Starting a new business is difficult — there are a thousand things happening all at once and it’s hard to handle it all on your own. Dealing with customer requests is a large part of the learning process and crucial to your new company’s long-term success. As a result, customer service should be one of your top priorities as a small and growing business.
Customer service is multifaceted. Although the needs of each customer can widely vary, there are a few common mistakes we see when a new company gets going. Some of these mistakes may seem obvious at first — yet we still see even established companies making them consistently.
Let’s examine a few ways in which customer service can either secure new and returning business or ensure a customer never shops with you again.
Consider the following scenario:
You visit a local small business’s website searching for the answer to what you believe is an easy question. Unfortunately, you can’t seem to find what you’re looking for — so you send an email requesting more information.
After waiting for a response, you decide it may be better to call directly. You sit on hold for 10 minutes until you reach a customer service representative. They are friendly but new to the team so they don’t have the answer you’re looking for — they hand you off to another agent.
Finally, this agent has the answer you’re looking for, but it turns out this product doesn’t currently meet your needs.
It doesn’t sound like a great experience, right? The unfortunate truth is a bad experience is much more likely to be remembered than a positive one.
In this scenario, there are a few major issues that may cause this customer to never come back — even if you can help them in the future. There’s also a good chance they may speak negatively about your brand and damage your reputation.
Long wait times are an absolute killer for business. If a customer is stuck on hold or fails to get a response within a reasonable timeframe, they’ll shop somewhere else. This is especially true today when a customer can easily search for one of your competitors on the phone they called you on.
Wait times can vary depending on which customer service channel your customers use.
Live chat is by far the quickest, with customers only willing to wait for about 30 seconds to a minute for a response. It can be hard to have a staff member respond in time, which is where chatbots can help — read more about chatbots here.
If a customer reaches out by phone, a team member can hopefully pick it up immediately. You only have a few minutes before they start looking into other options.
Retail stores have about 15 minutes before a customer may decide to walk out the door, but for online stores, that shrinks down to 60 seconds.
Lastly, email is a little more forgiving with an ideal response time of about 3 hours. You can really set yourself apart here as many companies don’t respond for 24 hours or longer.
The moral of the story is don’t make your customers wait. It is costing you sales.
Mistake 2 — Limited Experience / Unable to Find Right Solution
In the scenario above, the first representative was friendly but could not find the answer the customer needed. While friendliness and professionalism are huge factors in a customer’s purchase decision, they also need to know they’re shopping in the right place for the right product.
Your customers may lose faith in your business as a result of your team being unable to assist them. Ensuring you have the support of an experienced customer service team is key to long term success.
People want to feel like they’ve made the right choice when they spend their money. Often all it takes is a bit of reassurance that your team can help. Proper training and educational materials, such as blogs or training manuals, can ensure your staff and customers can find the answers they seek.
You young and growing businesses, focusing on a quality product or service takes up most of your time. However, your sales can be negatively impacted without the support of an experienced customer service team — regardless of the quality of your product or service.
Data analytics play an important role in growing your small business. Analytics can help you better understand your customers and their buying preferences — you may decide to create a dedicated page on your website for frequently asked questions.
In our scenario above, the small business would have saved time for the customer and customer service representative if the answer to common questions could be found on an FAQ page, for example. Customers are generally happy to use self-service options, provided they are available.
Data analytics can also show the demographics buying from your business. Are you targeting the right people with your products or services? Even if you offer an excellent customer service experience, you may not make any sales if you’re selling to the wrong people.
You can also gain a better understanding of what your target demographics are actually looking for. Are you offering the right products and services for your target market?
As a simple example, let’s say you’ve just started a bakery specializing in bagels. However, sales seem to be much slower than you initially projected. Using data analytics, you quickly discover people in your local market are actually looking for baguettes — so you alter your strategy.
Depending on the type of inquiry and the customer’s personal preferences, they may want to connect with your business in different ways. Offering multiple ways to interact with your business increases efficiency, reduces costs, and keeps your customers satisfied.
For simple questions, often a chat window is all they need. Chat windows can also be managed by a bot for your most frequent questions — no need to have an agent involved. By implementing a chat function, you can free up your customer service team to handle more complicated requests.
Phone is better suited for difficult questions that require more thorough investigation. Troubleshooting, complaints, and sales inquiries should have a knowledgeable agent speak directly with the customer.
Customers have used email to interact with businesses for decades now. It’s a technology they’re familiar with and demand as a communication channel. It’s also one of the most accessible channels with everyone walking around with a smart phone in their pocket.
However, customers should generally receive a reply within 3 hours to maximize conversion rates.
Email is inexpensive and easy to implement. It also creates a paper trail for your business and customers. You can also build email lists for promotions and upcoming products targeted at specific demographics.
This guest blog post was provided by Jordan Brown at Omnie Integrated Services. Omnie Integrated Services is a full-service customer satisfaction agency with web chat, email and phone support options. If you are interested in learning more, contact Omnie at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (844) 669-5068.