Whether you’re planning your next venture or have an established small business, there’s one thing to keep in mind: You must provide exceptional customer service to keep clients happy and loyal to your brand. The challenge for small businesses is that many lack essential resources, such as a fully-fledged customer support department, while still going up against some heavy hitters. No, you may not be part of the Fortune 500 club who have unlimited cash flow and high-end infrastructure. But, the good news is that with the right help desk software and structured customer service training, you can get closer to your customers without spending the big bucks.
The proof is in the numbers: 80% of consumers are willing to pay for a better experience. On the other end of the stick, 91% of customers who had a bad experience won’t do business with your company ever again. When you're a small business in a sea of big competitors, you just can’t afford to lose customers. So, how do you develop a customer-centric mindset and set the bar high? Continue reading to discover expert tips to help your small business stand out from the industry.
1. Personalize your customer experience
If you want to attract and retain customers, it means providing a consistent level of service like no other. We all crave a tailor-made experience whether it be purchasing a bicycle or a cup of coffee. Take Starbucks, a company that started as your local coffee joint and ended up spreading like wildfire worldwide. One simple technique they use is writing their customers’ names on their drink cups and then yelling them out loud when the order is ready. The baristas could just yell out ‘Iced Mocha Coconut Milk Latte,’ but that’s impersonal. Research shows that when participants hear their own name it can make an experience more memorable. And that alone can drive customer loyalty.
The same can be applied when providing assistance on a global scale. Leveraging customer interactions from your help desk software is a good place to start. Customers don’t just want answers to their questions, they want you to be one step ahead. For example, if you believe another product can add value and enhance their experience, recommend it! In your reply, you can provide them with additional information from knowledge base articles to visuals (e.g. how-to tutorials, screenshots, GIFs).
2. Be present on all channels
Over the last twenty years, customer service has moved forward dramatically. Before the Internet, if we needed assistance with a product or service, we’d call the company or simply drive over to the store for a face-to-face conversation. Then, the nineties came along with its sidekick, the Internet. Now customers demand instant answers through a plethora of channels. Fast-forward to 2006, the smartphone made its big entrance, along with social media outlets. These additions have forever changed the way businesses market and support their customers.
If you want to make a long-lasting impression on your clients, then be prepared to be present. This includes providing excellent customer service on your social media outlets, and answering tickets, calls and chats from your help desk software. The best advice? Don’t slack on responding to them. This will only result in the customer feeling ignored or worse, abandoning you for good.
3. Welcome customer feedback
Listening to what your customers have to say about your business is essentially the best way to improve your product or service. Truth be told, when people know they’re being heard, they feel more inclined to do business with you as they value a brand that listens. However, the real challenge small businesses face is finding the right tools to collect this feedback. To set it in motion, your business needs to proactively reach out and provide them with the right outlets to express their thoughts. Here are a few ways to gather their insightful ideas:
Customer surveys. This is one of the most affordable and efficient ways for clients to share their opinions. Compose a list of straightforward questions that can be presented as open text feedback: “What can our employees do better when it comes to providing support?” Or questions based on a satisfaction scale: “From 1 to 10 (1 - unsatisfied to 10 - very satisfied), how satisfied are you with our customer support?” These can be sent to your mailing list, appear after you submit a support ticket, or on your dedicated social media channel.
Feature requests. You’ve set up multi-channel support for your small business. Then, you start receiving tickets, calls and live chats concerning a missing feature. With feature request articles, customers will be able to vote for the features they want. This simplistic yet beneficial help center tool provides decision-makers in your small business the ability to track and prioritize clients’ pain points.
Social media. There are billions of people globally engaged in various social media outlets (e.g. Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc.) so it only makes sense you’ll find your existing - and potential - customers there, too. Social media isn’t just for posting flashy marketing promotions. Big or small, many businesses today have established customer service on social media to assist users and collect both positive and negative feedback. However, sifting through this ‘raw data’ can unquestionably be overwhelming and time-consuming. With social media monitoring tools, along with a good help desk software’s social integrations such as Zapier, you’ll get a hold of the wave of tweets, mentions and posts from your customers.
4. Hire individuals with superb skills
Robots are pretty cool, but still have a long way to go before they can convincingly mimic human qualities, especially in customer service. From the hotel concierge to a customer service representative answering calls, employing the right people is crucial for the success of your small business. That’s because they are customer-facing roles and act as the face of your brand. So finding the right people with exceptional customer service skills and traits can be tricky.
Part of your hiring process should include written tests to assess learning and analytical skills to show them what they’re all about. Hiring the wrong candidate can change your entire company dynamic, and result in bad customer experiences. Ask questions such as: “What motivates you?” to see if their answer aligns with the job role, their goals and inspirations. Also try to provide a difficult client scenario, closing with: “How would you address this inquiry?” Be prepared and pay close attention to the questions you ask in a customer service representative interview, along with their responses.
5. Go to great lengths to solve problems
When you’re only starting to expand your company, losing customers is not an option. When customers reach out to your small business, they expect your business to save their day, and often, on the spot. In many cases, clients call or write in and expect one agent to resolve their issue. Without adequate customer service training, this scenario can result in the customer being shuffled around leading to increased dissatisfaction. In fact, according to a Global Customer Service Barometer survey:
26% of consumers have experienced being transferred from agent to agent without any resolution of their problem.
