Customer service survival guide for small businesses

Giving better care

No matter the size of your company or your industry, stellar customer service underpins success. It’s a fact you might forget in the day-to-day grind of running your own business. And it’s easy to set your sights on acquiring lots of new customers — and in that quest for new business, unfortunately, to neglect serving your existing clientele at a level that turns them into enthusiastic advocates for your business. There’s no doubt it’s a balancing act — and this customer service survival guide aims to arm you with some strategies to both build loyalty among your current customers and offer service that brings new customers in the door.

In case you’re still not convinced that customer service can make or break your business, here are a few compelling facts from a Salesforce study:

  • Companies that prioritize the customer experience generate 60 percent higher profits than their competitors.
  • On average, loyal customers are worth up to 10 times as much as their first purchase.
  • 64 percent of customers have made future purchases from a company’s competitors after experiencing poor customer service.
  • 81 percent of companies with strong capabilities and competencies for delivering customer experience excellence are outperforming their competitors.

OK, enough bullet points. Suffice it to say that great customer service matters. A lot. Now let’s dive into our customer service survival guide to learn a few handy tips and tricks.

A customer service survival guide for phone support

While many customers (40 percent, according to the Salesforce study) prefer phone support, this customer service option might also be the costliest. Offering phone support may mean hiring a team of customer service reps and taking the time to train them well — plus paying for a phone service. However, there are steps you can take to offer excellent phone support while still keeping costs down.

Affordable business phone service

For example, if you’re a new or relatively small business, you probably don’t need an expensive phone service or a big team to handle customer support calls. With a quick Google search, you can start exploring affordable phone solutions that can be the best fit for you and your business.

Well-trained customer service agents

Turn every employee into a customer service agent. No matter what their role in the company, employees can take turns answering customer support calls. Empower your employees to provide top-notch phone support by:

  • Emphasizing professional, courteous communication to make callers feel valued and appreciated. You might start with a script that customer service agents can personalize based on the nature of the call.
  • Providing easy access to FAQs, shipping and return policies and other information that customers will often request.
  • Use customer relationship manager (CRM) software to easily track customer inquiries. A CRM tool will allow you to manage all customer relations, keep track of leads, record previous customer interactions, store all customer information and data, provide analytics, and more.

Another option is to outsource to a call center — or better yet, the newfangled “contact centers” that use a number of contact methods such as phone, chat and email. But depending on your needs, you’ll have to decide what the best solution for you is and whether using in-house or outsourced customer service best meets your needs.

customer service survival guide green phone

A customer service survival guide for email support and chat

The obvious benefit of using email and/or chat support as either a standalone customer service solution or in conjunction with another solution, is that it’s cost-effective and it saves your employees hours of time that, for example, might be spent talking on the phone.

Another benefit with a good email and chat software solution is that you can create response templates to frequently asked questions — saving more time. This also means that you might not necessarily need a dedicated team of customer service agents, as anyone in the company can easily send a templated response. If the question requires more expertise, your employees will have enough time to ask the appropriate people how to answer it, ensuring customers always get the most helpful response.

If you decide to go with an email and/or chat solution, be sure that it stores important data such as contacts, trouble ticketing, and all communications between agents and customers for future reference. If these features are not included in a standalone email or chat solution, look for integration with CRM software.

A customer service survival guide for social media support

Social media customer support is on the rise. In fact, according to Hubspot:

  • 46 percent of online customers expect brands to provide customer service on Facebook.
  • 88 percent of consumers are less likely to buy from companies who leave complaints on social media unanswered.
  • 83 percent of the complainants that received a reply on social media liked or loved the fact that the company responded.
  • Customers who engage with companies over social media spend 20 to 40 percent more money with those companies than other customers.

The most important thing to note about social media is that, well, it’s social. Even if you don’t explicitly offer customer service through social media, it is unwise to neglect to monitor your social media sites for customer complaints (negative reviews can spread like wildfire via social platforms).

Some tips for offering customer service via social media include:

  • Pay attention! If you’ve established business accounts on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, dedicate time every day to monitoring those accounts and responding to brand mentions and customer inquiries.
  • Like other forms of support, have FAQs and other information handy to respond to related customer questions and concerns.
  • Focus on listening to improve customer service.
  • Use tools to monitor and manage your business’s social presence. Solutions such as Sparkcentral, Hootsuite and Sprout Social can help you stay on top of customer feedback and manage your responses.

customer service survival guide social media icons

Your online knowledge base (aka your website)

Many consumers with questions or concerns will first check your business’s website for answers — so make sure your site includes (at minimum) the following information:

  • How to contact your business. Include your primary contact method on every page of your site.
  • FAQ page. Compile all the info that customers frequently request on one page of your site.
  • Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.
  • Shipping and returns information.

Keep these pages up-to-date! Making your business’s need-to-know info easily accessible on your website can save you a lot of time in unnecessary customer interactions.

Here’s hoping that this customer service survival guide serves you well in your endeavor to provide excellent customer experiences. Good luck!