Wikipedia will tell you that customer service is “the provision of service to customers before, during, and after a purchase.” And BusinessDictionary will tell you that it’s “All interactions between a customer and a product provider at the time of sale, and thereafter.” But what is it really? And why is it important to you as a fast-growing business?
Customer service is every interaction with a customer.
Customer service started out as help offered at a desk at the back of a department store, and evolved with the invention of the telephone. In today’s hyperconnected world, customer service is more than just the helpdesk agent that answers your questions when you call an 800 number for help. It’s grown to encompass every interaction that a customer has with a brand. It includes phone, email, chat, web forms, and social communications, as well as self-service support sites. And it happens before, during, and after a sale.
Awesome support is critical for small businesses.
In a world where small businesses need to do more than just sell products—they also want to build relationships—customer service is a key part of the promise that your brand makes to a customer. It’s more than just providing answers. It’s helping customers even when they don’t know they need help. It’s teaching them how to do more with your products. It starts with a smile and a friendly word, and finishes with sharing your expertise—even when it has nothing at all to do with your products. And for small businesses, customer service can be your secret weapon.
Multi-channel support is tablestakes today.
In recent years we’ve seen explosive growth in social networks. More than 3⁄4 of online users interact on social networking sites. Their friends are there and they expect their favorite brands to be too. As a result, services like Twitter, Facebook, and Google+ have become popular support channels. Not only do customers ask for help on social channels but they also share their opinions with friends and family on social channels. It’s critical that today’s small businesses offer multi-channel customer support across email, phone AND social networks, so they can offer help, solicit customer feedback, and participate in conversations about their brand.
Self-service support is an essential part of support.
Today’s customers like to find their own answers, at their own speed. More than 90% will check a website for answers before emailing for help, so your website can make a huge difference in how you are perceived. Self-service could be existing information or information provided by fellow customers. Some of the most common types of self-service are FAQs and searchable knowledge bases, but user communities are also a cost-effective way to offer help while building relationships with customers. This is a must-have in today’s world.