As a startup it can be difficult to decide where to spend your budget. When every dollar can only be spent once, thinking about how to spend that dollar most effectively becomes paramount.
Customer service can end up becoming a big cost center without the right approach. While customer service is essential for keeping your existing customers happy, there are a number of ways to keep the costs under control without frustrating your customer base.
Your volume speaks ehm.. volumes
When you try to build efficient customer service processes, there's really no one-size-fits-all solution. A lot of the wins - both short and long term - that can be achieved depend on the volume (e.g. the number of customer contacts) you receive, the characteristics of your customer base, and the type of support best suited for what you're selling.
In the company's early stages you'll most likely see a low volume of customer requests. Your team will be perfectly equipped to handle a couple of customer requests each day without that eating into their work hours too much.
When that volume starts to swell is when you'll want to start looking into these considerations:
Be meticulous about keeping a record of when your customers contact you and what issues they deal with. Keeping track over time will allow you to:
- Fix any recurring issues that come up at a service or product level
- Add the fixes for those recurring issues to your help center
- Predict when you will receive a lot of inquiries based on past data and plan the work accordingly
Self-service is key for any startup. Any customer that can be helped through self-service is one customer that won't be taking up time from you or your team.
What do you do when a device doesn't work? If you're anything like me then Google is your go-to resource for virtually any question you have. While I wouldn't recommend telling your customers to 'Google it', you can take steps to ensure that your self-service resources end up being the first result in the search results when a customer searches for a solution.
Build an unbeatable help center that includes answers to any recurring questions you've come across, is logically structured, and optimized for search. Use video, images, or any other medium to make matter more clear. Keep your help center updated by adding the solutions to any recurring questions on a regular basis. Check out this article on building the perfect FAQ page.
Added bonus: A well-structured and up-to-date help center will make your life much easier should you ever need to train new employees, remote customer service agents, or if you decide to outsource customer service.
The channel you choose to use for support has a big impact on your customer service costs and how efficient you can use your time.
Live channels include phone calls and live chat solutions. While these are preferred channels if your customers definitely need help right away, they also cost more since you always need staff at the ready to answers those customers.
Non-live channels like email and social media can be used much more efficiently. If you expect a low incoming support volume then simply block one or more hours per day to answer inquiries and you can still respond to every individual customer within a 24-hour window.
If you're considering supporting your customer on social media, check out this infographic to help you choose the right platform.
Should your support volume rise to the level where you can no longer communicate with all of your customers and fulfill your and your team's core responsibilities, consider hiring remote staff. Platforms like Upwork, goLance, and Outsourcely offer large databases of skilled customer service professionals who can - provided they receive the right training - service your customers on a freelance basis billed at an hourly rate.
Insource vs Outsource
Outsourcing can be a real cost-saver but only once your volumes are high enough. If you're expecting anywhere below 10 contact requests on any given day, and you're satisfied with offering your support during office hours, then you're probably better off doing support in-house.
Once your customer service needs become more complex, you might consider outsourcing to save costs. While there is always an initial setup cost involved and a recurring monthy cost, an outsourcer can be much more cost-effective in any situation where you have high support volumes, a need for customer service outside of regular office hours, and/or where multilingual capabilities are a requirement.
These pointers should help you work out how to make the most out of your customer service budget. For more advice on how to handle customer service as a startup, you can read Customer Service Basics: The How-to Guide or reach out to us!
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