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Best Practices for Small Business Customer Service in 2021

It’s true what they say: 2020 was a year for the books, and its impact on customer service was no exception. Companies of all sizes had to adjust to everything from the pivot to working from home to navigating rising customer expectations. Others have had to accommodate rapid growth or downsizing caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

While the Covid storm still isn’t over, it’s more important than ever that small businesses create mindful, strategic approaches to customer service in 2021. Here are our top tips for small businesses to provide excellent customer support, no matter the team size or industry. 

1. Be available online – in more ways than one

Making it easy for your customers to reach you across different channels is vital, especially in 2021. Consumer loyalty is up for grabs and convenience and availability are decisive factors in customers’ shopping habits now more than ever. To cater to this, you need to be available on the key digital channels, giving your customers the choice to reach out where, when, and how it suits them best. 

Tips for optimizing availability

– Make sure to offer live chatAccording to Mckinsey, in the last 12 months we have covered a “decade in days” in the adoption of digital. Having live chat customer service on your website is a must as online shopping continues its reign in 2021. Comm100 offers free live chat for small businesses, forever, helping you be there in real-time for your web shoppers just as you might in-store. Comm100’s live chat is also available on mobile, meaning that your employees can assist customers anywhere  — whether it’s from a desktop or their own mobile device. 

– Use social media as a key customer service channel. Social media means connecting with billions of users, and customers love it for its convenience. Comm100’s free social media offering is an easy and cost-free solution to adding this support.  

– Text messaging is an emerging customer service power play. Everyone texts. It’s fast and convenient. When someone needs a quick answer to a short question, there’s no better channel. 

– Don’t forget email. Email is still a huge player for customers of all age groups in 2021. The turnaround times your customers expect from email replies, and meet them. 

2. Slim down your tech stack 

The rise in remote support technologies – each its own point solution – is creating a point pollution problem. With even more new solutions piling on amidst the remote work shift, businesses are ending up with even more data silos. The obligation to check  every channel is overwhelming, and can kill any attempt at effective personalization. 

The key here is to make sure that all of your customer interactions take place in a unified platform. No matter what channel your customer connection with you on, your agents know all previous conversation history and can provide personalized and helpful support. 

Tips for unifying your customer service approach

– Use free omnichannel customer service software that’s designed for small business. Juggling channels is time consuming, ineffective, and can leave your customers falling through the cracks. Omnichannel is a must for small businesses looking to scale their operations — and Comm100 offers it for free

3. Use video chat

People around the world miss face-to-face contact, and your customers are no exception. Video chat offers a personalized interaction with your clients from a safe distance, and can help customers build trust in your agents. Video chat is a great way to speed up resolution of complicated issues and can help small businesses build and maintain relationships with their customers. Comm100 Free Live Chat is one of very few solutions that offer audio and video chat for free straight from within the chat window. 

Tips for video chat

Avoid plug-ins. Make sure to use a video chat solution that is browser-based so no additional downloads or plugins are required. Visitors should be able to launch audio or video chat with you in just one click, and vice versa. 

Train your agents. While your agents may be great at live chat or email, video and audio chat is a very different form of communication, so make sure that train them well to use it. 

4. Introduce self-serve options

Your customers may not always want to speak to an agent: given the chance, many of them prefer to take assistance into their own hands through self-serve options. Others may need to find answers to their questions during after-hours when your team is offline. Accessible, up to date self-service options are a vital component of a small business’ customer service software stack.

Tips for self-service

Build an FAQ page on your site – or better still, use a knowledge base. Comm100 offers a free knowledge base software to small businesses. You can use text, screenshots, videos and step by step guides to create articles that solve issues quickly.  

Integrate self-service with your real-time touchpoints. Comm100 Knowledge Base is fully integrated with live chat so customers can even choose to search knowledge base articles before they begin a chat. Agents can also easily find helpful articles to send to customers in the window, speeding up the resolution process and making sure they provide accurate information.

Recommended for you: What do I Need to Know to Create a Knowledge Base? 

5. Listen to customer feedback 

Your customers know where their pain points are. Make asking your customers for feedback part of a consistent practice that all your agents are responsible for – and don’t forget to act on it! 

Tips for getting feedback 

Add surveys. The best way to get feedback from your customers about their customer service experience is right after they’ve been assisted. Add a post-chat survey to your live chat customer service experience to get those opinions coming. Remember to also add a pre-chat survey to assess customer your needs before chatting and provide faster, more helpful support.. 

