Customer support is vital for any small business to create and maintain strong relationships with its customers. Strong customer relationships allow you to build trust that can lead to more referrals and greater customer loyalty. Over time, it will result in the overall improvement of your company's revenue and growth.
However, customer support is more than just providing answers. It's about understanding the customer's needs, asking the right questions, and being available to help. Since most small businesses do not have dedicated customer support staff, you must have a detailed plan ready. A customer support plan can help you identify your customers' needs and expectations, keep track of customer feedback and provide high-quality service that leaves a lasting impression on your customers.
In this article, we have put together a list of actions that you can take to build a successful customer support plan for your small business.
Determine Your Support System
The key to establishing a successful support plan is understanding that your business might need different types of customer support. Depending on your business model, you will need to tailor your strategy accordingly.
For example, if you are a retailer with physical stores, you might want to focus more on the phone and in-person support. On the other hand, if you are running an eCommerce store, chances are your customers might prefer email or chat interactions more.
Small businesses need to know what type of customer support works best for their particular business and industry, then plan to put in the necessary time and effort to do that well. Companies usually provide customer support through email, phone, social media, and online chat tools.
Phone Support. Phone calls allow customers to have real-time conversations with you and receive immediate clarifications on the spot. They do not need to wait hours for responses that may never come. However, the downside of the phone support system is the lack of scalability and potential holding time.
Email Support. One of the most used channels is email. Emails allow your customers to describe the issues in greater detail. Customers who are introverts may find email support less intimidating than phone calls. A notable disadvantage of email support is the response time and clarity of solutions, especially for more complex issues.
Chat Support. Similar to email support, chat support provides a convenient way for customers to reach out for help. It's less intimidating while still providing real-time solutions like the phone support option. Due to confidentiality issues, avoid using channels like WhatsApp or Telegram. In this case, SMS is better.
Social Media Support. Another frequent channel is Social Media. Through its various platforms customers will be able to contact your company effortlessly. Plus, it can also help you determine your target audience through the vast tools Social Media platforms offer.
Respond Promptly to Inquiries
Quick response is another factor that can contribute to delivering good customer support. Customers appreciate a speedy response to their inquiries, especially when they have a time-sensitive request. To provide good customer support, we encourage you to respond to emails and social media inbox within 24 hours, phone calls, and chat as soon as possible but no more than 5 minutes. Inform your customers about how long it will take you to assist them.
Create a List of Frequently Asked Questions and Answers
There might be instances where you cannot get to your customers for an extended amount of time. Whether feedback from a particular product/service or a dreaded complaint, you might want to resolve it before the issues escalate.
The critical aspect here is to create a self-service option that allows customers to quickly navigate the answers to questions that may come up in your product or service. Providing customers a list of frequently asked questions and answers is one of the most popular, affordable, and effective ways to approach this issue.
So, what should you consider when creating FAQs? Well-crafted FAQs should be easy-to-find, easy-to-read, and comprehensive enough to answer customer questions quickly.
Some of the sample FAQs include:
When will my product arrive?
What are the types of payment you accept?
Where is your store located?
Can you provide me with some general information about the product/service?
When can I expect my refund?
Also, make sure your FAQs are as detailed and accurate as possible.
And what about complaints?
Occasionally, you may receive some complaints about your products or services. Do not worry; it happens to all businesses at some point, big or small. By not taking these lightly and always viewing them as constructive criticism, you can use complaints productively to serve your customers better. Listen to what they say and consider it for future improvements.
No company is without problems, and you have probably experienced this first-hand. Remember the first thing all the customer support reps said when they heard your situation? Most likely, it's something along the lines of "I'm sorry about the inconvenience. We are working our best to try to find a solution to your problem." This type of message shows empathy. Understanding the concerns of a customer is key to customer loyalty.
Put yourself in your customers' shoes and treat them how you want to be treated. A popular call center tip is to smile whenever you speak on the phone. Even though the other person cannot see you, your tone will improve when you smile.
Remain polite. Please and thank you go a long way in any conversation. Why would a support call be any different? There will be times where you have an angry customer who leaves you feeling ignored and frustrated. But it does not have to be this way! With a bit of patience and understanding, you can find a resolution that benefits both parties.
Match your customer's tone. When writing or speaking to your customers, it's important to pay attention to their preferences when addressing them. Some like to be called by their surname, while others prefer being called by their first name. Also, avoid using too much technical jargon in customer communications as some people will not understand the terminology. They would prefer it if you could explain their problem concisely and in layman's terms, without skipping too much detail.
