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A Quick Guide On Customer Service For Startups

A Quick Guide On Customer Service For Startups

Startups have the advantage of offering a completely clean slate to their first customers in terms of a service experience. A larger organization might already have a reputation for keeping people on hold when they call in. Companies that have been around for a long time might still be struggling

Startups have the advantage of offering a completely clean slate to their first customers in terms of a service experience.

A larger organization might already have a reputation for keeping people on hold when they call in. Companies that have been around for a long time might still be struggling to respond to emails or text messages from their customers, let alone what they’re asking via social media.

If you’re a startup, on the other hand, the way you’ll serve your customers is still a bit of an unknown. That has its disadvantages — getting those first sales can be challenging for newcomers to a market or industry sector — but you have an opportunity to create a great impression that quickly spreads via word of mouth.

Developing a strong customer service department isn’t necessarily easier for startups than it is for any other kind of organization. In fact, startups may have to provide a particularly high-touch level of service, especially in the beginning, because they’re often selling game-changing or innovative products and services.

Startups are also typically quite lean. There isn’t usually a large staff to manage all the potential questions or complaints that may come up. A lot of their initial funding might have gone towards product development, which means they have to be very judicious with what they spend on automating their operations.

The cost of delivering a poor service, meanwhile, is arguably even higher for startups than it is for more established firms. Startups need their first customers to not only be satisfied, but to become their advocates. Do a great job, and those advocates could help convince their peers that going with an unknown entity is not the big risk it might seem to be. Fail to do a great job and your startup may not survive.

Whether you’re in the market already, developing as part of an accelerator program or just building your business plan or pitch deck, make sure you step back long enough to make some key customer service decisions:

Opt for experience-driven customer service metrics

You’ll be measuring a lot of different activities in the early days of your startup, including service activities. You’ll look at how many service tickets or requests come in, for example, the percentage of issues resolved in the first call or other form of contact. And of course, you’ll want to know how many times you had to offer a refund or “make good.”

Those are all important data points, but they tell you more about your operation than what your customers feel about investing with you.

While customer satisfaction (CSAT) has been a common metric in many industries, startups often look to alternatives such as customer effort score (CES), which can help identify the areas of friction that need to be quickly ironed out.

If you’re trying to build a reputation in sectors like telecom or financial services, Net Promoter Score (NPS) can be the best choice. Business-to-business (B2B) buyers often use NPS as one of their own firm’s key performance indicators, so they’ll be impressed if yours shows a high proportion of potential promoters.

Essentially you want to look for metrics that speak to the overall experience, because you need insight into how your customer relationships are progressing after the sale.

Emphasize ‘success’ to minimize support

In a lot of sectors, a customer buys something and then walks away from the vendor to begin using it on their own. The best practice in the startup world is different.

When you’re offering a product or service that breaks the mould from what came before it, you need to be more thoughtful about “onboarding” customers. Think of it like running a resort, where you not only offer great rooms and restaurants, but take the time to show your guests around when they first arrive.

Some startups have formalized this into “customer success” teams who dedicate hours to making sure the process of using their products and services is simple and pleasant from the very beginning.

This might mean setting up regular meetings with a customer for the first few weeks, or even months. It might also mean following up with additional guides and tutorials as they’re produced.

A customer success approach not only makes onboarding a key part of the experience you deliver. It means you get ahead of many of the issues customers might encounter, rather than waiting to see who comes back in frustration instead.

Be open across all channels — and open to feedback

Before anyone hands over their money, you should make sure customers understand all the options they have to get in touch if they need anything. And there should be plenty of options.

An omnichannel customer service strategy is now the norm across almost all industries. In other words, you should be able to support customers via email, text messages, social media and (yes) phone calls.

Don’t overlook self-service as a channel either, because it can be one of the most popular means of support. Explore how chatbots or online communities could empower customers to solve their own problems.

The goal here is not just to be available across all these channels, but to treat them as a two-way dialogue. Although you may run a customer survey from time to time, look for opportunities to solicit feedback in less formal ways. Customers appreciate it when their opinion is valued, and they’ll often respond if they feel an organization is truly ready to listen.

Finally, recognize that customer service may require more than human beings to manage everything. The right technology can help you allocate your resources, keep customer information close at hand and even give you a sense of what kind of issues will come up in the future.

Startups are known for their speed, agility and willingness to act in ways that other businesses might never consider. Make sure your customer service strategy reflects those qualities as much as anything else you bring to the market.

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