As the last post this week reflecting the National Customer Service Week emphasis on service and support, we present this basic primer to help small businesses and startups take the first steps to establishing their customer service departments. We applaud all who put customers at the center of their business strategy, and we encourage anyone interested in service and support to reach out for help when they need it. We will always work hard to get you any information you need. To all who believe in providing awesome service, we salute you!
The Many Hats of a Small Business Team
In most small companies, everybody wears a lot of hats and helps out where needed. But what if you’re suddenly tasked with ramping up a customer service department, one of the most critically important functions? There’s urgency to get things done quickly, but you also want to get it done right. Where to turn?
A customer service guru who’s been thrown into the deep end himself now and then is Greg Meyer, Manager of Customer WOW at Desk.com. His advice for a first step is to take a deep breath, then:
“When you feel like you don’t know what to do next, focus on the people, processes, and tools that make customers successful. If you identify the top 5 questions you answer every day, and look for a way to handle them efficiently and productively, you’ll be 80% of the way there.”
Customer Service Represents Your Brand
Your customer service team (even if it’s a team of one) is the front line of your brand. Team members, who make contact with customers at every touchpoint, may be the only face or voice of your company that your customers have contact with. They represent your brand to the world, so having the right people and systems in place to provide customer service is an investment well worth the effort. While ongoing training and support of your front-line team takes a commitment of time and money, the outcome—happy employees and happy customers—is irrefutably a recipe for success.
Step 1: Get Advice from Tried-and-True Experts
Once you have your team in place (and working with a great service delivery system like Desk.com!) you’ll want to have the best resources available to help them succeed. Here is a list of some great customer-focused blogs, Twitter chats, and books to get you started:
Helpful Customer-Focused Blogs
Church of the Customer
This blog is written by Jackie Huba, who has written 2 bestsellers about customer loyalty. She writes about “customers behaving badly” as well as how to turn customers into evangelists. The blog has broad, customer-focused writing and is one of the world’s most popular business blogs. Jackie has the how-to approach, but more important, puts it in the context of the “why.” Reading recommendations in the sidebar.
Jeanne Bliss is a thought leader, author, teacher, and speaker on all things “customer.” Her mission is to help you “Become A Company Customers Love And Can’t Live Without,” by understanding the importance of the customer perspective.
Becky Carroll is a sought-after speaker, and one of the most popular voices championing the cause of customer focus in business. Her blog is based on the idea that social media has pushed customer service to the forefront.
The Customer Blog
Maz Iqbal has been immersed in customer-based strategies for many years, and is a seasoned reporter and advisor on all things customer related. Recent posts cover topics like making an organization customer centric, generating delight and advocacy inexpensively, the impact of a Chief Experience Officer, and the payoff of good customer service.
Twitter Chats for Real-Time Learning:
Twitter chats are scheduled gatherings of people who discuss a specific topic on Twitter in real time by using a #hashtag to keep track of the conversation. These meet-ups are a great way to meet others interested in a topic, share knowledge, and network.
There are two great, long-standing customer-focused Twitter chats that you might want to check out:
#CXO – Customer Experience Optimization
Mondays 12 noon PT
Weekly discussion on Customer Experience Optimization for all customer experience professionals and enthusiasts.
#custserv – Customer Service Dialogue
Tuesdays, 9pm ET
The Customer Service Dialogue facilitates online discussion of customer service in today’s society. Jointly developed and co-hosted by acclaimed best-selling e-commerce/eBay expert and author Marsha Collier and strategic relationship engineer/CEO of Chalkboarder Jeffrey J Kingman.
With a broad quest for the best and worst of consumers’ experiences with customer service, The Customer Service Dialogue explores all facets of this critical component of organizations, with these goals: providing a consumer forum for praise and critique, assisting consumers with resolutions, and using best practices.
Best Books for Basic Customer Service Training:
Every thoughtful manager needs a couple of “goto” references. Here are a few basic texts when you need a quick answer:
Customer Service Training 101: Quick and Easy Techniques That Get Great Results
The book covers every aspect of face-to-face, phone, Internet, and self-service customer relations, and provides simple yet powerful tips for: projecting a positive attitude and making a great first impression; communicating effectively, both verbally and nonverbally; developing trust, establishing rapport, and making customers feel valued; and confidently handling difficult customers and situations.
Customer Service for Dummies
Aa all-in-one guide for large and small businesses alike. The book covers the fundamentals of service and presents up-to-date advice on such fundamentals as help desks, call centers, and IT departments. Plus, it shows readers how to take stock of their customer service strengths and weaknesses, create useful customer surveys, and learn from the successes and failures of businesses just like theirs.
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Customer Service
This guide teaches you how to create the “Service Difference”—service that genuinely pleases your customers and sets your organization apart from the pack.
Step 2: Establish the Culture
When you have a basic game plan in place, it’s a good idea to formalize your organization’s philosophy of customer service and support. Consider creating a Customer Bill of Rights or Mission Statement that lets your employees know how important you think their role is. Then follow it with an employee reference guide so your team members know their duties, the “dos and don’ts” of service, and how to do their jobs well. Any employee reference should inform not only about what their roles are, but also about how success will be measured.
Step 3: Dive in and Learn–Then SHARE!
As you develop your customer service team and culture—and as you build out your training materials and methods—please share the ones that are the most useful so we can continue to enlighten our readers!