What is the first thing you think of when you hear the words “Customer Service”? For some, it means handling all negative comments from customers who purchased your product or service. Providing customer support is more than handling complaints, it starts with your initial contact with a customer.
Small businesses can provide good customer service and use it as a competitive advantage. Learn how you can deliver good customer service to your clients, even without a huge budget.
What is Customer Service?
When it comes to customer service or customer support, customer satisfaction is the top priority. Basically, it is about giving what your customers want and need.
Serving your customer happens not just after a sale or when they complain, but also before a transaction, and during a transaction. This applies to all types of businesses, regardless of size and industry.
It is about taking care of your customers and making sure they are happy. For some, it also means going above and beyond to keep customers satisfied.
But, what if you are a small business? Do you need to hire and immediately build a whole department for that? The answer is no.
You can start with the current resources you have and tweak as you scale your business. What’s important is creating the foundation and building as you go. Having good customer support can give your business an edge over competitors. It will also help you have loyal customers.
Small businesses encounter a lot of different customers every day. Each interaction is a moment to provide excellent customer service, learn how you can improve, and grow your business at the same time.
Tips on Building Your Customer Service
Establishing customer support is very beneficial for your small business and branding. As early as now, you can avoid potential mistakes that may drive customers away for good instead of winning them over.
There is no universal guide in creating a customer service plan from scratch. You can create one and strategize instead with the following tips:
Use your company values as an anchor
Every business should have a mission, vision, and values that will serve as the anchor of the entire company. To help you set-up your customer service, consider keeping your company values in mind.
For instance, if your company is all about integrity, then uphold that when serving your customers. Deliver what you promised. If it does not work out, take responsibility.
If you value empathy, then practice that when communicating with your clients. Try to understand where they are coming from.
Using your existing company values as your basic foundation is a great way to start. List them down and see how you can apply them in providing support to your customers.
Set your customer service standards
As part of your business, you need to define what good customer service is. What kind of experience do you want to give to your customers? Once they leave your website or storefront, what should you have accomplished?
To give you an example, a company that is known for providing excellent service is Apple. They made shopping easy for customers through their physical stores and websites, and they invested in training their employees.
Perhaps if you are running a restaurant, you want to make your customers feel absolutely taken care of by being attentive to them. One example is refilling their water glasses without them needing to call for a waiter.
If you are selling products, you can make shopping more convenient. Your brand can become known for quick check out process and delivery. On top of that, being able to answer all product inquiries in a timely manner can give you an edge.
If you were the customer, what would you not want to experience? It could be slow service. It could also be an intrusive sales talk experience.
Setting your customer service standards is all about the experience that you want to give your customer. Is it having a friendly, helpful staff who answers all inquiries? Is it providing excellent troubleshooting support after sales? Think of what you want your brand to be known for.
Set communication standards
Your team will definitely grow in the years to come. So as early as now, set guidelines on how to communicate with your customers. It will be best to align it with your company culture, personality, and brand. Here are examples.
- How do you address customers?
- Do you use salutations or call them by their first name?
- What language and tone should you use?
- How long should it take you to respond to them?
- How should irate customers be handled?
- How do you respond to feedback?
- Avoid using negative language.
- Say thank you to your customers.
Having a standard way of communicating makes it easy for everyone. It provides a guide for you and your crew. Your customers will appreciate the consistency too and develop trust for your brand.
Pick the right channels
Where are your customers? Are they online or offline? Find out what channels your customers prefer to frequently use. Do they prefer to email or text? It is also possible that they want to come to your store for face-to-face interaction.
Pick the right channels on where they can easily reach you. This could be through phone, email, social media, live chat, or through your physical store. Each has its pros and cons.
- Phone – Provides information in real-time. Great for retail. However, this can also be time-consuming on your part especially if you have limited manpower.
- Email – Great option for technical support. It is also easy to review past conversations and pieces of information.
- Social Media – Best for quick concerns. You can also automate responses for frequently asked questions.
- Live Chat – This is great for retail shops that are either online or offline.
- Physical Store – Great for both product and service businesses.
Make it easy for your customers to connect with you when they need support with your product or service. You do not have to have all channels, pick one or two that you can manage and focus on. Additionally, set clear time schedules so that they know when to expect a reply.
Prepare a simple workflow
Create a simple process that you and your staff can follow when a customer concern comes in. Break down the steps and tweak as you go. Incorporate the communication and service standards that you have set.
