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How to best run customer support when you are a small business

Building a good customer service department is a challenge. Consumers are increasingly demanding, and inefficient customer support (CS) can quickly affect a company’s reputation and bottom line.

The recent outrage about Qantas’ wait call times is a concrete example of CS turning into a disaster, with a real impact on reputation. 

Companies are having to finetune a list of parameters, all of which should ultimately work towards optimising customer satisfaction. The equation is even more complex for SMBs, which operate with limited resources, and are also impacted by the shortage of workers. This piece aims to deliver some practical tips to SMBs to streamline CS practices. 

The off-shore temptation

Although taking CS off-shore can provide relief to the bottom line, it often delivers an experience that is not in line with the company’s core values and tone, or the local culture. Aussies like to speak with agents based locally, who understand them and show empathy. Off-shore CS teams do not provide this local touch, and usually have little power to fix the issue, being outside of the organisation. 

From an operations perspective, it also presents challenges for collecting information and feedback from customers, which is useful to personalise their experience or improve the company’s services, products and processes. For all these reasons, off-shore CS is not an ideal choice, although tempting for SMBs looking for cost efficiencies..

Responsiveness and expectations

Consumers expect responsiveness from small and large companies alike. What matters is setting their expectations. Regardless of their size, CS teams should strive to answer emails ideally within a few hours, if not with a solution to the issue, at least to acknowledge it, and clarify when they will be in touch. It is essential to stick to the timing set with customers to avoid any frustration. 

CS teams shouldn’t avoid the phone. While it can be daunting to provide customers with a direct line to complain, a quick phone call can often avoid email tennis, and also helps build customer rapport. If no one can answer the phone, there should be a message explaining why and letting them know when their request can be addressed. 

Social media is also great for responsiveness. They allow for updates to mass audiences, and if a major issue affects customers, expectations about its resolution can be set in real-time. 

At the end of the day, customers are understanding with companies when they know what to expect, but upset when they are left in the dark, which is why SMBs should focus on responsiveness and setting expectations. 

Tech is your ally

The huge offer in technologies aiming to optimise customer services makes it hard for SMBs to navigate. When looking for tools, SMBs should sit down, identify their biggest pain points, and look for solutions that will help tackle this head-on. 

One priority should be Customer Relationship Management tools. They allow to develop a better knowledge of customers, track conversations with them, and respond to their requests faster, all of which participate in a more personalised customer experience. 

Ultimately, there are two elements SMBs should look for in tech solutions: automation and integration. Automation because automating some CS processes will save smaller teams time to tend to more customer requests. Solutions that integrate with each other also allow for the transfer of key information between them, without needing manual work from agents.

For example, when the phone, email or social media solutions integrate with CRM tools, information can be easily extracted from conversations with customers and added to their profile on the CRM platform. 

This is the kind of optimisation SMBs should prioritise, but they need to keep things simple and avoid spreading their resources. There is nothing worse for small teams than having too many systems. For example, social media and live chats are trendy and great for quick response, but only effective if there is someone available to answer quickly. 

Set up a response framework

Facing different issues or customers often calls for varying levels of urgency. CS teams should have processes and guidelines to respond most appropriately based on the issue and customer. It means, for example, tending to the most important customers first, and for SMBs that can’t afford support and CRM platforms, they should mark important clients as such in their email account, so that their emails are starred when coming into the inbox. 

A response framework is also critical in times of crisis. The biggest mistake is to disappear. Companies, even small ones, should prepare their response, and be ready to face customers, who expect authenticity and transparency from organisations. 

Help customers help themselves

There is so much power in an effective FAQ. It requires time to develop but ultimately should save small teams a lot of time answering the same questions over and over again. A link to the FAQ should be included in the “contact us” section, encouraging visitors to find an answer to their problem before they contact customer support. 

Another effective way to avoid repetitive requests/questions from customers is to develop short videos answering the most common questions or showing how to fix common issues and post them on the website and social channels. 

At the end of the day, the way customer support operates is unique to each business. Building a department that efficiently serves customers without breaking the bank is a fine balance that SMBs can only find with ongoing tweaks and adjustments.

The mistake would be to underestimate the importance of customer services, which helps define a company’s identity and reputation. Hopefully, there are some interesting takeaways here for SMBs to become champions in customer service.

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Jasmine Gray

Jasmine Gray

Jasmine is Customer Success Team Manager APAC at global cloud phone solutions company Aircall. She is an experienced customer experience executive, with 20 years of experience in customer care, including Cx, Customer Success, Sales and Business Development, including over ten years in the tech sector. She has held customer success roles at shopping platform Wish, donation marketplace Givar (previously Benojo), and event organisation company Hidden Door Experiences, which she also co-founded.

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