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Satisfied customers are the key to business success, no matter if you are a small company or a large business. Whereas big enterprises have more resources to provide comprehensive customer service, small businesses have their own advantages.

However, customer service for small businesses indeed comes with very high stakes. Only one negative customer experience may damage the brand immensely.

As almost all consumers (97%) consult product reviews before deciding if they should shop with a brand or not, small businesses cannot afford any negative experiences and feedback.

Tips for small business customer service

To make it in this fierce competition, providing memorable customer service can make all the difference between being able to survive and thrive or fail completely. So how to achieve that long-lasting relationship with small business customers while competitors are always only a few clicks away?

Keep reading to discover how small organisations can take ordinary business customer service to a whole different level that will be praised by customers.

Making the most of small business advantages

The essence of great customer service is building a relationship with customers a relationship so strong that each and every customer feels that they wish to retain it. And retaining customers is something every business should set as a goal as it is 5 times cheaper to keep an existing customer than acquire a new one.

For this reason, there is no need to worry that big businesses will take all your clientele away. There are many aspects why consumers decide to pick small businesses over their bigger competitors:

  • Faster and more dedicated service
  • Personalised interactions
  • In-depth knowledge of customers’ needs and preferences

By showing the customers unconditional commitment and providing the highest level of personal support, regardless of their circumstances, they are likely to return.

How can this be achieved?

It all starts with motivated employees

Motivated employees - key to great customer support (customer service small business)

The first thing to keep in mind is that your employees are the voice of your brand. Their interactions with your customers can make or break your image. Therefore, it’s of high importance to treat your employees right and provide them with the necessary tools to deliver exceptional support.

  • Train your customer support agents, make sure they have in-depth knowledge of your products and services. They need to be well-aware of every aspect of your brand and able to use their knowledge in their interactions.
  • Make sure the customer service agents share goals with the rest of your team show them their work is important and they are valued.
  • Give employees tools that will make their work more organised, simpler, and enjoyable. Teach them how to use the tools properly.

Using the right tools to enhance customer service

The HelpCenter app’s dashboard - tool to enhance customer service

When it comes to personalised support, such tools as the helpdesk ticketing system can provide you with the key features for excellent customer service for instance, you can have a clear overview of each customer’s previous inquiry and purchase history.

Such information is crucial to have as 7 out of 10 consumers value having the same agent help them each time they interact with the company. Moreover, you will be able to use this information not only for providing support but also in your upcoming marketing campaigns.

"From my 5 years of experience in the customer support field, I can say that statistically, 1 fully dedicated support agent working in a small/medium size company can handle around 35-50 tickets per day (number may vary depending on the team size and complexity)," says Martynas Vyzintas, the CEO of Tellq and the Growth Team lead at the HelpCenter app.

"Ticket automations which allow to "read and implement actions without agent interaction" saves up to 30% of time on manual tasks, which converts to 1 full-time employee in a team of 3-4 people. The bigger the team, the bigger the savings."

This is thanks to macros, such as:

  • Auto responses
  • Templates (for recurring questions)
  • Automatic tagging or assigning based on text/sender’s email

PRO TIP: Some small business customer service solutions are found within our very own HelpCenter app. It provides your customer support team with a convenient way to handle all the communications in one place, thus saving them a lot of time.

Secrets to excel in providing excellent customer service

Follow the upcoming customer service tips to create an enjoyable experience for both your customers and your employees. Get reassurance that your customers receive the care and attention they need from your team.

1. Provide options for self-service

FAQ page on Shopify website (option for self-service)

Not everyone is eager to jump on a call or send an email explaining their issue. Relying on Nuance Enterprise research, 67% of customers wish to have the ability to find answers to their questions on their own.

This is where customer self-service features come in handy. Such an option on your website empowers customers to make informed purchases without speaking to a customer service rep.

One example of self-service is an FAQ page. It’s a section on your website that contains the most common issues and questions customers face when shopping with you.

Some benefits of having a clear and easy to use FAQ section on your website:

  • Building trust and showing customers you understand the challenges they face.
  • Saving time and money as the number of repetitive inquiries reduces.
  • Improving user experience by making information easy to find. Using internal links are useful to redirect customers to blog posts and content pages for additional information.
  • Enhancing your visibility in search engines.

