The 4 Essentials of a Customer Service Plan
Customer service is one of the most overlooked priorities for growing businesses.
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The founding team of every startup is generally concerned with the same few things: product and growth. However, there's one more thing that every team should be prioritizing, and that is customer service. It's all well and good to have an effective sales team, but if you don't properly take care of incoming and existing customers, not only will you miss out on sales, but your customer retention will soon hit rock bottom.
But how do you offer great customer service, especially when you have a "lean and agile" -- or, more commonly, understaffed -- team? There are a few things you can do that will likely fit into your budget, and a few that are so effective it will be impossible to grow without them:
1. Free: Offer multiple means of contact.
First and foremost, your company should be easy to get in touch with. Aside from having a (frequently checked) email and phone number on your website, make sure you're active on at least one of the major social networks. Not sure which one you want to spend the most time on? Twitter. Most complaints will be made there, and your thoughtful, tactful, possibly hilarious responses will be most visible to others on the platform.
Related: 4 Investments Brands Should Make to Upgrade Their Customer Service
2. Free: Respond to feedback quickly.
The next step, now that you have all of these wonderful forms of contact, is of course to actually respond to the feedback you get! While it's best if you respond to feedback of any kind immediately, it's critical that you do so within 24 hours, or risk customers think you aren't listening.
3. Free-ish: Train your staff to be great.
Customer service has a reputation of being difficult and emotionally trying as a profession, due to the fact that most people don't give feedback unless it's negative. So how do you keep your staff happy if they're undertaking this often-demoralizing task? Equip them with the mental, emotional, physical and digital tools to handle customer complaints with grace and easily find answers to questions and issues. Whether you have a small staff that takes turns handling customer support, or a growing company that hires a dedicated person -- or even a whole department -- to make sure your customers have the best experience possible, don't handicap your staff by skimping on proper training.
Unless you're a customer service professional -- which I doubt since you're reading this article -- it's likely worth it to bring in a training company, or pay for your team to take a course in customer service. These courses will not only answer questions about etiquette, but will also offer insight into how to respond in difficult and unusual situations.
4. Worth it: Chat on site.
If you have the budget, invest in a chat system right on your site. An ATG Global Consumer Trend study found that 90 percent of customers consider live chat helpful; further, an emarketer.com survey indicated that over two thirds were more likely to return to a website that offers live chat.
Related: 4 Ways Customers Need to See You Want Their Business
This ties into the principle of responding to feedback quickly, by giving your brand the capability of responding to feedback at the very moment that your users think it. What's more, you'll be able to avoid unpleasant customer experiences due to confusion and get a more granular level of information about how well your user experience performs.
If you aren't sure you have the bandwidth to accommodate customer service, ask yourself how important your customers are and how important your brand reputation is. If those two factors matter to you (spoiler alert: they should, a lot) then customer service is non-optional.