There’s a gap in the market and you have a great idea for a product, service or website. You want to start working on it immediately, so you get a developer, a social media expert and a numbers whizz on board. (Does anyone say whizz anymore?)
You’re ready to launch your startup, right? Except you’re not.
The one thing that every startup should invest in but many fail to recognise the importance of? Customer service.
In 2019, this department is growing more and more integral to the success of businesses, both big and small. Nextiva looked into the data from some of the biggest companies and reported that 54% of consumers around the world say that they have higher customer service expectations than they did a year ago. You need to up your CS game if you haven’t already because if not, you’ll lose customers. If you do, you will create fans, not just customers. In fact, 96% of consumers say that good customer service is an important factor in their choice of loyalty to a brand.
Not only does this support your branding strategy and keep customers coming back, it has a positive effect on your profits. A 5% increase in customer retention can increase profits by 25% to 95% according to the Harvard Business Review. That’s not the kind of growth a start-up can snub.
Maya Angelou famously said: “People will forget what you said. They will forget what you did. But they will never forget how you made them feel.” This applies to how complaints, issues and feedback are handled, because how you make the customer feel can have a bigger impact on their loyalty than you think. One-third of consumers say they would consider switching companies after just one bad experience with customer service, according to AE, and Dimensional Research reported that a bad customer service experience causes 39% of customers to avoid the company for two years. If you are a new business, you might not have two years to prove yourself and regain their trust if this is a common occurrence.
Customer service is obviously the keystone of profit, branding and overall success - so how should you go forward as a startup to ensure you make it the best it can be?
Start by hiring the best of the best.
What should you look for in a customer service hire?
There are good customer service team members and then there are some really bad ones. You, as the person hiring, need to dedicate time to finding the ideal candidates. Attract talented customer service associates with job ads that make it clear that you won’t settle for less than exceptional - and in return you will be exceptional for them. In doing so, our customer service team is complimented regularly on our review site for being stellar.
Patience is key, particularly in the travel industry. Actually hearing what the problem is and sympathising with the person at the other end of the phone may seem basic but maintaining that throughout the day takes a lot of skill.
What is often overlooked is the importance of intuition and flexibility. How many times have we gone to customer service for help, only to be given a rehearsed script which is anything but helpful? Hire someone who is able to absorb a lot of information about policies, then is able to use that to find the best solution.
Last of all, you need to find someone you want to work with. If your startup is still in its early stages, this is going to make a huge difference to the business’ culture and success. There’s nothing more disheartening than introducing someone into your startup who doesn’t have the same drive, mindset and determination the rest of the business does.
Lack of experience should never be considered a negative thing. Talent, patience, intuition and flexibility can be found in any role and in any sector. Instead, it’s your responsibility to create an environment in which the people who fit the description can learn and flourish.
Support your customer service team
So you’ve hired someone awesome - what’s next?
Whether you have 10 or 1,000 employees, your customer service team need you to give them your full support.
Some big travel and insurance companies don’t understand the impact their actions have on their employees. The repercussions of the changes and decisions you make for your business will never be truly felt by you, but by the people on the phones and the live chats. They are the ones who have to bear the brunt of anger from frustrated customers, some of whom will offload all their emotional baggage onto the person at the end of the phone. Imagine that happening every single day you come to work. The people at the top need to make sure they don’t neglect the needs of the individuals taking the brunt of the complaints.
Customer service is the facilitator of change
The tech team and product designers might be creating the cool-looking, flashy stuff, but the customer service team is the instigator. They are the first people in the business to hear what your customers want and need, as well as what works and what doesn’t.
Without this point of contact, your business would never improve, and your customers would leave you for someone doing what you do, but better…
Choose the best people to represent your business who will put your customer at the centre of everything you do. Only then will your start-up stand a chance of being amongst the 10% of start-ups which succeed.