2. Support wide-range company knowledge

Customer service training (customer service for small business)

About one in three people (30%) believe that the most important aspect of customer service is speaking with a knowledgeable and friendly representative. Therefore, having a team that is well-informed about your products and services is a crucial part of providing high-quality service.

Customers are far more likely to trust your brand if your customer service agents know what they are talking about and can provide fast and dedicated support. However, in today’s digital world, customers have access to a lot of information and therefore, their questions can be very specific and technical.

To improve your customer service agents’ knowledge in all areas of your business there are various conventional and creative ways to help them learn:

  • Provide the option to gain first-hand experience using your products/services. Encourage them to ask questions if they are unsure about certain aspects.
  • Go over things such as your brand identity, target audience, customer journey, etc.
  • Give employees detailed information about competitors. This way you will be able to show where your company’s strengths lie
  • Keep your customer service team up-to-date with all updates and changes within the company.

Moreover, in-depth knowledge of your products will help your customer service reps to suggest related products when something is out of stock or give information about additional accessories or parts. This little extra touch will definitely give a boost to the customer experience.

3. Own up to mistakes

Customer service statistics - the importance of customer care

It is inevitable that at some point something will go wrong and customers will be upset. Saying sorry remains one of the most effective and cheapest ways to reduce the risk of delivering a poor customer experience.

A study on effective apologies brings out that the acknowledgement of responsibility and explanation of what went wrong are crucial elements when writing an apology message.

So take a note and make your apology personal. Avoid vague and insincere expressions like “We apologise for the inconvenience”. Instead, try to get to the bottom of why the customer feels upset.

Besides apologising, you should take some additional steps to retain the relationship with an upset customer:

  • Offer a refund, credit, replacement, or any other applicable solution.
  • Make sure that after having a bad experience their inquiry or a review is answered quickly and appropriate action is taken fast.
  • Be kind and understanding. Think of how you would want to be treated in the situation.

TIP: Give employees some freedom to solve problems. For instance, if there has been a mistake that is inevitably your brand’s fault, give your support agents the freedom to offer a one-time incentive to make it up to an upset customer.

It could be as simple as offering free shipping or a 10% discount on their next order.

4. Follow up with the customer

Customer service statistics - the importance of customer care

Almost 70% of customers stop buying from a company because they feel like the business does not care about them. Therefore, it is important that you follow up after an interaction and see if customers are satisfied with the solution.

Furthermore, no one understands your customers better than your customers. Reaching out or and sending out a survey asking for feedback on how the complaint was handled will help you to get an insight on what needs improvement.

Following up with customers comes will definitely pay off in one way or another:

  • Making customers feel special and improving the overall experience with your company.
  • Increasing the chances of receiving good customer reviews if you show that their satisfaction is important to you.
  • Receiving insight on what customers expect from your company and what areas you could improve at.
  • Increasing the possibility of the customer returning.

5. Motivate your customer service team

Motivated customer service team (customer service small business)

Encourage customer service agents to share both good and bad feedback they receive from customers with their management as this is the key to organisational improvements. The support team must have the confidence to bring attention to what customers are feeling. Let them know their everyday efforts are important to the company.

Besides, if someone from your customer service team has handled a situation exceptionally well, share it with the rest of your crew. All your team members will feel more united and they will also get an insight into how a difficult situation was resolved.

Of course, also show your gratitude with a little extra perk for the employees who are doing outstandingly well and are making a difference for your brand. This will create good experiences within the company that will be seen outside of the company in the interactions with your customers.

Over time this will help to build your company culture of hospitality and form a motivated and well-trained customer support team.

Bonus: A customer service example to follow Buffer

Buffer is a brand that emphasises on the wellness of their customer service team, and it is seen even from people on the outside. It is even displayed in their customer support team name - The Happiness Team.

So what exactly do they do? They have put a high value on their customer service roles, which is as important as any other position in the company. Through the shared values they have created for their company, they can create amazing experiences for their customers via their employees.

So instead of going out and telling people how awesome their brand is, they have worked out a way how people will talk about Buffer themselves and share their positive experiences.

Wrapping up

Good customer service is about making people happy. And happy enough to make them come back to you again and again.

Now that you have had a little overview of the ins and outs of a small business customer service, think about which opportunities do you have to make a great first impression and how to start preventing and handling problems.

Listen to your customer feedback, notice compliments, and focus on times where customer service is praised. Share it with the rest of your team and motivate everyone to do it more often.