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8 Ways Small Businesses Can Improve Customer Service

8 Ways Small Businesses Can Improve Customer Service

As you periodically coach and train your customer service agents, keep these small business tips on improving customer service in mind to really outperform your competition.

Small businesses are often known for their personal approach to customer care. Many attribute their success, rightfully so, to the relationships they’ve nurtured with their customer base. As companies grow, though, maintaining a high level of customer service is challenging, especially as you delegate client management and customer service to your staff and increasingly rely on new hires to support your customers.

Still, at this stage as a small business, it’s easy to provide quality customer care. Turning it into a competitive advantage, on the other hand, it requires more than just a few charismatic, empathetic agents.

In this article, we explore eight ways your small business can improve its customer service to stand out from your competition.

1. Prioritize one-contact resolutions.

When customers take the time to call your company or send you a message over email, live chat, or social media, they’re highly motivated to get answers. While it’s common for some teams to refer customers over to other departments, specialists, or managers, this can create friction. The guest may be reluctant to reach out at a later time with another question if they know they have to jump through multiple hoops before they have the right solution.

Instead, small businesses should arm their customer service representatives with both the information and authority to help solve a user’s pain point in a quick and time-efficient manner — and without having to transfer them to a colleague or supervisor. This reduces the margin for error, too, as data suggests that 26 per cent of consumers have gone through the hand-off process between customer service agents, yet still ended up without a definitive resolution to their main problem.

2. Accelerate average response times.

Time is a limited commodity, and the current on-demand nature of the world raises the bar for businesses to deliver lightning-fast response times. While many consumers are forgiving if it takes a few days for a company representative to respond, faster response times can give you a competitive edge: It builds trust among shoppers who have more faith that if they run into issues, your company will be quick to acknowledge receipt and provide frequent communication. This ensures they won’t end up shouting into the void and looking into what your competitors offer.

3. Provide self-serve knowledge bases.

Customer service is traditionally a responsive activity: They call in and you address their inquiries. In some cases, salespeople and account managers conduct post-sale follow-ups to check in with clients and keep tabs. To deliver an even more complete and proactive customer experience, businesses need to build and provide detailed knowledge bases. Product tutorials, technical documentation, white papers, how-tos, and a page answering frequently asked questions are all excellent starting points. Your small business has a lot of options when it comes to creating a central hub of information that customers can access 24/7.

4. Unify customer data.

Prospective buyers and existing customers engage with you using multiple channels. One day, they may connect with a live chat agent directly on your website before they decide to follow up on their inquiry over email. A month later, they may phone in for a different problem after leaving a direct message on Facebook. Among businesses that do not track all these touchpoints, providing quality service in subsequent interactions is hard. This is especially frustrating for guests who are asked to re-explain their issue and may feel the previous rapport they’ve built with your brand in the past has diminished.

To provide customers with a more cohesive experience, and to better empower your employees, you should use your CRM platform to consolidate every piece of information you have about a customer into a single dashboard. That way, the next agent they interact with can pick up wherever the last company representative left off. It smooths the customer’s experience and increases their satisfaction with your small business.

5. Conduct surveys after interactions.

A simple way to discover how to improve your customer service is by asking customers directly, especially right after an interaction. Use automation to send guests surveys about their latest experience with your brand.

Several post-touch prompts include:

  • Chat pop-ups

  • End call surveys

  • SMS messages

  • Triggered emails

The real-time nature of these surveys ensures the details are still fresh in the customer’s mind and allows you to align the survey to a specific call, chat, or email. Your CRM platform may offer this as a native feature, or as an integration in their app marketplace.

6. Chase positive reviews and referrals.

Most customer service teams are excellent at solving problems. Many are also passive when it comes to activating their already-engaged audience.

An underrated reward of quality customer service is what clients do on your behalf afterward. Beyond post-touch surveys, there is also an opportunity to turn satisfied customers into brand advocates who participate in word-of-mouth advertising.

Send new and current customers prompts to leave product or brand reviews. Offer them incentives to refer new customers your way. When they tell their friends, family, and others about their positive experience, they further reinforce their love for your brand. Also, the more they tell their friends, the more your business builds its reputation for world-class customer service.

7. Reach out to former customers.

Some customers may walk away from your business. In those instances when you are unable to reverse their negative sentiment toward your brand, give them time and let the dust settle. Meanwhile, spend time analyzing common reasons behind customer churn to find how your small business can improve retention.

After a few weeks or months, and especially after your team resolves the underlying issue that caused the customer’s dissatisfaction, reach back out to the disappointed customer to re-engage them. You may find that they are open to having a candid (and less emotionally charged) conversation about what your team can do to improve the customer experience in general, but also how your company can win back their business.

It takes a lot of pride-swallowing to ask for another chance and additional feedback. Doing so, however, can go a long way in re-establishing a bond with that customer. Customers may be even more receptive to giving your business another shot if you’ve already taken the necessary steps to address and eliminate the issues they originally raised about your product, service, or support policies.

8. Evolve constantly.

When your customer service systems and processes are easy to follow and provide reliable results, your customer service agents might fall into a routine, relying on pre-written macros and templates. While these tools should help with the heavy lifting, it’s important for your agents to add a bit of personality into each interaction while also strategically deviating from the script. After all, customers appreciate knowing they’re interacting with another person.

Encourage your team to experiment with creative ways to engage customers and new, more efficient paths to customer happiness. By providing agents with the opportunity to pilot their own ideas and evaluate the results, they can help lead meaningful change as customer needs evolve. Sometimes, the most innovative solutions start with your frontline support staff.

Closing thoughts

Quality customer service is efficient, fast, proactive, and retrospective. One-touch resolutions, quick response times, in-depth knowledge bases, and rich post-interaction data and feedback are excellent places to start, but there’s so much more that regular customer service teams can do to go from good to great. As you periodically coach and train your customer service agents, keep these tips in mind to really outperform your competition.

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