Active Listening. Multi-tasking might seem like a necessity for small business owners. But with so many different responsibilities, there will be times where you need to put a client on hold or mute the call. It's not the time to let your attention drift. A call from a client can be crucial, so you want to give it 100% of your attention.
Know your Product/Service.
As a business owner, you understand your product better than anyone else. You did the market research necessary for the services you offered and studied competitors long before cutting the ribbon. People care about the knowledge you provide them with, so use this to your advantage. Customers are more likely to stay loyal if they feel that you are knowledgeable in your field. Keep providing the same quality of information each time they communicate with you, and they will be more eager to continue engaging with the company.
You and all team members are required to know everything about the product or service you are selling. It's essential to be knowledgeable enough to explain the features, unique benefits, and how it solves problems related to your product or service. And remember to speak to your customers, not speaking at them.
Train your Staff
Most small businesses start with a small team that does everything themselves, but eventually, their might grow to a size where it makes sense to take on different tasks that are time-consuming. Hiring employees can be a great way to solve this problem.
While good to have, your staff do not need any specific qualifications to provide customer service. It's a good idea to give them some training on what the company offers. The training can teach your customer service reps how to handle specific customer queries and problems and provide guidelines for each one.
The cost of customer support is often overlooked in the early stages of a product launch, but it can quickly become expensive if not adequately planned for. A few options to consider when scaling your company:
Hire customer representatives. You can hire additional people to help out, or you can get more employees on your team. You will have to be just as attentive to your employees as you are with your customers. Your customer support reps will be the face of your company. Make sure to continue training them and check in on their progress periodically to ensure success.
Hire a Virtual Assistant. One of the best ways to go is hiring a Virtual Assistant. Most companies offer a monthly plan based on the hours worked and workers have already gone through a screening process. They excel in different areas and will provide 24/7 bilingual service without you having to worry about medical insurance, tax forms, and saving up to 58% operating costs.
Outsourcing or Offshoring. Outsourcing & offshoring companies have been around for a while and are well known for delivering customer support service at scale. If your company receives too many inquiries that your team can handle, you can outsource customer support to increase the number of people handling them. They also take care of the screening process for you and have specialized skills to help your business thrive. The only downside is availability, which can be affected because representatives reside in different time zones.
Reward Customer Loyalty
Repeat customers spend as much as 67 percent more in their third year of buying from a business than in their first year. Loyalty is one of the keys to running a successful business. If you make sure your customers get something out of every interaction, they will keep coming back and might even buy more products from you along the way.
Some ways you can give back to your customers are:
Rewards cards. A cash-back program is a perfect way to give your customer a loyalty incentive for coming back to do business with you. You can also provide a point-based system to encourage the behavior. However, this approach is only ideal for B2C companies. For service-based or B2B companies, discounts can apply on the next billing cycle.
Discounts. You can offer discounts at the very beginning of a customer's interaction with your brand or after a year of using your products. For example, if you have had a customer that has been with you for over a year, one good idea is to offer them lower rates on the yearly subscription. The lower rates can come from 1 or 2 months free.
Referrals. Word-of-mouth is still one of the best ways to promote your small business. Rewarding customers who send referrals to you can be immensely beneficial to you both. After all, it's a two-way street.
It might be a given point, but it's worth emphasizing. Customers want to be seen and feel like they matter. They want to know that the company cares about their issues and is willing to go miles to resolve them. Follow-ups give customers a sense of assurance and help them feel more comfortable about its product and services. Always make sure you get your customer's contact details for this particular reason.
A well-planned survey is one of the best ways to go when asking for feedback about a product or service. Apps like SurveyMonkey have many customizable options that can help you stand out from other companies and competitors.
Be careful of contacting customers too often. You will have a higher chance of being an annoyance to them, and they may see your business as "too desperate." One call or email should not take more than 5 minutes.
Support is an essential part of customer service in all operations, including small businesses, but how you deliver will make you stand out from your competition. You will need to invest time and effort in consistently providing an excellent customer support experience. The next time you face a challenge, always try and put your customers first and treat them like family. The more they can feel that you care about their experience, the more likely they will return and recommend your business to their friends and families.
Remember, no perfect plan will work for every company, so it is good to try different methods until you find which one works best for you.