How Small Businesses Can Compete On Customer Service

How Small Businesses Can Compete On Customer Service image customer serviceHow Small Businesses Can Compete On Customer ServiceMost of humanity is glued to a phone these days, and people have grown accustomed to constant access to information. The instant communication provided by mobile technology has created impatient consumers who expect 24/7 customer attention. This poses a challenge for small businesses with a vast customer base but limited customer service resources.

It’s possible for smaller companies to provide service that satisfies even the smartphone generation. Intentional adjustments like empowering customer service representatives, establishing availability, and keeping your team on the same page will help your team create happy, satisfied customers.

Empower the Front Line

Customers make judgments about a company based on its customer service representatives (CSRs). Why? Because after the sale, they’re most likely the only people your clients will come in contact with.

In order for customers to walk away from an interaction with a positive view, customer service teams need to be well-informed, confident, and empowered to help.

The most important technique for boosting customer satisfaction is to make sure your CSRs have every tool necessary to handle whatever situation comes their way. Training plays an important role in making sure CSRs have a big-picture understanding of how to resolve issues. Customer service is complicated these days, and CSRs typically need to access multiple systems to field customer questions. For example, my company’s shipping database, order logs, and credit card processing systems are all separate. It’s important to train your CSRs to access your company’s systems and find the answers they need.

Another way you can empower CSRs is by giving them freedom to resolve issues immediately. Don’t force them to put customers on hold while they come to you for answers or authorization. Try to anticipate the questions customers will ask, and provide agents with the authority to make quick decisions. It may make the difference when a client considers walking away.

Set Expectations

Most small businesses don’t have the resources to employ around-the-clock customer service, yet customers expect immediate attention. Customers who take the time to look up your phone number become frustrated when they reach your voicemail. If they don’t receive a quick response to an email, they worry that their message failed to reach you.

Clearly establishing what customers can expect goes a long way in improving customer satisfaction. Our website states, “You can expect a response to your email in one business day” next to the email address listed on our contact page. We also list the hours our team mans the phones. Our voicemail includes the same information, and we set up an automatic email response after hours. Since customers don’t expect a response for 24 hours, they’re pleasantly surprised if they hear from us sooner.

You should also highlight the quickest way to reach you. Which channel allows you to provide the best and most responsive service to your customer? Savvy businesspeople live by the mantra “Do less — well.” Limiting the type of communication you offer can help you excel at the channels that make the most sense for your company. We decided to eliminate our chat service when we realized we could address customer needs just as effectively by phone and email.

Create a Collaborative Team

Companies unable to provide round-the-clock customer service have a higher risk of miscommunication, but there are several ways you can prevent inquiries from falling through the cracks.

  • Tools: You can help your team stay on the same page with collaboration tools like Desk.com, Google Drive, or Dropbox, which allow teams to share documents and manage tickets.
  • Documentation: It’s vital that CSRs thoroughly document interactions with customers to avoid miscommunication down the road. Notes serve not only as personal reminders, but they also help future team members reference past issues.
  • Handoffs: Seamless handoffs are also important. Establish a system so customers won’t have to explain their issue to more than one agent, which is frustrating and a waste of time for a small team.

It helps to check in with employees on a weekly basis. Go through a checklist at the end of each week to make sure you didn’t overlook any complaint notifications or emails. This ensures that no one drops the ball and everyone feels accomplished after a long week.

Establish Your Communication Goals

Each type of communication channel involves its own unique strategies. Have you thought about what makes an excellent over-the-phone interaction or a great email response? Establish goals for your CSRs. For example, our team developed the “Unbreakables” list, a code of conduct for handling phone calls. The below goals help our team to evaluate each call individually and identify problems more easily.

  • Listen to identify the problem: It’s frustrating for everyone when CSRs make assumptions because they’re trying to keep the call short. CSRs need to use good listening skills and avoid jumping to conclusions.
  • Keep the call focused: At the same time, some customers just like to talk. It’s up to the CSR to keep the call focused and productive.
  • Be personable: I prefer talking to a person over a scripted robot any day, so we encourage CSRs to be sincere and let their personalities shine through. Customers feel valued after a positive interaction with a helpful, friendly CSR.
  • Solve the problem: When CSRs focus on what they’re unable to do, they set a phone interaction off on the wrong foot. Instead, they should assure the customer that they’ll help and tell him or her what they can do.

If you’ve begun to feel inundated and overwhelmed by the needs of your customer base, it might be time for a reset. Sometimes, it isn’t about how large your team is, but how effective it is at creating the most important thing to your business: strong customer relationships.

Image credit: AvaLaunch

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