Getting a foothold in an industry is a hard-won honor that separates startups from small businesses. While a startup disrupts an industry, a small business claims to be a part of the foundation of that industry and also has a proven track record with the customers to back it up.
But while earning a customer base may have seemed like the hard part, maintaining and keeping those same consumers satisfied is just as, if not more, difficult and important. Small businesses face many of the same problems that plague startups with limited staff and time constraints.
In fact, research indicates that 80% of your future profits will come from 20% of your current customers. Add that to the fact that 89% of companies see customer experience as the key to improving retention, and the necessity of providing top-notch customer service for your current consumer base becomes even more imminent.
To help you deliver that best-in-class service, here are six tips tailored for small businesses:
1. Have a Clear, Visible Contact Page
When your team is small, it might seem counter-intuitive 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 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.)
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. Under-promise and Over-deliver
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 process 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.
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 personalizing their communications can go a long way towards creating a stronger customer experience. For instance, using their first name when addressing them over email or the phone signifies that you see the customer as more than an account number.
This is why so many marketers—96% of them—say personalization nurtures customer relationships. Nearly as many of them—88% of professionals—say that those same customers expect a personalized experience.
So, add personal touches to your customer interactions.
4. Celebrate Your Long-time Customers
Make sure your customer service team understands that the first impression isn’t the only one that matters. The last impression is just as vital to your small business.
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 sell, 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, if a long-time customer calls in, your team might offer an exclusive discount for a new product as a way of showing gratitude for their continued business. 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.
Cosmetic companies do this often. Ulta is one such.
It’s a small gesture, but for a customer that’s been loyal to you, it’s worth going out of your way.
5. Create Customer-centric Content
If you offer marketing services, it may be tempting to create only marketing material on your blog and on social media, but that could be a mistake.
You have to look at what your customers need and talk with them to find out what their biggest hurdles are in the day. Are they small businesses who struggle with time management? If so, create content that serves that need.
It doesn’t matter that the content isn’t directly related to the product or service you offer, it only matters that it’s useful to the customer.
After all, fantastic 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.
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.
Bottom line: The more solutions you offer for them, the better you look as a solution.
6. Go Omnichannel or Go Home
You’ve probably heard of multi-channel customer support at this point, but omnichannel support might be a new one for you.
The difference is basically this:
Multi-channel support involves handling all of your support channels like social media and email separately.
Omnichannel support takes those same channels and threads them together in one cohesive system.
You could hire someone to oversee all of your systems and keep your tickets updated between channels, but as your customer base continues to grow, that approach will quickly become expensive and inefficient.
So instead of bringing on a new manager or overburdening current staffers with taking ownership of a single channel of support, empower all of your service employees with helpdesk software that supports an omnichannel approach.
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 and answer any query or resolve any ticket no matter where it originated from.
It doesn’t have to be a major drain on your funds or time to set up. Freshdesk makes it easy to go the omnichannel way. Try it out today.
Small businesses have graduated from startup status and have a reliable customer base, but their work isn’t done yet. At this point, businesses may be tempted to focus on customer acquisition, but retention is just as, if not even more, critical for your business.
To keep both old and new customers happy, make sure your contact information is clear and visible on your website.
Then, under-promise results and over-deliver on them to keep customers surprised and never disappointed.
Your customers are human. Let them know you haven’t forgotten that by adding personalized touches to your interactions. Better yet, celebrate them and show your gratitude for their continued business by giving them exclusive offers and observing special events like anniversaries with your company or birthday.
Finally, top it all off with customer-centric content on your blog and develop an omnichannel customer service approach.
In the case of small businesses, your oldies are always your goodies, so treat them like it.