Customer Service Process: A Guide for Small Businesses
Do you know why companies are willing to invest so much money in customer service?
It’s because they know that good customer relations can generate a nice return.
In my experience, building competencies around customer service and continually improving your customer relations is one of the best ways to grow a small business.
Here are a few insights into how you can improve your company’s customer service capabilities. Keep in mind that your support process need to fit into your marketing and sales process.
Layout your ideal customer service process
The first thing you’ll need to do is layout your ideal customer service process. This is, essentially, what you will want to work your way up to once you have the resources to do so.
In the perfect world, you would want to purchase a CRM solution to build your process around.
Let’s use the customer service process below as an example.
The first thing you’ll need to do is identify where your customers go to ask questions. Once you’ve successfully identified these channels, you’ll need a way to funnel them down so that you can create “cases”.
Here’s a breakdown of the most common communication channels and how they typically work:
- Customer Service Portal – ideally, you want to have a helpdesk on your website where clients can go to get the answers they need without needing help from your staff.
- Social Media – with a CRM solution, you should be able to bring your social feeds directly into your CRM software. This let’s your staff monitor the feeds and reply as needed.
- Phone Support – ideally, you want to minimize the need for a support line. In some cases, however, there’s no way to get around it. Most CRM solutions will empower support staff by giving them customer information at their finger tips.
- Email – people still email a lot. With a little setup, emails should be able to be automatically created into cases when need be.
- Phone Sales – in some cases, people will call your sales department because that’s who they dealt with previously. With that being said, you need to give your salespeople the ability to log cases manually if need be.
Once a case is created, you then need a way to deal with that case.
Here’s a breakdown of how you would typically deal with a case in an ideal customer service process:
- Assign & Verify – the first thing your customer service process should do, at this point, is to assign the case to the appropriate customer service representative. This is typically done by categorizing the cases by some set of predetermined criteria and determining which customer service representative is best suited to handle the case.
- Identify Solution – next, your customer service representative will then need to find the appropriate solution. In an ideal setup the customer service representative would have the ability to search a database of possible solutions.
- Deliver Solution – once identified, your customer service representative will need to somehow deliver the solution.
- Rework the Case – if the solution fails, the case is automatically rerouted back to the “Identify Solution” stage.
- Escalate & Reassign Case – if the case hits a certain threshold, it should then be escalated to the next level and reassigned to the appropriate customer service representative.
- Close the Case – once the case has been resolved, the data collected should be used to help improve the customer service process.
Layout your initial customer service process
Now that you’ve identified your “ideal” customer service process, you need to layout an initial process that you can build upon. The layout of your customer service process will vary greatly depending on the resources that you have available.
However, for the sake of this article, let’s consider the following customer service process:
As we mentioned before, where your customers want to communicate will vary depending on your target market. However, in most cases it follows the above diagram.
- Setup your social networks – the first thing you’ll want to do is setup your social networks. If your a one man show, consider finding ways to incorporate your personal profiles to build relationships with customers.
- Setup traditional communication channels – next, setup a Google apps for business account. In most cases, I’d suggest using all of the productivity features (gmail, calendar, docs) for your business.
- Utilize free customer support software – the easiest way to manage all of this is to utilize a free customer support software such as Desk or zendesk. These softwares will let you funnel all of your communication channels into one place. From there, you’ll need to manually identify solutions and resolve cases.
Record, measure, optimize, and develop your customer service process
Once you’ve setup your customer service process, you need to find ways to continually develop and improve on your customer relations.
Here are a few places you may want to measure that will help improve customer relations:
- Cases by type – what questions are customer asking the most?
- Cases by source – where are our customers seeking help?
- Cases by customer – do some customers need more help than others?
- Most used solution – what solutions have worked the best?
- Average response time – are we getting better at helping customers?
At the end of the day, business is human. People buy from people they trust; the best way to gain someone’s trust is to listen to what they are saying and find ways to help them.
It won’t be easy at first but once you get the ball rolling, your customers will spread the word about your business and sales will follow.
Start improving your customer relations today and watch your business take off.