3 Tips for Startups to Improve Their Customer Service

It is virtually universally acknowledged that a satisfied customer might talk to two or three peers about his experience, while a dissatisfied one is likely to voice his grievances far wider. Words can spread like wildfire, and they have the power to burn any business to the ground.

Particularly in the era of social media, when 59 percent of 25-34 year-olds share poor experiences online, customer satisfaction plays a very important role. Customers determine the growth potential of the company by providing insights into what's working and what's not. All businesses, no matter their size, need to prioritize customer service.

When it comes to startups, only half of them survive beyond their fifth year. One of the main reasons for failure is their disconnection from their customers' needs. They often develop products or services in isolation, rather than listening to and incorporating valuable feedback. Customer service is not a cherry on the top. In fact, it is a solid part of the cake. Startups can use it to create a strategic advantage. Here are three tips to help make that happen:

Make Customers Your Priority

Especially in the early stages of startups, every review matters, be it online or word-of-mouth. Startups don't have an established brand to stand behind so it's easy for a negative experience to rock the boat. Yet at these initial stages they don't tend to have a customer service department or a designated individual to handle these issues either. Rather, there are a lot of staff members wearing multiple hats.

And yet, startups need to understand the immense value customer service brings. They should approach it inclusively and with humility; perfectionism doesn't pay off. After all, your customer service strategy doesn't have to stick with you forever: It will be changing and developing at every stage of your growth. So the key is being dynamic and adaptive, while leveraging what you have today.

Having a system of metrics in place is great, but no numbers can ever tell you as much as a genuine customer opinion. Whether a complaint, a review, or a question, each of these has great potential to speak volumes about your business. These notes reflect the current state of your business and the service you provide. Receiving feedback gives the best cues of where to direct your product development to create a service that best matches the needs of the market. Therefore, startups need to view each customer interaction as an indispensable learning tool.

Understand the Power of Set-ups

So how do you go about customer service? Approaching it in a systemized manner is crucial. At the beginning, you can get away with just a regular support@company.com shared email address, together with support times dedicated to each team member. After this, startups can move on to adopting more complicated setups.

For instance, self-service brings great value to any business. Being on the lookout for the most common issues and questions can help you build a set of answers that guides customers toward quick solutions. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) are a useful addition to any website, particularly if the answers' wording is SEO-friendly and lets customers locate the solution even via search engines. As long as the FAQ page is maintained, organized, and constantly updated, it provides customers with a user-friendly way to discover and access targeted self-service and fix problems immediately, even when live support isn't available. It goes without saying that this leads to great cost and time savings, eventually also driving customer satisfaction. After all, 67 percent of customers tend to prefer self-service over speaking to a company representative.

Apart from that, startups should set the right support channels. When communicating through email, phone, social media, or chat, startups should assess which of these best corresponds with their customer base. Software can be of great help: For example, a simple chatbot that initiates a live conversation can promote an easy and fun way to engage with your customers. Likewise, to keep things organized, software can track internal operations metrics so you can observe new ticket volume, tickets by channels, tickets resolved, response and wait times, and other metrics.

Source: 5ca.com.

But Don't Forget the Human Touch

While technological set-ups can do wonders, they can't ever provide the full scale of customer support. Automation can be useful, but startups can't forget about the importance of human connection. Every communication has potential to build meaningful relationships and partnerships, and seeing customers as real people with real emotions can help you better understand the scope of your services while bringing a sense of responsibility and accountability to your team.

For instance, it can be extremely beneficial if everyone in the company—yes, even the CEO—take time to answer customer queries. This is a very healthy practice to cultivate, and just half an hour a week can help everyone stay in touch with exactly what is going on. Apart from being a great source of creativity, this champions an inclusive, varied approach, ensuring that everyone has their boots on the ground.

There are many ways startups can encourage valuable and pleasant interchanges. For example, leaving simple thank-you notes or personalizing each message can help leverage human connections and find moments of surprise and delight, while showing off your unique brand personality. Likewise, it's notorious advice for startups to answer the newest tickets first. Why? Letting a customer wait five hours instead of hours hours doesn't make that much of a difference. But responding within a few minutes can create a strongly positive impression on the individual customer.

The creativity has no limits. Another innovative way to bring the human touch to customer service is to use webinars. With a proactive approach, startups can show how to use their services to their best potential, give insider tips, provide a step-by-step guide, and answer the questions raised by viewers. Undoubtedly, this adds a layer of transparency and shows the willingness to improve and engage in a dialogue. Plus, it strengthens your connection to your clients, as you add a human face to your services. After the webinar is done, don't forget that you can reshare it on social media and further multiply the impact.

While in the early days, customer service doesn't necessarily appear on your list of priorities, ignoring it would be a great mistake. It's worth the invested time and financial resources to set you off toward a great learning curve and, ultimately, happier customers.

Alexander Yumashev is co-founder and CEO of JitBit Software.

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