The first step to making things right is to understand the customer’s point of view. Representative skills (see point 4) should include actively listening and acknowledging the issue at hand. This beginning stage is by far the most important because it sets the tone for the entire conversation. As such, paraphrasing the customer's issue, and empathizing with their grievances can go a long way to ensuring customer satisfaction and loyalty. Simple questions such as: “Did I understand your issue correctly?” or “The help center article instructions should have been clearer. I’ll take care of that for you immediately.”
Whether you’re able to fix a customer issue on the spot, or need to escalate it for further investigation, following up is the final step. Not only does this show your company is taking the time to update them on their issue, but it also ensures the client is satisfied with the outcome.
6. Know your product inside out
While this heading may seem like a no-brainer, you’d be surprised with how quick small businesses go from zero to one hundred when it comes to feature development. When you're looking to go big (but not home), that can be the perfect backdrop for experimenting with your offerings and semi-crazy ideas. That being said, it can be tough for your customer service agents to constantly keep up with new changes without making sure everyone is on the same page. To apply it to a real-life scenario: A customer contacts your support line about a billing issue. What happens next is crucial. Either the agent doesn’t know the answer or worse provides incorrect information misleading them. Ouch.
To avoid this from happening, you must provide quick access tools such as an internal knowledge base articles, along with frequent training to get your support up to speed. Providing excellent customer service isn’t just about answering questions in a help desk software, it’s about knowing every bone in the body of your product by name, location and use. Encourage them to explore your product to understand what the customer experiences day-to-day.
7. Never underestimate the value of your current customers
In big corporations, a customer is sometimes just a number. But for a small business, it’s a face, name and occasionally an entire story. A customer is a friend. Providing top-notch customer service is probably one of the most effective client retention strategies to cultivate repeat customers.
Fact: Acquiring one new customer costs around 6-7 times more than retaining an existing one. While new customers are always a plus, the biggest advantage of keeping your existing customers around can do wonders for your small business. Use proven strategies such as:
Be easy to reach. Forget the phone directories. Your business contact information should be on the homepage of your website. With Wix Answers solution, it’s easy to set up a help center contact form to enable clients to shoot over their inquiries at any time.
Choose quality over quantity. Your current clients know your product like the back of their hand. And when they run into hurdles, they expect a high level of customer service. While you may be a small business with limited resources, don’t skimp on providing quality support.
Motivate through incentives. Enticing your current customers with goodies is nothing new in the business. In fact, you may find it can do wonders for both current and potential customers. Some classic examples include coupon codes, giveaway contests and loyalty programs.
Learn how to improve your customer relationship marketing strategy.
8. Don’t make promises you can’t keep
Making promises to your customers can result in losing clients. How? Not all vows can be fulfilled. For instance, when a customer service interaction becomes heated, it’s only human to cave and promise things you shouldn’t have. A common example is telling a client an issue will be fixed immediately when you clearly know it will take time. Do not fret, we all make first-time mistakes. These alone serve as excellent learning experiences. Look at it this way, your customer support team is passionate about what they do, and want to help any way possible. Failing to keep your word can create a feeling of dishonesty and that alone can destroy and break the bond you’ve worked so hard for. In the reverse scenario, when you make realistic promises (e.g. “I will call you back next week”), this creates a sense of belonging for your customer. If you do make unrealistic promises, don’t break them! Find a solution, even if it isn’t entirely achieved. Lastly, follow-up and apologize to the customer for any inconvenience.
9. Educate your customers
Customer self-service is a form of 24-hour DIY support. It’s readily available, knowledge extensive and requires no human intervention. Basically, it’s a library of articles, tutorials and FAQs about your product along with common issues or scenarios. A knowledge base software is a must for a business of any size, but what impact can it have?
Think about it: If you want to know something, you most likely Google it before reaching out to a face in the business. In fact, a study shows that 92% of people use search engines to find information on the web. People want to feel empowered, and that’s exactly the experience of solving a problem on your own. For you as a business professional, a knowledge base can decrease support requests volume (e.g. tickets, calls and chats), free up time for your agents to handle complex customer issues and you’ll prove to your customers you care about them.
Self-service is no longer a nice-to-have, it’s a must. Microsoft found that 90% of consumers expect companies to offer a self-service option. You just can’t argue with ninety percent.
The smartest way to structure your knowledge base.
10. Be unique and memorable
It’s a competitive world out there. Everything counts for a small business, and this can be difficult. The good thing is that customer service can open doors you never thought existed. Be it receiving feedback to gathering insights to providing multi-channel contact options. But one thing’s for sure: Your small business must be unique and memorable.
One of the best tools to leverage this is social media. For example, Spotify has a dedicated Twitter channel for customer service ‘SpotifyCares.’ The brand also offers information on product updates such as downtime, and new features. Their support staff replies with witty comments to their customers and incorporates their product into every Tweet. It doesn’t hurt to look at examples of excellent customer service on social media either. Another way to wow your clients and leave a lasting impression is by spending quality time together. Yes, a face-to-face meet up. This can be a casual lunch or an outing with your team members. Going out of your way to meet your customers doesn’t happen too often for large businesses.
At the end of the day, small businesses can’t survive without customer service. Use these tips along with a little creativity and experimentation to get the results you desire. It all comes down to this: When you improve your customer service, your small business will immediately feel the impact. After all, nothing is better than happy customers.
Put these customer service tips in action with the best help desk software today!