Customer: Hi, My brand new drone just flew off on its own and it's not coming back, what do I do?
Autoresponse: Thank you for your message. We usually respond within 24 hours.
First things first: The way your company should handle customer service depends 100% on the product that you sell, the customers you sell to, and the urgency of the issues they might encounter.
There's really no single best approach out there, but with this article I will try to guide you on the right path, or at the very least help you identify which things to consider when building your customer service department. Here are our 5 key customer service tips for startups:
1. Set Goals
Many people view customer service as a reactive exercise. An email comes in, that email is answered, and that's that.
To turn customer service into a strategic asset, you need to set goals, and those goals need to be aligned with how you want to position your company.
Do you want to respond lightning-fast to any inquiry that comes in? Then consider setting time-based goals:
Answer 90% of all emails within 24 hours
Do you want to use customer service to strengthen the bond between your company and your customer? Then consider setting quality-based goals:
Average Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) score of 8/10
I actually recommend using a combination of both time-based and quality-based goals to get a full picture of your customer service operation. Measuring the extent to which you are reaching those goals will allow you to adjust where necessary and improve your customer services day after day.
2. Assign Ownership
Who takes ownership over customer service at your company? If you have a very small customer base you might choose to rotate this responsibility between a few members of your team. Having the CEO, Sales, and even a Dev talk directly with your customers could lead to some very interesting ideas on areas you could improve on and will make your customers feel heard. During the very early stages of your company, this can be a great way to keep a finger on your customer's pulse.
As you grow, customer service will start to significantly eat into your team's time. When that happens, it's time to consider adding people to your customer service team and investing in the right tools that can handle that growth, or outsourcing (part of) the customer service tasks to a third party.
3. Focus on one Customer service channel
The truly ambitious customer service manager will want to help customers on whichever channel they prefer. But as a small company just starting up you'll have to walk before you run.
Managing (and scaling) customer service is a lot more straightforward if you stick to one channel. So how do you choose the right channel? Try to put yourselves in their customer's shoes:
- What are their demographics?
- Which channels are they likely comfortable with?
- How urgent are their customer services cases probably going to be?
Find the channel that you customer base is both comfortable with and that is appropriate for the urgency of their support questions.
4. Track everything
The best way to improve your customer service over time is to keep track of everything;
- What issues do customers report?
- Do they get a satisfactory response the first time they contact you?
- How long does it take you to reply to your customers?
- Which issues recur frequently?
Being able to get a factual overview of your customer's issues will help you find patterns in the issues they report so you'll be able to tackle those issues. Maybe you FAQ page needs a tune-up, or your user manual isn't clear. Perhaps including an instruction video with your product could drastically reduce the amount of customers emailing you, saving you time and money in the process. You'll never find out of you don't track these things, so be meticulous.
5. Start small, grow big
When building your startup's customer service operation it will be tempting to take on too much all at once. You may want all the bells and whistles from the get-go: support in your customer's native languages, using a variety of channels, and 24/7 availability.
While those are great goals to strive for, they're not the best place to start. Customer service at a startup can be volatile and when you start growing you could grow fast.
Half of the battle is being prepared for that growth. In customer support that means: Provide good support in one language, on the channel where you can serve the bulk of your customers. Ensure that you have the basics nailed down and consider how you should handle growth.
When you support volume triples, will you have enough people to handle it? Will the tools you currently use still work well with a larger team?
Not being able to scale customer service succesfully can mean that your company ends up suffering from its own success, which is the last thing you want.
Check out this Startup's Guide to Customer Support where we cover the basics of goal setting, channel selection, analytics, and self-service.