Michael is the vice president and Asia Pacific managing director at cloud-based customer service software provider, Zendesk.
We all know that customer service is important. Large global companies like Apple and Amazon are renowned for their customer service, and their customer retention is a testament to that. This is all well and good for companies with millions to spend on customer service, you may say, but where does that leave startups with small budgets and limited resources?
Below are five tips on how to maximise your customer service and keep those customers happy:
1. Recognize customer service value
First and foremost, successful startups recognise early on that customers are at the core of their business and should be treated with respect. A recent study of the long term impact of customer service experience conducted by Dimensional Research for Zendesk 1, looked at the good, the bad and the ugly of customer service. This research found that customer service has a dramatic impact on buying behaviour, with participants ranking customer service as the number one factor impacting vendor trust.
The survey showed that good customer service results in increased personal and business purchases (with 62 percent of business-to-business and 42 percent of business-to-consumer customers having purchased more after a good customer service experience) while bad customer service drives customers to find alternatives (with 66 percent of B2B and 52 percent of B2C customers having stopped buying after a bad customer service interaction).
If a customer contacts you, they want you to respond quickly, sympathetically and effectively. That’s what drives high customer satisfaction.
2. Respond quickly
Getting back to customers as quickly as possible is imperative. You don’t need an immediate solution but you do need to acknowledge that you are working on it. Our research showed that customer service experiences are judged more on the timeliness of the interaction than on the final outcome (69 percent attributed their good customer service experience to quick resolution of their problem while 72 percent blamed their bad customer service interaction on having to explain their problem to multiple people).
3. Act like the big guys
The key for startups is to behave like large-scale successful enterprises and adopt a mindset that says customer service is a profit centre in your business. Manage your customer service simply, effectively and affordably, and you’ll usually notice you gain an edge on the competition in the process.
Traditionally, customer service has been seen very much as a cost centre for any company rather than a profit centre. Smart startups recognise that they can use technology to not only improve customer service experience across all channels but that they can use it to turn customers into happy customers, and even advocates.
4. Embrace social media
With so many people on Twitter, Facebook and other social media tools, it is important to use these channels as another avenue for interactions with your customer. Offering customer service through the channels that your customers want to use, rather than the channels you want to use, can be an excellent way to deliver great customer service.
Our research showed that social media and review sites are providing increased awareness of customer service experiences (45 percent share bad customer service experiences and 30 percent share good customer service experiences via social media), and these stories influence the purchases of others (88 percent have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision).
5. Enter the cloud
The introduction of cloud computing means that startups now have access to the same new technology and functionality as large organisations. Indeed, the very nature of a startup organisation means that they are often able to introduce this technology faster and easier, for minimal commitment and up-front cost. Cloud computing tools are also perfectly suited to smart phones and tablets which means business, including customer service, can be managed from anywhere.
Cloud-based helpdesk software can help startups and small businesses compete with larger organisations by having all customer support requests go through one place, irrespective of whether they’ve come in through the website, Twitter, phone or elsewhere. Queries can also be handled from mobile devices, so startups can respond to their customer queries whilst they are out of the office or outside office hours.
Customer service has a long-term impact on buying decisions, with customers continuing to be affected years after the initial interaction. These simple tips will help you to deliver first class customer service that exceeds expectations and turns your customers into advocates for what you have to offer.
Customer service and business results: a survey of customer service from mid-size companies, Dimensional Research, April 2013.