Limitations offer the biggest challenges to us, but at the same time they are the best boosters of creativity and inspiration. We all know that a distinguishing feature of almost every small business is their limited resources. There are not enough people, not enough budget to implement great ideas and purchase professional customer service tools.
How to function well under limitations? The key is to transform your customer service so that all existing resources are used with maximum efficiency. This will require some thinking and creativity from you. Every company will for sure have their own approach to this and will develop unique methods of overcoming the problem of limited resources.
Below are my 5 tips, which I hope will get you started on creating your own plan of transformation.
1. Channel your customer service calls
A small biz simply cannot afford spreading themselves too thin. Choose the cheapest and the most efficient customer service channel, considering the nature of your business, and try to direct the majority of your customer service requests into that channel.
Live chat is an ideal option for many small business companies, due to low cost and real-time interaction with clients. However, some of you will bet on phone support, and for others the cheapest option of email support will work well.
Whichever channel you choose, make sure it is always attended at the hours specified. If possible, extend the support hours for your preferred channel to the maximum, even if you cannot provide 24/7 support. Educate your customers that this is your preferred channel and encourage them to contact you through it to mimimize interactions through other higher cost channels.
2. Lead your customer service team to peak performance by creating a joyous working environment
People are your best investment. Trust in your employees. Create a joyous work space for them and you will see that their responsibility and creativity will grow. As a result, they will need less and less supervision, which will reduce your costs. You will spend less on hiring additional staff and monitoring tools to keep an eye on your workers.
Happier employees will make your customers happy. Take care of your people. Make them on self-start and they will make sure your business is running smooth and effective.
3. Get to know your customers
Customers love personalized service. To get personal you need to be a little more proactive and attentive. Observe what data you collect about your customers through your website, through surveys you may be running, social media and support channels you are using. Revise that data. Are you actively using all the information that you have collected, or most of it stays in the database untouched? Focus on what details you really need to know to personalize your communication with clients. Get creative about how you can get that data.
Without being too intrusive, use powerful monitoring tools which give you some information without active engagement on the part of the customer. Make use of the opportunities when the customer is reaching out to you. Ask them a few additional questions, thank them for their time. Use these details to provide better service to them and next time they will be happy to give you more information about themselves.
The more you pinpoint your approach to providing personalized service, the more customers will be served well at the minimal cost.
4. Choose the right customer support tool to enable your team’s efficient work
Depending on which channel you choose to be your primary contact, carefully examine the software options available in the market to support that channel. Make sure it is not overloaded with unnecessary features for which you are going to pay, but which you are not going to use.
Select a simple yet efficient tool. Simple interface will reduce costs that you may need to spend in training your employees to use the tool. It will also help the support agents to perform the most important tasks fast and reduce the time of interactions.
At the same time, ensure that the software you choose has the necessary features and allows you to collect and pass to support operators the necessary information about customers. This will help with providing personalized service, the importance of which we discussed above.
5. Minimize the duration of customer service interactions
There is one misconception about customer service which is common to many new companies. They often think that the more and the longer they engage with the customer, the better it is for their business. They think, if we make the interaction pleasant, if our agents are polite and professional, the customers will enjoy it.
It is not really so. From my experience in customer support, I can say that no matter how good you are, customers will always appreciate if you respect their time and cut the interaction short. After all, they are contacting customer service to get a problem solved, and they have a life to live and a business to run.
So, from one side, minimizing the duration of support interactions will make your customers happy. From another side, it will also save the time and effort of your support agents and your company on the whole. The shorter the interaction, the more service requests can be handled by one person, the less people and resources you will need to employ in customer service.
Of course, cutting it short should go hand in hand with maintaining high quality of service. Reducing the time of interaction takes a high level of professionalism on the part of the service agent, their ability to clearly understand the request, predict customer questions and lead the conversation. Here good training and the necessary level of freedom in making decisions will be necessary in order for the agents to grow in their professionalism.
These were my 5 ideas on how you can transform your customer service considering the limitations of a small business.
How is your company facing the challenges of limited resources and keeping your customers satisfied? Please feel free to share your thoughts and ideas in the comments.