Small businesses and startups have a lot going for them. But their biggest competitive advantage over the big guys is their ability to provide excellent customer service.  

See, when you’re a small shop, you and your employees are in it together. And everyone shares the responsibility of taking good care of the customer.  

But you’ll need the right processes and tools in place to do that. 

We’ll share seven things you must do to provide great support and seven types of customer service solutions you want in your toolbox. We’ll even give you an inside look at the secret sauce that helps us deliver best-in-class customer service here at OpenPhone.   

7 Ways To Provide Winning Customer Support 

To build a loyal customer base, small business owners must ensure that every part of the customer experience is awesome. These tips will help you build a reputation that will set you apart from the competition. 

1. Cultivate a Culture of Service

In a small business, people typically wear more than one hat. It isn’t just customer service representatives who pick up the phone. Whether it’s operations, human resources, sales, or upper management, everyone who represents the business must be prepared and empowered to address customer concerns and solve problems. So make sharing that responsibility part of who you are as a company. 💁

Here at OpenPhone we take this culture of service seriously. Everyone at OpenPhone, no matter what their role, is obsessed with service. For this reason, it isn’t just the support team that speaks with customers, the founders and the product development team also lend a hand.

In addition to the whole team supporting the customer, OpenPhone makes sure a customer knows they can expect great service from the moment they hit “install.” New users receive an automated text message asking how they heard about OpenPhone. “It helps us not only understand where our users are coming from, but also lets them know how they can receive support from our team,” says Ty Hill, our Customer Experience Lead. 

2. Communicate Early and Often 

Responding immediately to the first sign of dissatisfaction — rather than letting bad feelings percolate — will show you’re a business that takes customer satisfaction seriously.  

Listen intently to their issue and then walk them through the process you’ll take to address it. Tell them when and how they’ll hear back from you, and then follow through. And send follow-up messages after each interaction to reiterate what steps will be taken next. That way you ensure expectations are clear, and you’ll hopefully avoid miscommunications. 🙌

OpenPhone is proactive in this area by sending a customer feedback survey after 25 days. “This helps capture valuable insights into whether a user is loving OpenPhone or if there are some issues,” says Ty. And when there are issues, the team reaches out to gather information and troubleshoot potential bugs. All this is shared through the support team’s Slack channel to keep reps on top of any issues. 

3. Take Accountability — Even When It’s Not Your Fault

Take ownership of the problem the customer is facing, whether it’s your fault or not (within reason). Doing so is an act of goodwill that hopefully won’t go unnoticed by the customer. It’s OK to be open about a manufacturing defect or a delivery issue, but reassure them it’s your responsibility to work out. Providing good customer service means being gracious and accountable for every part of their experience. 👍

4. Put Yourself in Your Customer’s Shoes

There’s always some degree of disappointment when expectations aren’t fulfilled. And whatever impact that has on your customer’s day-to-day life, put yourself in their shoes, and try to empathize with them. Doing so will give you the perspective you need to come up with the right solution, and your customer will feel taken care of. 👨

OpenPhone’s support team always makes an effort to relate to the customer. That involves using “human terms” when communicating. “We don’t want to come across as corporate or impersonal; we empathize with users,” says Ty.

5. Provide Personalized Service 

There’s no one-size-fits-all remedy for a customer service issue. What satisfies one person may not satisfy another.

Empower your employees to adopt an individual approach to service with the understanding that there will always be some customers that require more attention. 💐

OpenPhone’s Support Team recognizes that every customers’ business is different and may require different functionality from the app. They track every piece of feedback they receive and reach out to customers when those features are planned and then shipped.

6. Go the Extra Mile

When a customer takes time to make you aware of a problem, you can assume they’re open to giving you the chance to make things right. 

Don’t squander the opportunity. 

Of course, you shouldn’t simply provide what they needed in the first place — like if they ordered a product and it arrived damaged, don’t just send along a new one.

Recognize when you have an opportunity to build customer loyalty. Show that you appreciate their patience and that their business is important to you. You can demonstrate that with a discount or a gift certificate. Remember, whatever you spend to resolve their issue and restore their confidence will be less than what it would cost to acquire a new customer. 💵

7. Track Your Success

Tracking metrics associated with your customer service activities will identify areas that need improvement and inform your service strategy going forward. Stats like response times, time to resolution, and retention are especially important. 👌

OpenPhone Support uses CSAT, a commonly used metric that tracks customer satisfaction. The feedback score helps the support team understand whether or not customers’ expectations are being met. In the case of a less-than-awesome score, OpenPhone figures out how to improve and makes it happen.   

