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How Small Businesses Can Deliver Enterprise Level Customer Service

September 25, 2017

5:00 pm

Customer service is the backbone of most successful businesses. If you get customer service right, customers will remain loyal. If you mess it up, you’ll have a hard time growing. The only problem is that startups, hindered by a lack of resources, often find it difficult to handle the demands of customer service without neglecting other key areas of business operation.

It’s easy to feel as if you can’t offer good customer support because you lack the people, money, or detailed strategy, but the quality of your customer service isn’t directly correlated to your size. It’s possible to streamline your approach and offer high-quality service without compromising other aspects of your business. Here are a few ideas:

Hire the Right People (or Person)

You might only have enough room in your budget to hire one customer service rep, but that’s okay. It’s possible that your one person will be better than your competitor’s team of people! The key lies in your hiring practice. If you’re meticulous in your approach and know how to find someone who understands your brand and cares about your customers, you’ll have much more success than you would hiring a bunch of cheap talent that doesn’t care about your brand at all.

Outsource Time Consuming Tasks

There are times when it makes more sense to outsource a task than it does to keep it in-house. It’s a fine line, but finding a way to recognize when and where you can outsource will save you the one thing you can’t buy more of: your time. If you’re hesitant to outsource a call center (or some related task) to an international company, rest assured that there are plenty of U.S.-based options. You may want to consider a Virtual Receptionist to handle incoming calls.

Develop a Knowledge Base

If you’re getting a disproportionate volume of emails, calls, and support tickets for the number of customers you have, then you need to find a way to cut back on these requests. One of the best things you can do is invest in a self-service system which can help simplify processes, provide answers to commonly asked questions, and actually gives customers self-resolution options in many situations. It won’t solve everything, but it will decongest your phone line and email inbox.

Create a Support Forum

In the same vein as the previous point, many businesses benefit from setting up online support forums or message boards where customers can come together and post questions, answer questions, and collaborate with one another.

While a support forum isn’t totally hands-off, it certainly saves time and energy. You’ll need to moderate the board to be sure the information users are sharing is correct, but the self-help nature of a forum is generally cost-effective when you have a large enough customer base.

Prioritize Responsiveness

It’s important that you think about customer service from the perspective of the customer. The good news is that it can be easy to put yourself in a customer’s shoes, since you are a customer in your own personal life.

As a customer, what’s one of the more frustrating things you experience? Most people agree that it’s a lack of responsiveness. Nobody likes being on hold for 30 minutes in order to talk to a real person, or waiting 5 days to get an email returned. If you do anything at all, make sure you’re prioritizing responsiveness.

If you’re looking for a practical, yet counterintuitive approach to handling email support, entrepreneur Adii Pienaar suggests addressing the newest emails first. As he notes, what’s a couple more hours for someone who has already waited 12 hours? But if you’re able to respond immediately to someone who contacted you 5 minutes ago, you have a chance to “wow” somebody.

It’s little secrets like these that allow startups and small businesses to zoom past the competition and offer highly responsive support.

There’s a common misconception among young entrepreneurs and small business owners that size is a critical factor in success. It’s easy to assume that things would be easier if you had, say, 50 employees instead of 5. But if you ask someone who has experience managing both small startups and large organizations, you’ll quickly realize that this isn’t always the case.

The moral of the story is this: Don’t let your small business size hold you back in the customer service department. When you implement the right strategies and use the right tools, it’s possible for your small startup to deliver big results.

Read more tips about improving your customer service at TechCo

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Anna is a freelance writer, researcher, and business consultant from Olympia, WA. A columnist for, and more, Anna specializes in entrepreneurship, technology, and social media trends. When she isn't writing, she's outside on her bike and contemplating her eventual trip to graduate school. Follow her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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