5 Tips for Overcoming Customer Service Obstacles as a Small Business
Operating a small business means you likely have less resources to rely on when solving common business barriers. Fortunately, it also means you can overcome customer service obstacles with a much more personal touch.
If people love small businesses for one thing, it’s their customer service. Small companies tend to take customer issues to heart and do everything they can to resolve them. That said, small businesses face quite a few challenges to overcoming customer service obstacles, whether due to a lack of financial resources, employees, or general bandwidth. Fortunately, there’s always a way to get through obstacles. Here’s how to overcome five common customer service obstacles as a small business.
Keep Track of Customer Data and Use It Appropriately
Personalization is vital in business. Customers mainly want an experience tailored to who they are and what they need. They want to feel like a company knows them and genuinely cares.
Personalization is critical in customer service too. You don’t want your customers to have to repeat the same dialogue to your chatbot, to a general customer service person, and then again to the manager all to get one issue solved.
A personalized customer experience isn’t possible without keeping track of customer data. The problem lies, however, in collecting and using data ethically for personalization without crossing any customer privacy boundaries.
Find the sweet spot in the ethical collection of customer data to ensure customer service interactions and the overall customer experience are personalized but not intrusive to customers’ sense of privacy. Be transparent about what you’re doing and give your customers control over how their data is collected and used. Customer data is critical for cohesive, trustworthy customer service exchanges and the best experience with your brand.
Have a Plan for Ending a Customer Relationship
Unfortunately, there will come a time when you have to refuse service to a customer or end a relationship entirely. In this regard, a small business owner’s misstep is moving forward in an unprofessional manner or even an illegal one.
First, it’s essential to know the legality of refusing service to a customer. There are laws that protect customers from unlawful discrimination. For example, you can refuse service to a disruptive, racist customer, but you cannot refuse service based on someone’s race or ethnic group.
Second, if you’re going to end a customer relationship, do so in a professional manner. For instance, don’t just stop responding to a customer and let that signify the end of the relationship. Instead, send a detailed email to your customer explaining why you’re ending the relationship and give them the option to call you if they have questions. At the very least, give them an opportunity to respond to the email and get clarification.
If you have to end a customer relationship, that’s okay. Just be sure you’re doing it with professionalism at the forefront of the interaction.
Extend Your Customer Service to Social Media
The landscape of customer service has changed along with societal norms, moving customer interactions over to more digital, text-based platforms. In fact, 64% of consumers would rather use social media messaging to solicit customer service from a company than call them.
Businesses still overlook customer service on social media even with a statistic like this. They fail to respond to customers. For example, 45% of businesses take longer than five days to respond to customer inquiries over Facebook Messenger. Some might even make the more significant mistake of deleting negative comments and direct messages.
Don’t ignore the complaints, questions, and issues your customers bring forth on social media. Instead, answer every direct message and comment related to customer service right there on your platforms. If you need to take the conversation to a private channel to get a resolution, do so.
Don’t limit your use of social media to marketing-related activities. Use it to boost your customer service as well.
Rely on Technology
One of the biggest customer service hurdles for small businesses is getting away from doing everything manually. From answering every email to handling the phones to managing returns and exchanges to answering every question a customer has, doing it all on your own can be exhausting and challenging to sustain.
That’s why it’s essential to lean on technology to optimize processes. Introducing the right tech tools to help you with customer service tasks can free your team up to focus on customer service interactions that need that human touch.
Consider using chatbots on your website to handle customer service requests when you’re team is off for the day. Create a knowledge base for your customers. Use automation tools to manage repetitive tasks like email responses or printing return labels. Lean on a solid customer relationship management (CRM) system too. Rely on technology so that your customers can fully rely on you.
Train Your Staff
Assuming that your staff knows what customer service is and looks like is a huge mistake. People have different perceptions of customer service. In addition, your business and its customers are unique. So, you may need to do things to serve them well that other companies may not have to.
Hiring quality candidates is crucial, but it’s even more important to train them. This is so everyone is on the same page when it comes to customer service.
Show them what an exceptional customer service experience looks like. Train them on how to best handle unruly customers. And ingrain your company culture, policies, and customer service processes in them.
Your customers can enjoy a consistent experience when your staff is adequately trained on what overcoming customer service obstacles look like in your business.
The Bottom Line
Nurturing your customer relationships is integral to your small business’s success. And a massive part of ensuring those relationships are top-tier is providing exceptional customer service.
Whether through small business books, courses, mentors, or another source, continue to educate yourself on overcoming customer service obstacles and common hurdles in order to to provide the best experience for your customers.
Indiana Lee is a writer, reader, and jigsaw puzzle enthusiast from the Pacific Northwest. An expert on business operations, leadership, marketing, and lifestyle, you can connect with her on LinkedIn.