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Customer Service Tips for Startups and Small Businesses

Aug 03, 2021
Customer Service
7 min read

You’ve probably heard a few stories about Amazon’s obsession with customer service, but you want to know why the company prioritizes great customer experiences to such an extent? Here’s how founder Jeff Bezos sees it:

“It used to be that if you made a customer happy, they would tell five friends. Now, with the megaphone of the internet, whether online customer reviews or social media, they can tell 5,000 friends.” 

Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

In an age where good and bad customer experiences spread like wildfire, good customer service is not just a nice-to-have, it’s a necessity. 

You don’t need to be a giant like Amazon to deliver great customer experiences. All you need is a little elbow grease and some quick cheat codes to great customer service. 

But before we move on to discuss what those cheat codes are, let’s first take a closer look at what great customer service can do for your business. 

The benefits of excellent customer service

Customer service is not just a way to put out customer fires, as and when they arise. Savvy businesses use customer service as an opportunity to differentiate their product, build a relationship with their customers, and gain useful customer insights. 

Here are some benefits of excellent customer service: 

It helps you stand out in a competitive market

When you launch in a crowded market, it’s difficult to stand out on the basis of features, marketing messages, and product capabilities alone. Great customer service experiences, however, are bound to leave an impression and help you carve a niche for your brand. 

Kevin Hale, founder of Wufoo once said that there are three types of businesses you can build: the one with the highest quality product, the one with the cheapest product, or the one with the best customer service. 

Great customer service can be a valuable differentiator, especially for businesses in a crowded market. 

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It boosts customer retention and loyalty

Outstanding customer service has the power to make customers stick. On the other hand, poor service can result in customer churn. 

A Microsoft report found 58% of consumers will switch companies because of poor customer service. On the other hand, Hubspot research shows 90% of consumers are more likely to purchase more, and 93% are more likely to be repeat customers at companies with excellent customer service. 

It promotes positive word of mouth

Which company are you more likely to recommend to friends and family: one that makes you wait endlessly when you call them and provides unsatisfactory answers, or one that promptly resolves your issues and offers solutions to your problems? 

It’s natural for customers to refer and talk positively about brands that provide great customer service, and that brings in more revenue for those brands. As one study by Nielsen found, 92% of consumers around the world trust recommendations from friends and family members more than other forms of advertising. 

What’s more, word of mouth isn’t just limited to physical interactions. These days, social media, blogs, and email, all count as valuable word of mouth channels for brands. 

Great customer service promotes positive word-of-mouth

It’s a source of customer insights

Customer service is a great way to understand your customer’s needs and preferences: which features do they use most, which features could use a facelift, which other aspects of the customer experience can you improve?  

As your customer service team interacts with different types of customers, they get direct feedback about what customers need and what are the major areas of improvement for your brand. Analysing these insights can help you improve your brand, customer service, as well as introduce new innovations. 

Seven customer service tips for startups and small businesses

Now you know the importance of great customer service, let’s take a look at a few ways you can leverage great customer service to build a competitive advantage and get customers for life: 

#1 Offer personalized customer experiences

No customer likes to feel like a ticket number, waiting to be ticked off an agent’s to-do list. As one survey shows, 80% of consumers are more likely to make a purchase when brands offer personalized experiences. 

Here are some ways you can personalize customer service experiences for customers: 

  • Get their information right: When customers call, be sure to get their name, account details, and any other relevant information right, so you can provide a more tailored experience. For example, their account details may reveal if they’ve made any past support interactions or what actions they’ve taken in your app, so you can help them accordingly. 
  • Respond off-script: Pre-written scripts can make agents sound robotic and apathetic. Instead, it helps to actively listen to what the customer is saying and respond accordingly. 
  • Use mirroring technique: This technique involves interacting in a way that matches a customer’s behaviour. For example, if a customer seems in a rush an agent might match their sense of urgency or if they seem relaxed, an agent can use a calmer, more relaxed tone too. 

The more you personalize your customer service interactions, the more likely customers will feel valued and buy from your brand. 

Tips to personalize customer communication

#2 Keep agents motivated and engaged

Your customer service team is the public face of your company. They interact with customers on calls, email, social media, and channels. It’s important to keep your agents motivated, so they feel empowered to offer great customer experiences

Here are a few tried-and-true ways to motivate agents: 

  • Appreciate them: Appreciation is an important tool to help agents stay motivated. As one study found, the ideal praise-to-criticism ratio for high performing teams is 5.6:1. Recognize the work your agents do on a day-to-day basis and be sure to call out instances of great customer service. 
  • Coach agents: Review agents’ customer support interactions on a regular basis and identify areas where they may need coaching. For instance, you may find agents struggling with delivering product information correctly or you may find that an agent is not familiar with your customer service processes. Use these opportunities to coach agents and improve their performance. 
  • Use gamification: Add fun elements such as gamification to the mix to keep agents motivated. Gamification means using game-like elements like scores, levels, and rewards to keep agents interested. For instance, you can choose to display a leaderboard with first response times to let agents see how they’re performing compared to others. 
  • Provide agents with learning resources: Allow agents to improve their skills on a regular basis by creating an accessible database of customer service training materials. You can create this resource on Tettra or use learning management systems such as Lessonly

Regular training, appreciation, and gamification can help boost agent morale and improve customer experiences. 