7 Customer Service Solutions You Need in Your Toolbox

small business customer service: 30 Rock GIF of Liz Lemon doing high five

Using customer service tools can assist you in providing stellar support. Here are some of the app or software categories you might want to consider.

1. Business Phone System 

The first thing you need to put in place is a virtual phone system that meets the needs of a modern business. It should not only facilitate easy interaction through multiple channels with your customers, but it should delight your team members too. Customers aren’t the only people you need to keep happy, right? 😄

Look for features that will help you provide the service your customers deserve. 

  • SMS and MMS: Give your customers multiple ways to reach your team.
  • Auto-replies and snippets: Provide fast and consistent messaging across your team. 
  • Shared phone numbers: Ensure help is just a call away by sharing a central number with multiple team members.
  • Integrations: Shorten resolution time by ensuring reps can work seamlessly and efficiently with their other apps and tools.

Support teams especially benefit from a shared phone number feature. It serves as a team email inbox — with a more intuitive interface — that keeps everyone on the same page and facilitates easy collaboration. 

We might be biased, but we recommend the OpenPhone for your business phone system. Our Support Team swears by it. Plus, it includes all of the above features and then some.

2. Ticket Management 

Ticket management is the foundation of every help desk solution. But if you don’t need all the extra bells and whistles that come with help desk software, consider a dedicated ticket management tool instead. 

These tools track all customer support interactions, whether they originated from live chat, chatbot, social media, email, or phone. Your support team can collaborate through the interface as they work to understand and solve the customer’s issue. 

For ticket management with a messenger-based approach, check out Intercom.

3. Live Chat 

Live chat tools allow you to interact with website visitors and customers in real time. Whether you use a live person or a chatbot, being able to handle a customer inquiry without spending time on the phone — or using any resources at all — is a win. And customers happen to like communicating that way. 

Intercom also provides live chat and more, including custom bots, interactive apps, and proactive product tours.  

4.  Self-Service Knowledge Base

Providing your customers self-service options is also a good form of customer service.  Small businesses and startups can do more with less by creating a knowledge base of product information and frequently asked questions so customers can find answers to their questions themselves. Forums can be added for customers to interact with support reps or each other too. 

Your ticketing system may already have a built-in knowledge base feature that’s worth leveraging. Otherwise, take a look at a standalone knowledge base tool like Groove.

5. Social Media Monitoring 

If you don’t have a strong presence on social media, you’ll want to establish one — not just to build your audience but to provide another way for customers to reach you. 

Unfortunately, sometimes people use this channel to voice dissatisfaction instead of contacting a business directly.

That’s why it’s important to incorporate a tool that monitors social media for mentions of your business’ name so you can address customer concerns as soon as possible.

Of course, a monitoring tool will allow you to respond quickly to all the accolades you receive too. 

One tool that can help is Mention. It will monitor your social media handles and mentions of your on sites like Yelp, Booking.com, TripAdvisor, and Amazon. 

6. Feedback and Feature Tracking

It’s important for product development and customer service to be on the same page when it comes to understanding customer feedback. And both teams need access to the same unfiltered feedback from your customers if you want to provide a product that meets their needs and superior customer service.   

At OpenPhone, we keep our product development and customer service teams in sync with Herald. It helps with tracking customer feedback and feature requests. 

7. End-to-End Help Desk Software

If you require several of these tools, you may want to consider an end-to-end help desk solution. Help desk software rolls most customer service functions into one solution. They manage ticketing through multiple channels, provide tracking and analytics, and support external knowledge bases. And of course, they integrate with other tools you already use in your business. 

One option worth looking at is Freshdesk, a help desk software specifically built for small businesses. 

Supercharge Your Customer Service

Screenshots of OpenPhone's desktop and mobile apps

There’s a lot of things that factor into the level of service you’re able to provide your customers. What’s important is establishing a culture of service and implementing tools to support that philosophy and streamline your internal support processes. 

And depending on your business, you may need a combination of tools or one single robust help desk solution.  

But why not start with choosing your phone system? It’s truly the foundation for great customer service. It can be one of the easiest decisions you’ll make. You’ll see just how easy when you sign up for OpenPhone’s free seven-day trial.

Author

Amy is a professional B2B writer who drives results for SaaS and marketing brands. Like a chameleon, she instantly assumes a brand's unique voice and delivers content that never bores readers.

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