For instance, what is the first step that you will do when a call comes in? Do you get the customer’s information and order number first, or do you allow him to state his concern before providing his details?
Your workflow does not need to be perfect right away, but it should be clear and efficient. Take note of what steps should be done when you need to replace an order or make revisions to your work. How will you facilitate returns and refunds, if any?
What would you do with delivery issues? If you have a restaurant, how would you deal if a customer complains that the food was served cold?
Start with a flow chart. Lay down the process from start to finish. Keep it simple for you and your staff.
Next, make the experience as painless as possible for your customer. If possible, make it a goal to resolve any complaints on the first interaction, call, message, or email.
Prepare your tools and system
Customer service relies a lot on internal tools. If you are just starting your business, you do not need to invest in expensive software right away. Here are some tools that you can start with:
- Phone and/or a laptop – You need a reliable gadget where customers can reach you. You will also be building your knowledge base.
- Pen and notepads – Keep these close by when you need to jot down information and reminders, especially when you are taking phone calls.
- Google Drive – Save information that you can access anywhere as long as you have a data connection.
- Microsoft Excel or Google Doc Spreadsheets – To help you log not just customer purchases, but also customer service concerns.
The purpose of having these tools or their alternatives is to make it easy for you to store and access data. When you have hundreds of customers and you need to search for one specific customer purchase, having a system in place can save you a lot of time.
Choose tools based on performance and functionality. This will make your process seamless. Your customer will appreciate the speedy service too.
As your business grows, you will learn what you can improve and even automate.
Evaluate your performance
What went wrong with the last customer issue? Why did the other calls go well? Why was the previous customer unhappy when he came in? Sit down with your team and evaluate.
- How many customer issues come in per day?
- What are they usually about?
- Which situations are common and uncommon?
- How many get resolved?
- How long does it take for you to handle each one?
Record each customer interaction in your database. You might find out that you only resolve 50% of customer issues. Perhaps it takes you too long to resolve one type of issue, such as technical ones.
Set regular meetings and evaluations. Learn from the data you have gathered, and also involve your other team members. Consider what can be done to improve certain situations.
One of the best ways to improve customer support and win your customers is to gather feedback from them. Communicate with your customers. Make it easy for them to give you comments and suggestions.
You may opt to create an online survey where they can answer and then submit their feedback. You may also send them an email or a text asking if they are satisfied with how you resolved their requests or issues.
There are different ways to get their insights. You can prepare a questionnaire with questions such as:
- How would you rate our customer service?
- Please rate your satisfaction on how well we understood your issue.
- How satisfied are you with how we resolved your concern?
- Did you experience any problem with accessing our website?
- Was our check out process easy?
- How would you rate the quality of our food?
- Was our delivery on time?
- Did you enjoy the ambiance of our cafe?
Be open to feedback, comments, and suggestions. You can use these customer insights to your advantage and create a strategy from them. There is an opportunity for your business to innovate and keep customers happy at the same time.
Customers are highly valuable resources. The next time they visit your shop and see the improvement, they will be glad to know that your brand truly cares for its customers and that you did something about their concern.
Learn to adapt
Businesses inevitably evolve along with trends and technology. Even people’s shopping behavior changes. Just as how a lot of businesses are bringing their services online, you will also need to finetune the way you provide customer support.
Perhaps you would like to add new tools or study a new way to approach your customers. For instance, you may consider having a YouTube channel that will answer frequently asked questions regarding your product. You may also just upload helpful videos on your website or social media. Customers can leave messages on the comment section that you can respond to.
You do not need to change your foundations or values, you just have to be open to exploring new methods and trends to keep your customers satisfied. It will also keep you on par with your competitors.
Add a personal touch
Customers appreciate a personalized approach. They want to feel authenticity. They want to feel that you understand them and that you will help them, especially with after-sales issues.
Build rapport with them, but treat each one as a unique individual. This will help you create a connection with them.
When they visit your shop, make eye contact so they feel that they have your full attention. Address them by their names, even when communicating via phone or email.
Be attentive to their concern and practice empathy. There are studies that show that majority of customers still prefer human interaction over a chatbot.
If possible, send them a surprise thank you card or email. Send them an email greeting on their birthdays and offer them discounts.
Having good customer service practices in place can help grow your business. You can start with the current resources that you have and a simple workflow. Whether you are a small business or you are just starting, providing a good customer experience can give you a competitive edge and help you develop long-lasting customer relationships.