Small businesses face a lot of headwinds. Financial uncertainly, trying to spread meager investments too thin, building a reputation, dodging ample competition and employee turnover, usually due to burnout, are just a few of them. Business owners often find themselves wearing a lot of hats: sales manager, financial officer, human resources director and operations manager are just some of them. While a certain amount of this is necessary, they often try to wear a hat that’s simply too important to get wrong: customer support manager. While it’s possible to limp through thin periods winging your human resources, it’s simply not possible to make customer support a part-time job, and this is where many companies go wrong and suffer from “failure to launch.”
According to a recent blog post by Laura Ballam writing for Business2Community, customer support software should be at the top of a list for a business to implement early on – alongside account and payroll – because it will help a company begin to build customer loyalty early on, and it will craft their first impressions of you. The good news is that the investment isn’t only about your customers: it’s also a great way to automate tasks, eliminate errors, take advantage of opportunities and, in general, bring some relief to your already stretched-thin workers. It will allow you to grow more with a minimum of investment…particularly since today’s customer support platforms are often cloud-based, so they require little upfront capital, they’re managed by someone else (no need to hire an IT department), and they can be used from anywhere, including a smartphone.
“If you often find yourself searching through file folders and emails to try and find that important document, or to remember the conversation you had with a customer a few weeks ago, then it’s time to get organized and implement a system that will put customer information at your fingertips,” wrote Ballam. “Likewise if your customer service reps are spending more time trying to dig up the resources they need than they are trying to help customers, it’s time for new software.”
If employees are working via a system – even if it’s a series of Excel spreadsheets – that are locally stored on their computers, then work is getting duplicated, errors are creeping in and customer-facing employees are engaging with the people most important to the survival of your business, in “blind mode.” They may not know what another employee promised a customer only yesterday, and it makes your organization look bad. It can also lose you opportunities that would have otherwise been lucrative for your company.
“Lack of visibility at the customer level is a concern that plagues small (and large) businesses – we get so caught up in handling one-off situations that we forget to actually manage our relationships with our customers,” wrote Ballam. “And make no mistake – an email or phone call is not a relationship, you need to keep an eye on patterns and common issues so that you can provide real ‘customer service’.”
While few companies can afford to launch with a full complement of enterprise business systems, customer support software should be on the top priority tier. Your customers are unlikely to be forgiving – or return customers – if they get the feel you’re trying to bluff your way through your relationships with them.
Edited by Maurice Nagle