Watch for reviews — good and bad. Free tools like Google Alerts and Social Mention can help you scan for customer feedback that comes to you outside of the traditional channels. Leverage your social media presence to squash bad reviews by remedying bad experiences before they blow up. 

6. Prioritize customer service training

Your customer service agents should be trained to handle any kind of customer service situation, whether they’re working from home or on-site. From escalations to everyday responses, make sure that your employees know the best practices for helping customers. 

Tips for training

Mind your KPIs. Keep agents up-to-date on key performance indicators and expectations. Train them to always prioritize first contact resolution over speed for quality service. 

Consider format. Train representatives to adapt their messaging style according to the platform that your customer is reaching out on, and keep in mind considerations of sound quality and professional appearance for video chat. 

Use customer service training activities to boost morale and add a bit of fun to the workplace. 

Recommended for you: Winning Live Chat Training for Your Customer Service Team 

7. Understand the importance of customer retention – and learn how to gain it

It’s common knowledge that it’s much cheaper to keep a current customer than it is to gain a new one. Customer retention is the strategy that businesses use to keep customers coming back for more. A good retention strategy maximizes the profitability of existing customers and keeps them from fleeing to competing brands.  

An increase in customer retention can amount to big gains, no matter your company’s size. According to a study by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company, businesses that increase customer retention by 5 percent increase their total profits by 25 percent to 95 percent.  

Tips for increasing customer retention

Be adaptable. Is a customer reaching out about a return that’s past the 30-day policy? Are they interested in making monthly payments on a product instead of paying all at once? Are they making a special request that’s doable? Before you say ‘it’s not our policy’, think about the stats mentioned above. Meet your customers with as much flexibility and empathy as possible to keep them coming back in 2021 and beyond. 

Build trust by giving back. According to the Edelman Trust Barometer, 81 percent of people say that being able to trust a brand to do the right thing is a make-it-or-break-it element of their buying decision. Reassure your customers with positive brand actions, and by focusing your messaging on solutions, not selling.  

Keep up the personalization. Small businesses have an advantage when it comes to customer experience: it’s often easier to create the personalized, genuine encounters that customers are looking for. Treat your customers like VIPs by keeping track of and following up on their issues. Omnichannel customer service software can help you connect customers to the most qualified agents no matter which platform they reach out to you on. This VIP treatment is easier to deliver than you think, and sure to satisfy even the pickiest of customers. 

8. Invest in employee happiness

Great customer service starts with your employees. Happy employees are up to 20 percent more productive than their unhappy counterparts. They stay at their jobs four times longer, and are more likely to deliver the quality, empathic customer service that consumers demand.  

Remember that employees in 2021 may be coping with pandemic-related anxieties and health issues. They also may be dealing with challenges in their daily personal lives, such as if they have young children who are engaging in at-home learning. As such, it is more important than ever to put measures in place to make sure that your employees are being well taken care of. 

Tips for keeping your employees happy

Allow remote work. Work-from-home is a customer service trend that is here to stay, and can help reduce health concerns amongst employees in 2021. 

Empower your agents. With agents working remotely, managers need to ensure they have the power to handle the harder problems on their own. Give your agents the permissions and tools they need to assist customers effectively.  Decision-making authority and trust goes a long way for agent morale. 

Conduct check-ins. Conduct weekly check-ins to build teamwork, address issues, and air out any frustrations or grievances your employees have. 

Use reports. Reports help managers gauge agent performance and make improvements to customer service. They can also help you make strategic staffing decisions that will help keep your employees from being overwhelmed and overworked.  

Show appreciation. Being vocal about your appreciation for the wonderful work your employees are doing. Print out any raving customer reviews, and make sure that your employees know that customers appreciate their hard work too. 

Wrap-up

Customers in 2021 are educated, well connected, and have high expectations. As the pandemic continues, more than 80% of consumers in the US expect customer support to get more empathetic or more responsive. Small businesses will need to focus on doing more with technology to emphasize and elevate the customer experience as we navigate this tough time.  
 
Customer happiness is everyone’s responsibility. But with the best free customer service software for your small business, alongside the right practices and training, you can focus on building relationships that will last a lifetime.

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About Kate Rogerson

Kate is the Content Marketing Specialist at Comm100. She has extensive experience in content creation for technology companies across the world, including the UK, Australia and Canada. She specializes in B2B messaging, branding and soccer trivia.