As a small business owner today, you have endless tools at your fingertips to interact with customers. From chatbots to email campaigns to social media, there are an array of channels that can support small business teams in delivering excellent customer service.
With so many customer service-focused platforms, technologies and tools to choose from, it’s important to identify what your specific teams - and ultimately customers - truly need. Below are a few ways to ensure you’re utilizing the right tools for your small business.
Streamline with a paperless workflow
Embrace digital payments and billing for your customers and try to eliminate paper records where possible. Whether your business model is B2B or B2C, your customers will appreciate this streamlined approach. If you’re a service provider, give your customers access to invoices, contracts and client records in a standardized digital format they can easily check these from their end. In a traditional storefront environment, consider what can be done using tablets or mobile phones in terms of in-person customer support, expedited wait times, ordering and digital payments.
Whether you’re currently shifting to a paperless system or previously did so, it’s vital to ensure your team digitizes and stores older paper files. This allows your company to cut down on paper waste and access files to interface with customers more quickly and efficiently. This requires a fast, reliable and easy-to-use scanner. Compact models including those in Fujitsu ScanSnap’s iX Series are a great option for small businesses.
Once you’ve scanned your files, client records and invoices, ensure each is organized and backed up correctly to a cloud-based drive. ScanSnap’s latest iX Series models include access to cloud-based organization allowing you to store directly to Evernote, Google Drive, Dropbox, Box and other platforms to create a digital filing system. They also have built-in capabilities like OCR (optical character recognition) that allow you to add keywords and create searchable files. A cloud solution offers enhanced security for your small business, in addition to more flexibility for your team to collaborate on customer service requests and share files seamlessly
Use social media to recognize and engage with customers
A cohesive social presence is important for any small business. When dealing directly with consumer-facing customer service, it’s important to offer streamlined, professional and engaged help directly from these platforms. While emails and phone calls are still helpful, many customers crave the speed and accessibility that social media provides.
While the unprecedented access and interaction with consumers via social media can be a huge benefit for businesses, it also comes with a lot of responsibility and accountability in a public format. Many customers will reach out with questions, issues (and sometimes praise!) directly on social media. This is often in the form of a Facebook, Google or Yelp review, a direct message, or a public comment on Instagram or Twitter. No matter the urgency or size of an issue or question, quick acknowledgement is key. When a customer is dissatisfied, they often just want recognition or an explanation. Providing a prompt and genuine response can settle a dispute and help convince a customer they are valued, even if a complete solution takes a bit longer to accommodate.
Strike a balance between automation and a personalized approach
At a time when companies of most all sizes have access to AI-driven tools like chatbots and automated email solutions, know when to use these and when to stick to a human touch.
Depending on the size of your company, amount of staff members and the number of customers you service, gauge what can be handled in real time with your dedicated customer service team. Try to handle social media requests, comments and customer flags in real time and personalizing these, because customers will be able to tell the difference. What can be automated and scheduled are general social media posts and updates. These tools (Buffer, Hootsuite, etc.) are actually vital to running consistent, professional social media channels for your company. Develop thoughtful, timely content and let the tool take care of the scheduled posting.
A similar approach goes for email responses. It’s completely fine to set up a general automatic email responder that customers receive to assure them their email went through, and can even provide other options for quick service - such as phone, social media, etc. On the other hand, a timely, personalized follow up from a real person is essential. Even if a heavier lift is required on the backend to solve the issue, ensure a response is delivered within 24 hours (or ideally less) providing the customer with a status update.
Establish fast and simple communications across internal teams
With a host of new technologies meant to simplify and optimize business operations, it’s never been easier for small businesses to access top-of-the-line solutions. For medium to larger small businesses, a comprehensive customer service management tool (such as ZenDesk) could be helpful to organize and streamline the process.
When it comes to team communication for traditional small businesses, consider Slack - one of the most popular and user-friendly collaboration tools on the market. Your team can try the platform free before choosing to implement the service across your company and access the full set of features (including organized threads and channels to suit every team and department, a searchable history, integrated file sharing, built in video calling and more). Evernote Business is another great tool for organizing notes, working with team members to complete a task and enhancing your team’s productivity across the board.
Create a channel or workspace for customer service needs, where team members can quickly connect with one another to check on a customer’s order, account or invoice across departments. It’s essential to ensure your team is well connected and can huddle on a customer service issue to solve and get back to the customer quickly.