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8 tips to help startups give great customer service

25 Feb 2020

In the early days of a company, the founders are usually responsible for running all areas of the business. Until you’re in a position to bring more people into your team you’ll wear lots of different hats at once, switching between marketing and finance, say, as you grow your company. And chances are, you won’t be an expert in every business area; in fact, you may not have even worked in it before and will need to learn as you go.

Working on multiple areas of your business can feel overwhelming, especially if they’re new to you. That’s why we’re here to help you grow your business through key areas, without spending a fortune. Last time, we covered recruitment, and now we’re taking a look at customer service.

Customer service is a vitally important part of any business, regardless of your specific product or service. Once again, it’s an area that falls under a founder’s responsibility, especially in the early stages when you’re chasing your first few sales or sign-ups. And after you’ve found your customers, you need to work hard to keep them; retaining a customer is much cheaper and easier than finding a new one.

Delighting your customers is a must, both for finding and retaining them, but if you don’t have the right tools or processes in place, it could become extremely time-consuming. Follow our advice and you’ll be giving your customers a great experience without spending all hours of your day on customer service. 

1. Build out your customer journey

Think about the journey your customers will go on with your product or service. Consider when they will need to hear from you during this journey and map it out on paper. For example, you may want to send them a message when they sign up, another message a couple of weeks later to check how they’re doing, a message if their account hasn’t been active for a while, a message with instructions to upgrade and so on. You may want to throw in a phone call to see how they’re getting on with your product. The type and number of communications will vary depending on what’s right for your business, but getting a journey in place will help make sure your customers get the right information when they need it.

2. Automate where you can

Build in some automation to help you out with customer queries, and possibly throughout your customers’ journeys. A good place to start is setting up an auto-response to customers who contact you over email or through your website. Anyone who’s got in touch will then know for sure that their message has landed with you and is in the process of being dealt with. State in the body of the email how long it will take you to get back to them and keep to this timeline.

You can also set up email templates to save time if you find yourself replying to the same questions over again. When setting up automated replies, make sure you don’t lose the personal touch – customers are put off by obvious bulk messaging. 

3. Manage your customer service from one central place

Tools like Help Scout are reasonably priced and allow you to separate your customer service emails from your regular emails. You can set up auto-replies and templates, and are able to track customers, see previous interactions and add notes, which is especially helpful if you speak to customers over the phone as well as over email. Plus, you can view stats like response rate and turnaround time to track your success, which becomes even more useful as you hire people to look after customer service.

Having some sort of customer service tool also helps you take information out of your brain so that it’s trackable and usable by yourself, or others, in the future. You won’t have to remember that you need to follow up with Mrs Miggins in a week’s time because the info will all be stored in your customer tracking tool. 

4. Adapt your tone

Think about who your customers are and how they would like to be spoken to, then adapt your communications accordingly. Consider your product too. If you’re selling life insurance, for example, your tone will need to be more serious and perhaps more formal than a business selling dog beds. Test out different tones of voice and see what works for you. Your customers may prefer emails to start with “Dear sir”, or a greeting of “Hey [name]” might work better. 

5. Make yourself memorable

Customers are so used to interacting with companies that give boring or subpar customer service. Do something different to make yourself stand out. Your customers will remember you and it will be a joy for them to keep coming back to your company. They may even tell their friends about it.

Make sure your gestures are personal. Listen to what your customers are saying and use it as inspiration. It could be as simple as remembering a holiday a customer mentioned when they last spoke to you and asking how it was when you speak again. It will depend on the kind of business you run and how frequently you interact with your customers, but come up with something warm, personal and friendly to make your company memorable. 

6. Over-communicate

If in doubt, over-communicate. When waiting for help or an update, customers would prefer you get in touch to tell them there’s no progress instead of staying silent. Even if your communication doesn’t give any new information, your customers will appreciate it as it shows you haven’t forgotten about them. 

7. Ask your customers for feedback and act on it 

Your customers are the people who use your product or service regularly. Their views can and should help shape any changes you make. Regularly ask them for their opinions on your product, then act on their suggestions, if you can. Improving or adding features that your customers request will make them more likely to stick with you, both because the product becomes more useful and because their voices are heard.

Ask for feedback on your customer service too. It’s the best way to make sure you’re giving them a great experience.

8. Track your customers’ happiness

You should always be tracking customer happiness and asking for feedback as we’ve already discussed. But the task takes on a different identity as your business grows and you begin to hire customer service representatives. You’ll find yourself moving further away from your customers and probably won’t speak to them as often as you once did, if at all. Yet as the founder of the company, you still need to be aware of customer happiness/feedback trends and requests.

The best way to do this is to have your customer team compile high-level reports regularly. The tool we mentioned early, Help Scout, has an option for doing this automatically, so you can view stats related to response time, plus any customer feedback, all in one place. You could also use Net Promoter Score (NPS) to track how likely your customers are to recommend your business to a friend. If you see a drop in your NPS or Help Scout stats, you know you need to investigate. 

Hopefully, our tips will help you delight your customers and keep them with your company for the long-term. Don’t forget to check out our tips for recruiting too!

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