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How to Improve Customer Service For Small Businesses

How to Improve Customer Service For Small Businesses

What is customer service?

Customer service is the support you offer your customers at every point in their buying journey. This includes the information on your website through to after-sales support and any warranties you offer. 

Why is great customer service important for small businesses?

65% of sales come from existing customers, and improving customer service is an important step in retaining clients. Increasing customer retention is essential because it is much easier to sell to someone already familiar with your business than it is to start cold with a new lead. 

Regardless of your industry, there are simple steps you can take to improve your customer service that will significantly impact your customer’s overall experience with your business. 

4 Customer Service Improvements Businesses Can Make In Less Than A Day 

Review your website and make sure contact information is easy to find 

One really easy change that will improve customer service is ensuring your contact information is clearly visible on your website. We’ve all been on one of those sites where you have to go through 6 different links to finally find the “contact us” button. It’s not ideal and puts customers in a bad mood before they’ve even picked up the phone or typed out a message.

Scan your website and make sure your contact information is easy to find (your website’s footer is one of the most common places to put it). If you feel like experimenting, ask a friend to find your business’s contact information and time them. If it takes them longer than 30 seconds, look at streamlining the process. 

Always address customers by name and personalize messages where possible 

Another easy tweak that will improve your customer service experience is to ensure you’re always addressing customers by name. Avoid generic emails that start with “Dear Valued Customer,” and personalize messages where possible. This could include personalizing appointment reminder notifications, order confirmations, or any responses to customer inquiries.

For automated communications like appointment reminders, add personalization tokens to your templates, so they auto-populate with the customer’s name, the name of their service provider, and the appointment type. 

Make sure your refund policy is clearly stated on your website 

If your business offers refunds or exchanges, ensuring your refund policy is clearly visible on your website and easy to understand is essential. (If you don’t provide refunds, let customers know that too!) 

To improve your customer service and reduce the number of unnecessary customer inquiries, make sure to include the following in your refund policy: 

  • What can and cannot be returned (including anything final sale)
  • What can and cannot be exchanged
  • How long a customer has to return/exchange a purchase, e.g., 30 days
  • (Physical products only) Item conditions — do they have to be unworn with tags attached, or do you accept lightly used returns? Do you require the original packaging, etc.? 
  • Whether you offer refunds or store credit, or both, depending on the time since the purchase
  • How long it takes to process a return/exchange 
  • If there is a fee involved, e.g., customers must cover the cost of shipping the item back to you, or if you don’t refund original shipping costs, processing fees, etc. 
  • How to initiate a return or exchange 

Shopify has some good return policy templates if you need help writing yours. 

Create a discount code to entice first-time customers 

Discount codes are a good option if your goal is to improve customer satisfaction and increase sales. Consider creating a code specifically for new customers and advertising it via a banner or pop-up on your website to convert browsers into buyers.

Longer-term Customer Service Improvements To Make 

Evaluate your customer base and their needs 

To improve your customer service, you need to spend time getting to know your customers to predict their needs better. Consider:

  • Analyzing customer data to identify trends, demographics, and themes among current customers 
  • Keep a record of customer feedback/help submissions and review regularly to look for trends
  • Send out feedback requests or conduct focus groups to learn more about your customers 
  • Research the market you operate in 

Implement a customer loyalty program 

A happy customer is more likely to become a loyal customer, and a loyal customer who gets rewarded every time they buy from you could be very valuable to your bottom line. Data shows that customers spend 67% more when they’re part of a customer loyalty program. So, if you don’t already have one, now is the time to implement one.

Introducing a customer loyalty program isn’t going to be an overnight success; it’s more of a long game. But by keeping customers engaged, you have more opportunities to show them the value your business offers and keep them coming back for more. 

Streamline customer service channels to reduce response time 

Reducing response times is an excellent way to improve your customer service. One approach is hiring more customer service representatives, but that costs money. A free way to reduce your response times is to streamline your customer service channels, so customers take fewer steps to speak to someone. 

Streamlining could look like eliminating lesser-used contact channels or stopping switching between channels to resolve an issue (e.g., from a phone call to an email or social media message to a website query). 

If you use a chatbot (either automated or straight to a live agent), review the information you collect. If all you need is an order number to pull up a customer's file, don’t also ask them for their name, address, postcode, and favorite movie! Keep things to a strict need-to-know basis.  

Take an omnichannel approach to customer service

Ok, I know the last tip involved streamlining your customer service channels, but for some businesses, the opposite could improve their customer service. An omnichannel approach to customer service gives your customers the option to contact you via their preferred method. 

Millennials hate phone calls, Gen Z does everything from their phone, and 78% of Baby Boomers are on Facebook. By providing a range of communication methods, you can cater to the different preferences of your customer base and keep everyone happy. 

Communication channels to consider include: 

  • Social Media (on the platforms most popular with your customer base)
  • Email 
  • Phone 
  • Text/Whatsapp
  • Chatbot* and/or live chat 
  • Website Form Submission

*Have you met MarketBot yet? 

Offer 24/7 customer support with an FAQ page and out-of-hours responses 

As a small business, providing round-the-clock customer support is not always possible (or necessary). One way to address this is to build a helpful FAQ page that covers the support themes you identified during your customer evaluation.

You could also introduce an out-of-hours chatbot programmed to answer commonly asked questions, take messages, or direct customers to relevant pages on your site when your team is off the clock. 

Provide customer service training for your team

An obvious way to improve customer service for your small business is to provide customer service training for your team. Include anyone that interacts with customers, from support agents to service providers, and make it an ongoing exercise. 

Establish a framework to measure your team’s performance 

Lastly, if you’re taking steps to improve your customer service, it’s important to have a way to track progress. Establish a framework to measure your team’s performance and evaluate whether any changes you’ve implemented are working.

Areas to track include:

  • Response times 
  • Number of inquiries 
  • Resolution rates 

If you’re interested in reading more about customer service, you might be interested in our article on how to handle complaints or this one on collecting reviews.

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