When it comes to customer service, it’s the expense that most businesses complain about. If you find that it’s hard to fit customer service into your budget, it may be time to reevaluate your current strategy.
The High Cost of Customer Service
Customer service isn’t cheap – at least good customer service isn’t. It’s a very hands-on, time-intensive aspect of business. If you want to do it right, you must be willing to pay up.
The irony is that, as costly as customer service is, the cost of poor customer service is even greater. In other words, you have to pay for customer service in one way or another. You either spend for it on the front end or pay for it on the back end. There’s rarely any in-between.
Making Customer Service More Affordable
According to a study by Oracle, 86 percent of customers would pay more for a better customer experience. In order to offer exceptional customer service that’s both affordable and beneficial, consider implementing the following tips:
1. Outsource to Call Centers
Customer expectations for service and support are higher than they’ve ever been. This is a direct byproduct of the emphasis large organizations place on providing convenient, real-time support. The problem is that smaller businesses don’t always have the resources or capabilities to match this around the clock support in a cost-effective manner.
If you want to provide responsive customer service at an affordable rate, your best bet is to outsource this aspect of your business to a provider. A service like AnswerFirst can provide you with 24/7 inbound customer service, virtual receptionists, and live answering services that directly integrate with your existing software. It’s a smart compromise if you’re strapped for resources.
2. Utilize Social Media
"Customer service and social media has melded together," says Lindsay Patton-Carson, vice president of customer engagement for PiperWai. "If your brand has social media profiles, you are absolutely going to have to perform customer service on social media. There isn’t a way to get around it."
While some view the fusion of social media and customer service as more of a burden than anything else, you should look at it as an opportunity. Social media already has the infrastructure built in, which means you simply get to plug and play without any additional setup.
Social media is best utilized as a service tool when companies engage in one-on-one conversations with customers. By asking questions, answering questions, and addressing concerns, you can reduce some of the strain you experience in other areas.
3. Encourage Customers to Help Other Customers
Have you ever considered the possibility of getting some of your customers to help other customers? Believe it or not, many are willing and able to help.
The best example of customers helping other customers comes in the form of a message board. An active message board allows people to post questions and have other customers respond with answers and personal experiences. You’ll obviously need to monitor these message boards and moderate for accuracy and truth, but it’s amazing how cost-effective this resource can be when your customers do the heavy lifting for you.
4. Offer Self Service Options
Most customer needs can be solved without the help of a human agent. In fact, chances are pretty good that most of the calls you field in your call center (or emails your support department receives) began with a customer running an online search. The more you can help these customers through self-service options, the less pressure you’ll feel.
Self-service options include detailed FAQs on your website, self-help videos and tutorials, online product manuals, etc. Spend some time developing these resources and you’ll experience some freedom from the constant barrage of calls and emails.
Putting it All Together
Customer service can be made more affordable, but don’t make cost the only factor. If you’re constantly pinching pennies and worrying about every last dollar spent, you’ll end up making cost-conscious decisions that aren’t always the best for your business.
For example, placing too many restrictions on your customer service employees can limit their ability to remedy problems and present adequate solutions effectively. Freedom – at least in a limited capacity – is necessary.
"The distance an employee will go in perfecting a service recovery is directly a result of the management culture at the company," explains Jim Coyle of Coyle Hospitality Group. "An assistant manager sweating a budget can kill a good service culture by chastising an employee who went a little too far in helping a customer."
Be cost-conscious, but also maintain some flexibility. Doing so will allow you to promote quality customer service with an affordable investment.