Creating a great customer service strategy is more important now than ever before. It’s not just the fact that 89% of consumers have switched to doing business with a competitor after one bad customer service experience, and a recent study from Hiver found that 80% of people now expect even better customer service amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
The good news is improving your customer experience doesn’t have to break the bank. We’ve laid out four of the best cost-effective strategies to improve your customer service and build your brand loyalty. This all starts with actually knowing who your customers are, what their issues are, and what some of the goals they’re trying to achieve.
1. Get to actually know your customers
One of the most effective ways to improve your small business customer service strategy is to get to know your existing customers. Obvious, right? But it’s much harder to get to know your customers on a non-transactional level.
You can start building a rapport by striking up a conversation in person if you’re a brick-and-mortar business, online by interacting with them on social media if you’re a DTC brand, through email if you’re a B2B brand – you get the gist here. Use whichever channels your customers prefer to interact with you on and build relationships there.
To get deeper insights on what your customers like and want to see from your business, you can also:
- Use a survey-creation tool and allow them to answer surveys via email.
- Offer incentives for answering simple questions, like a coupon or free gift. 75% of consumers say they favor companies that offer incentives. This is an easy way to increase survey engagement.
- Take notes during customer phone calls when any specific pain points, pleasure points, or wish list items are mentioned. For example, if there are features or integrations that more customers wish your product had, seek out this feedback and get it back to your product development team.
- Pay close attention to suggestions and feedback on social media, your website, or online review platforms like G2, Capterra, and Trustradius.
2. Make customer service part of your company culture
Your company culture stems from the values that you prioritize within your organization. By shaping your culture around great customer service, your employees will feel more empowered to deliver exceptional service to your customers.
There are a number of different strategies you can employ to build a strong customer service culture within your company, such as:
- Hiring employees that also value strong customer service and are willing to put the customers’ needs first.
- Treating your employees how you would want to be treated. This is one of the best ways to build trust and respect within your small business.
- Setting up team-building activities on a regular basis for your employees to bond.
- Incentivizing your employees to give excellent service and rewarding them when they do. Similar to incentivizing customers, your employees will find motivation in this as well.
Focus on how to better orient your company culture around customer service and you’ll find that better, more thorough customer service will come more naturally to your employees.
3. Upgrade your customer service channels
Today, there are more ways to get in touch with companies than ever before. As a result, customers have come to expect streamlined, consistent experiences across multiple channels.
As a small business, it’s important that you deliver strong service on whichever channels you choose to implement. Some of the most popular ones today include:
Business phone system: A reported 60% of customers still prefer to reach small businesses by phone. If your small business phone system isn’t up to par, can’t support higher call volumes, or lacks key features to improve your customer experience, it’s time to upgrade.
Virtual phone systems have an intuitive menu flow, support call routing, call forwarding, transferring, and call recording so you can listen back to customer interactions. These phone systems also cost a fraction of what you’re currently paying for your landline.
Chatbots and live chat: Implementing a chatbot on your business website is a great, cost-effective way to offer customer service 24/7. Chatbots can cut operational costs by up to 30%, with 7 in 10 consumers preferring to use chatbots over other channels to get quick answers to their questions.
To supplement your chatbot, you can also offer a live chat option for any customers who wish to chat with a live customer service representative. The one-two combo of a chatbot for FAQs that is able to escalate to live chat is the gold standard of customer service today, but only if your agents are available to answer questions.
Social media: Your social channels aren’t just for posting branded content and social selling. Customers may leave comments or send messages on your business’s social accounts with questions or other feedback, this is becoming especially popular amongst younger generations who are more tech-savvy.
To ensure you don’t miss anything, be sure to actively monitor your comment threads and social media inboxes (especially your “Message Requests” folders on Facebook and Instagram).
SMS messaging: Providing customer service through SMS, or mobile marketing, is becoming increasingly popular. This option is less disruptive than phone calls for customers and offers more convenience. For example, the ball is in the customers’ court to get support rather than the vendor.
As a small business owner, the easiest way to set up mobile marketing for your business is to choose a business phone plan that offers SMS in addition to traditional calling.
Email: Many companies choose to set up a specific email address for customer service so that all feedback gets sent to a single place. This will not only make it easier to manage customer service interactions over email, but you’ll also be able to sort, filter, and categorize the questions that come into the inbox, which will provide valuable insights for your business.
Email correspondence and expectations have shifted a bit during COVID-19. Some recent trends from leaders in the email marketing space suggest that over-communicating to customers, simpler personalization, and more written empathy are the best ways to approach email customer service moving forward.
FAQ pages and website forms: If you find yourself answering similar questions over and over again, it may be worth it to create an FAQ page on your website with the answers. Any questions that aren’t addressed on your FAQ page can then be sent to you through a website form or to a specific email address.
FAQ pages can go hand-in-hand with your chatbot as well. For example, the chatbot can pull answers from your FAQ page whenever a user asks a common question. This is a great way to enhance your self-service customer experience.
4. Embrace positive and negative customer feedback
Gathering customer feedback is one of the best ways to get a sense of how people view your business and brand.
If you’re a brick-and-mortar store, read through online reviews on platforms like Facebook, Google My Business, and Yelp to further understand where your business is excelling or where it needs to improve. The same can be said for B2B brands, where third-party review sites like G2, Capterra, and Trustradius, as well as Glassdoor can be helpful sites for feedback.
You should also dedicate time to personally respond to as many reviews as you possibly can, regardless if they’re positive or negative. Leaving responses on public platforms will show that you’re listening to feedback and taking it seriously.
Up to 93% of consumers say that online reviews directly impact their purchase decisions, so it’s important to actively monitor and address reviews as they come in.
Listen, learn, and improve
There’s no small business customer service strategy that’s one size fits all, but generally speaking, listening to your customers and meeting them where they’re at will go a long way.
Make sure your customers feel seen and heard by responding to their feedback both in person and online, and maintain an active presence on the channels they’re using the most, whether that’s phone, email, text, or somewhere else.
Doing so will not only help your customers think more favorably of your business, but you’ll boost your bottom line: customers are willing to spend 17% more with a company that has amazing customer service. You can’t afford to miss out!