3 Steps for Scaling Customer Service for Small Business

No one will argue with the fact that providing good customer service is important. But small businesses are often especially challenged when it comes to balancing all the demands on their time with limited resources. When deciding where to invest, SMB owners need to beware that as good as their product is, a poor customer service experience can leave customers flat. Just ask this year's Dreamforce attendees.

At Dreamforce this year, Freshdesk conducted an on-site survey focused on customer support experiences in a number of industries. The survey, completed by more than 350 marketing, IT, and customer support professionals, revealed some surprising results. Three out of four professionals, for example, said they have personally cut ties with a company due to poor customer service. On the other hand, survey findings showed that happy encounters with an organization's customer support heroes can change consumers' impressions of a company's brand for the better. The results are clear: The quality of a company's customer service has a tangible business impact, for better and for worse.

Below are three steps small businesses can take to improve their customer service without incurring significant costs:

1. Set expectations so your customer doesn't do it for you.

As a small business, you must find a healthy balance of human interaction and powerful tools to enable growth and enhance the customer experience. Dreamforce survey respondents preferred more traditional channels of communication for customer service, including email (52 percent), phone (47 percent), and chat (22 percent). Still, they often use multiple channels, and the growing popularity of social platforms such as Twitter and Facebook can be daunting. The need to support multiple channels puts pressure on small businesses to get organized, be consistent, and stay on top of issues.

A useful strategy is to set expectations for your customers. That could mean something as simple as a dedicated customer service email with an auto-reply that tells them when you'll get back to them—in an hour, by the end of the day, in 24 hours—whatever you are confident your organization can manage.

Don't think you have time to monitor and interact on Twitter? Your customers are asking questions with the whole world paying attention, so you can't afford NOT to be there. Use your Twitter profile to explain to customers when they can expect a response or to direct them to an appropriate alternate channel.

Meeting the expectations you set can go a long way toward improving your customers' experience with your brand.

2. Find ways to integrate customer support into your culture.

If you asked your employees (regardless of role) if they felt customer service was part of their job, what would they say?

Fifty-seven percent of our survey respondents reported that despite customer service not being part of their job description, they still feel a 

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