Customer Service IS Important for Small Businesses (+ 8 Tips)

Small businesses always have a ton of things going at all times – taking care of their teams and customers, managing multiple projects, and finishing administrative work are only a few to name. Among the hustle and bustle of these daily tasks that spread business owners and employees thin is customer service, the one that you cannot overlook at any cost.

Why is Customer Service a Deciding Factor for Small Business Success?

Small businesses face many of the same problems as startups – limited staff and time constraints. While a startup disrupts industries, a small business is a fundamental part of any industry and has a proven track record with customers to back it up.

And earning that customer base is not the hardest part. Maintaining and keeping those same customers satisfied is just as, if not more, challenging and important.

With their hands tied in multiple tasks, most small businesses try to minimize the resources spent on customer support. But you need to be paying attention to every close customer’s problem. Here’s why delivering good customer service is critical for small businesses:

Sets the foundation for future relationships

The 80/20 rule is common knowledge to small business owners – 80% of your future profits will come from 20% of your customers. However, what isn’t discussed as often as it should be is the important role customer experience plays in retaining customers.

65% of respondents to a survey said that they would become long-term customers of a brand if they had positive experiences throughout the customer journey.1 Providing top-notch customer service for your current consumer base becomes even more important when you know that loyal customers could multiply profits and help your business grow.

Offers good reviews and testimonials

At the early stages of your business, social proof for potential customers comes in terms of testimonials from the existing ones. Lucky for you, good customer service garners shareable reviews from customers.

In one study, nearly half (49%) of consumers who have had a positive customer experience say they would share it on social media or post a positive review online, compared to just 30% when it comes to negative experiences.2 This shows that customers are more likely to reward excellent customer service by sharing their experiences online.

Shines light on opportunities of improvement

While positive customer feedback is great for knowing what you do well, customer complaints give you a lot to learn about in terms of what you can improve on. In addition to this, your customer service team is up-to-date about the evolving customer needs and expectations and can influence product/business roadmap.

Now that you have a fair idea of why customer service is important for a small business, let’s next look at how you can deliver that best-in-class service.

8 Small Business Customer Service Tips for 2022

1. Build a clear, visible contact page

When your customer support team is small, it might seem counterintuitive to put them on the front lines with customers. You might even think that displaying your customer service and contact information will send a message to new customers that they’ll need support sooner rather than later.

But it doesn’t. Instead, displaying your information clearly tells new and old customers that if they need help, they can find it. So, don’t bury it in your website footer.

When people need help or have a problem, they want to reach someone who can help them as quickly as possible. They need to be able to find the link within a few seconds of landing on your webpage. (That’s why we have ours at the top of every page on our website.)

Screenshot of the Freshdesk website

Make your contact page as easy to find as your pricing page. When customers need help, they aren’t interested in going on a scavenger hunt to find it.

2. Don’t over promise or underdeliver

Just living up to promises isn’t enough to differentiate your business from competitors, but making too many promises can be just as dangerous. This is why you should always make a promise that you know your service staff can honor even when things go awry, and then aim to over-deliver on that promise.

Do you guarantee customers will hear back from your support team within two business days? Try to consistently respond within a single business day instead.

Do you tell customers that a refund will be processed in three or four business days? Aim to get that down to one or two business days.

Whatever promise you make, ensure that it’s within the abilities of your customer service department, then deliver on it twice as much.

The result will be a stronger experience and increase the trustworthiness of your team, while also giving your service agents some wriggle room if any issues get in the way of resolving a ticket.

It’s better for your customers to be surprised than disappointed. Remember that when you’re making promises.

Customer service promise

3. Add a personalized touch to the experience

A loyal customer is worth their weight in diamonds, but that doesn’t mean you have to dish out jewels to keep them happy.

Little touches like delivering personalized customer service can go a long way towards improving customer experience.

For instance, MISA, an LA-based retail business, offers a personalized experience at scale by having placeholders for details such as customer name, agent name, and signatures for their canned responses built on Freshdesk. This way, they deflected 50% of repetitive questions without compromising on personalization. Read the full story here.

Personalized canned responses on Freshdesk

Further reading
Personalize your customer support with an invisible helpdesk

4. Celebrate your long-time customers

While it’s true that customer service teams are often tasked with helping new customers onboard or making upsells and cross-sells, customer acquisition shouldn’t be their only priority.

Retaining customers is more cost-effective than wrangling in new ones, so even if you’ve already made the sale, you should still be rolling out the bells and whistles for long-time customers.

If there’s any doubt about just how much more budget-friendly long-time customers are, consider this: acquiring new customers is seven times more expensive than retaining your current customer base. So they’re definitely worth pampering every now and then.

For example, suppose a long-time loyal customer calls in. In that case, you can prioritize their request and dedicate them to a customer support agent who knows their entire history and can easily roll out the white-glove treatment.

Alternatively, you can celebrate milestones with your customer by sending them special offers on the day they first became your customer or on their birthday. Ulta is one such cosmetic company that does this often.

small business ulta rewarding its customers

It’s a small gesture, but for a customer that’s been loyal to you, it’s worth going out of your way.

5. Educate and empower your customers

Great customer service doesn’t stop at addressing problems they bring to you. It involves going beyond that and helping eliminate the rest of their problems.

However, if you’re pressed for time, you can look at what your customers need and talk with them to find out what their biggest hurdles are in the day. You can also look at the most common complaints you get and publish the solutions to that as help-guides or ‘solution articles’ in what’s called a customer portal or a knowledge base.