#3 Streamline customer service processes

Good customer service processes play an important role in the quality of service you deliver. 

A well-organized customer service process allows agents to quickly access customer service requests, collaborate with their teammates to provide solutions, and assign customer service requests to other agents. 

Consider investing in robust customer service software to help you better organize your customer service processes. A customer service tool like Hiver helps your agents: 

  • Easily assign requests to other agents 
  • Share notes with other agents alongside customer conversations 
  • See a customer’s previous interaction history 
  • Tag requests by topic or a specific area of business, like product, finance, or marketing 

Clunky customer service processes hold agents back from delivering quality service, so invest in streamlining processes early on. 

#4 Make it easy for customers to access you

This is an obvious yet often overlooked aspect of customer service. 

Apart from offering support on popular channels such as email, phone, and social media, consider adding these customer service channels to the mix to improve accessibility for customers: 

  • Live chat: According to a study, 40% of buyers who’d used live chat on a brand’s e-commerce website are more likely to make online purchases at least once a week as compared to 22% of buyers who’d never used live chat. Live chat can have a positive effect on your sales, revenue, and customer loyalty and helps you provide instantaneous support to customers. 
  • AI chatbots: One Salesforce survey reveals customers are increasingly interested in using chatbots for simple customer service queries. Artificial intelligence-powered chatbots help companies offer quick, 24/7 support. Chatbots can interpret simple user queries and generally use an internal knowledge base to fetch relevant answers. 
  • Knowledge base: A knowledge base is a self-service option which helps users search for relevant information about a company’s products and services. For a complete lowdown on how to create a helpful knowledge base, check out this comprehensive guide.  

#5 Keep an eye on customer service metrics

Tracking customer service metrics on a regular basis helps you improve the quality of your service. 

Here’s a complete list of customer service metrics to track, but let’s go over some of the most important ones here: 

  • Customer Satisfaction (CSAT): Customer satisfaction or CSAT surveys are generally sent to customers after they interact with your website or customer support. The purpose is to gauge customer satisfaction with your brand. A low CSAT rating is an opportunity to investigate how you can improve customer experience and boost satisfaction. According to Hiver’s 2021 Benchmarking Report, Customer satisfaction Score is the most important metric for 41% of customer service teams.
  • Ticket Volume: This refers to the total number of customer service requests you receive in a  given period of time. Ticket volumes can help you plan how much support coverage you’ll need during a specific time period. 
  • Average Resolution Time: This is the average time your employees take to solve all open tickets in a given period of time. A high average resolution time might indicate you need to improve your customer service processes to help agents deliver faster resolutions. 
  • First Response Time: This is the time an agent takes to reply to an incoming customer request. Quick first response times reassure customers their problem will be resolved quickly. 

#6 Hire agents with great communication skills

Strong communication skills are the bedrock of every customer service position. Agents need to be able to clearly convey solutions via written or verbal communication, so customers leave support interactions satisfied. 

Some important aspects of good communication for customer service agents include: 

  • Using positive language
  • Offering clear, carbon-free explanations
  • Good grammar and punctuation, for written customer service interactions 
  • Effective listening 
  • Showing empathy for the customer’s problem 
A customer service agent must possess these soft skills

A good way to test potential candidates’ customer service skills is to offer them a few different scenarios they may encounter on the job, and ask how they would respond. It also helps to pay attention to how candidates respond to your emails during the interview process as well as how they handle face-to-face or phone interviews. 

#7 Use customer service feedback to make important decisions

Customer service requests can be a goldmine of insights for your business. They reveal cracks in your customer service processes, as well as your product, marketing, and policies. 

Customer service requests reveal: 

  • If your agents need better training and onboarding 
  • If there are persistent bugs in your product that need to be fixed 
  • If you need to add more customer service channels or optimize existing ones, such as your knowledge base 
  • If your billing, return, or exchange policies are a reason for customer dissatisfaction

You can use different pieces of feedback to make meaningful changes to your product, customer service, and policies. 

If you use a customer service tool such as Hiver, you can easily tag each customer service request according to topics such as “product”, “billing” or “finance”. Then, you can review how many requests you receive per topic, and gauge which changes are most likely to affect customers in a positive way. 

Great customer service gives your brand an advantage

Great customer service allows you to cut through the noise and elevate your brand from okay to awesome. It’s a way to win customers’ loyalty and business for the long term. 

Memorable customer experiences generally boil down to the right combination of people, processes, and tools. It might take a little fine-tuning to find your unique recipe for great customer support, but the tips above should help you get started. 

Ready to take your customer service to the next level? Sign up for Hiver today

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Farheen Gani is a content marketer and writer for SaaS companies. She helps businesses grow with customer-focused content. She loves geeking out about content marketing on Twitter (https://twitter.com/FarheenGani) and her blog (https://www.farheenganiwrites.com/blog/).