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Great small business customer service doesn’t have to be expensive

You don’t need to read a report to know that 95% of customers say customer service is important to their choice of brand and ongoing loyalty . 

You’re in a small business. But you’re a consumer too. And you know from your own experience how big a deal great service can be. 

But when it comes to your own small business, it can be hard to figure out how to deliver great service. The kind people talk about.

The good news is you don’t need some novel approach the world has never seen to deliver great service. It doesn’t need to cost you an insane amount of money. And you don’t need to take any unnecessary risks. 

You just need to prioritize the right things and set your people up to do this well. 

So let’s look at three moves you’re never too small to make. 

Three customer service moves every small business can make

1. Treat customer service like the start of your most valuable feedback loop

It’s one thing to talk about listening to your customers. It’s another to really prioritize it. 

The most successful businesses have a constant feedback loop between the business and its customers. That loop starts with customer service. 

You could make structural moves to prioritize this. For instance, some new businesses have a ‘customer champion’ role that’s designed specifically to hear what customers need and translate it into specific, relevant actions for the business. 

But even if you don’t want to go that far, you can make sure your customer service team isn’t a silo designed to deflect complaints. Get them to survey your customers and deliver data the business needs. Survey them to understand what they think customers need. 

The best way to empower and listen to your customers is to empower and listen to the people who listen to them. 

This doesn’t have to be expensive. All you need are weekly check-ins for starters. And of course, a real commitment to listening to these folks. 

2. Be unnecessarily generous

There’s a telling story from the early days of AirBnB . The young company had just had its first really disastrous PR incident. Someone had booked a woman’s apartment and used it to try and mass-produce illicit drugs, destroying the apartment in the process. 

AirBnB had to respond. But with few protocols in place for this kind of thing, they dithered. When they did eventually take responsibility for the incident, Brian Chesky the CEO, decided to write the victim a check for $5000. 

But when Chesky sent that policy announcement to one of his investors, Marc Andreessen, he noticed something had changed. Andreessen had added a 0 to the amount. 

The idea is that if you’re going to respond to your customers when something goes wrong, go big. Don’t hold back. The single most important thing is that you clarify yours is a business that will do whatever it needs to make things right. 

Now, you don’t have to wait for an incident that bad to do things like this. You can make it incredibly easy for people complaining to get refunds. Diffusing their anger with surprise. 

You can go out of your way to thank your early customers with muffins and flowers. You can send people who previously complained free samples of your next product to get their feedback, inviting them to improve you rather than just complaining. 

None of these moves need to scale into unnecessarily expensive programs. You can keep an eye on your budgets. But you can’t afford to treat customer service like it’s just a cost center. It’s an investment in your customer relationships. 

Nothing matters more. 

3. Automate the little things so your people can focus on the big things

Technology can be a great way to give your customer service an edge, but your people will always be the backbone of a great customer experience. 

At the same time, in Forrester’s 2018 Customer Service Trends report, 66% of customers said that valuing their time is the most important thing a company can do to provide them with good online customer experience .

That means responding to your customers quickly, and helping them find a solution to their problem as fast as possible. But when you’re operating with a small team, who all have their own tasks to manage, it can be tough keeping track of all your communication channels.

With an AI chatbot on your team, you can offer fast responses to a wide range of customer questions. Unlike simple chatbots, AI chatbots can understand your customers’ requests and learn over time as they interact with more people. They can help you provide an efficient and personalized service, without losing any focus on your core operations.

You may not want bots to be the main interface for your customers. But you may be able to automate away a lot of the more common requests and queries that come in. 

Even if you don’t want to invest in tech to solve this problem, you could just invest in content – easy, how-to articles and tutorials that answer help customers answer questions for themselves. 

That way your people can focus on the customers that really need a real human to talk to, and worry less about the issues that don’t take too much time. 

Customer service matters most for small businesses

Bigger businesses can get away with shoddy customer service. People almost expect it from them. But when someone chooses to work with a small business, a big part of the expectation is that they’ll get better, more personal, more human service. 

And that’s how it should be. 

Fortunately, you don’t have to spend like a big business to deliver that service. Instead you can just make sure your business is set up in a way that cares about customers so much that it cares about giving them a great service experience.