Publishing a knowledge base can go a long way in empowering your customers to find answers on their own and also in helping your team focus on more complex customer issues. Launch an exhaustive, customized knowledge base in no time using Freshdesk, an intuitive knowledge base software that enables swift creation and management of solution content.

Here’s what Freshdesk’s knowledge base looks like –

well organized knowledge base example

Further reading
An In-depth Guide to Building a Great Knowledge Base
How to Write a Perfect Knowledge Base Article
What Is an Internal Knowledge Base & How To Build One

If you have the time, you can also create content that isn’t directly related to the product or service you offer.

For instance, Shopify’s customers are e-commerce store owners, but their blog doesn’t cater exclusively to e-commerce. It also includes articles on marketing, design, lifestyle tips, and more.

This is because their customers and readers need more than just an e-commerce platform to sell their goods. And Shopify delivers that to keep them satisfied.

Shopify creating helpful content for customers6. Choose the right channels carefully

Picking the perfect mix of channels for customer communication, specifically for customer service, is important for SMBs. While you may want to join every new channel that springs up, you also have to strategically manage your time, effort and cost. So, we recommend you pick channels that:
– the majority of your customers want
– are easy to scale
– allow for multiple conversations at once. 

Email still continues to be a popular channel with 72% of customers preferring it for business communication.3 Email is great for small businesses because the expected reply time is usually a bit more relaxed compared to other channels such as social media and live chat – the response time of each service request via email can extend up to 12 hours.4 This gives you time to focus on other tasks and respond to customer queries from time to time. You can track and manage customer conversations, gather feedback, analyze trends, and do much more with a dedicated email management software.

Social media
Building your presence on social media is a must since that’s where most of the customers are these days. One-third of Americans have used social media to complain about a brand or its customer service.5 Since these platforms get a lot of eyeballs, delivering good social media customer service as early as possible is important.

Live chat
Live chat is a channel that allows for multiple conversations and scales well because of this very reason. Live chat can also be used to enable customer self-service through in-widget FAQs and chatbot. Plus, customers today expect more 1-1, real-time conversations on instant messaging channels such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. Getting started with the right live chat software helps ensure that you can scale to instant messaging channels too.

Pro tip: If you’re offering support on multiple channels, then choose an omnichannel customer service software that takes all your channels of communication and threads them together in one cohesive system.

Screenshot of Freshdesk - an omnichannel customer service software

The result will be a more unified, intelligent system of service that’s less expensive and easier to maintain than multichannel support. Every agent can own the customer’s experience, answer any query, or resolve any ticket no matter where it originated.

This way, you can even reduce the cost spent on multiple tools and the cost of hiring someone to oversee all of your systems to keep your tickets updated between channels.

7. Hire talent with people-skills

If you’re putting together a team for customer service and other customer-facing roles, then make sure you look for a ‘people’s person’. The benefits of doing this are manifold.

First and foremost, customer service representatives must be able to build rapport with customers, empathize with them, and end conversations on a positive note through effective communication. For someone with innate people skills, engaging with customers and establishing relationships that last long will come naturally.

Secondly, small businesses hardly have the time for an extensive customer service training program to ramp up new employees. While the technical and product-specific onboarding is non-negotiable, you can at the very least save time spent on soft-skills training since these employees are already aware and capable of managing conversations of all types.

Lastly, but most importantly, your customer service team is the face of your company. So it’s essential that your team is polite, professional, and well-mannered at all times. Someone who asks the right questions and empathizes with each customer that walks in is sure not to let your company down.

8. Focus on consistency

You might have heard the saying “consistency is the key to success”. This cannot be more true for customer service.

You might think that this is the best time to go out of the way for each customer, given that you’re managing a small customer base. But ask yourself, can you scale this level of customer service as your business grows? Your customers will certainly notice the difference in the treatment if you aren’t able to keep this up.

The best customer service is consistent. And consistency in customer service refers to delivering personalized support across all touchpoints without a gap in experience. So you should peg your level of customer service somewhere here and make sure you deliver on that. Going back to tip #2 – don’t overpromise and under-deliver.

Delivering great customer service would not be possible without the right technology backing your team. Read on to know what that looks like for a small business.

Bonus: Invest in the right help desk for small business

Picking the best customer service software right at the early stages of your business can save you a lot of problems you might face in the future with an inefficient tool. These issues can range from delivering subpar customer service experiences to having difficulties with siloed data.

So while picking a customer service tool for your (current) small business, make sure you pick one that is:
– Intuitive: With a clean and easily navigable UI, your team can get comfortable with the tool in a short span of time without extensive onboarding.
– Omnichannel: One tool for delivering customer service across multiple channels helps ensure consistency and also saves costs.
– Scalable: You need to make sure that the tool is able to meet your requirements even as your business grows
– Optimized for productivity: Offers workflow automations and customer self-service that go a long way in improving efficiency.
– Data-enabled: Provides you with the right insights so you can make data-driven decisions

Freshdesk is a customer service software that ticks all the above boxes and is perfect for businesses of all sizes. If you’re looking for a solution, then do give Freshdesk a spin.

We might be biased, but, listen to what George Cremeans, a Freshdesk liaison at DTI Management has to say –

From chaos, we now have order. This wouldn’t have been possible without Freshdesk. With the help of the reports we generate through Freshdesk, we can now track our biggest issues quicker and fix them every week.

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