying on top of his current problems, he’s able to head off any other potential disasters before they happen.

2. Know how quickly problems are being resolved.

We hate it when products we purchase don’t work. We hate it more when the companies we purchase the faulty products from are slow to respond. Your customers are demanding, impatient and unreasonable…just like you and me. So now that you know this, you need to do something about it. 

Once a month, get your Time to Resolution report. This report should show every single issue logged during that month, when it was opened, when it was closed and a calculation as to how quickly it got closed. Set goals for closing issues – a typical one shouldn’t be open more than 24-48 hours, right? And if something’s open longer than that, make sure you know why – it may be for legitimate reasons, or it may be indicative of a problem.

(Related: How to Avoid the Biggest Customer Service Mistake You Can Make)

3. Know why problems are occurring.

Another client of mine who runs a software company receives an Issue by Category report every month. The report shows every issue created, categorized by the type of problem. In his case, issues are caused by software bugs, hardware problems, user errors and conflicts with other applications.

An unusual number of issues arising from a software bug is indicative of a growing problem. There may be a problem with another software program or a certain type of hardware that will need addressing before it becomes an even bigger problem. Certain problems that are unique to a customer or are one-off incidents will need to be resolved on a case-by-case basis. But if you’re seeing an accumulation of problems in a certain category, then an even bigger issue may need to be resolved.

4. Know who’s being ignored.

My company sells technology and we have about 600 active clients. I once emailed a client and found that they hadn’t been using my software for months. I didn’t even know it. Why didn’t I know this? It was because I wasn’t alerted by a report. And it cost me. 

So now, each month, I get a report from my CRM system that I call the No-Contact report. The report lists any client who hasn’t had either an incoming email or a phone conversation with anyone in my company in the past six months. If there’s been no personal communication with that client for that long then that client is in danger of leaving. 

No customer likes to be blown off or ignored, even if the products and services they pay for are working OK. The good news is that not many clients wind up on this report. But when the odd one does, I personally reach out, apologize for the lack of communication, and make sure that they’re on a schedule for follow-ups.

The more you use reports to embrace customer problems, the better the service you’ll provide. And how you handle your customer service claims will have a huge impact on repeat business. Customers understand that businesses make mistakes; the way a business handles those mistakes can make a lasting impression (good or bad) on the customer.

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