Three ways to win at customer service with a shoestring budget

- April 26, 2016 3 MIN READ

There is no such thing as a valid excuse for poor customer service – no matter how small your business is. Fortunately, it’s easier for businesses to engage and respond to their customers at scale than ever before, using social and digital channels that are more often than not absolutely free. You don’t even need a dedicated support team – in fact, you can probably provide excellent customer service all by yourself.

Customer service should be viewed as an opportunity to proactively grow brand loyalty and awareness. Here are three ways to delight your customers and turn critics into fans, without a big support team and with little budget:

Use social media – and make it obvious!

If you have a social media presence – and you should – make it the default channel for customer questions and even complaints. While potentially exposing negative comments for the world to see is daunting for any business owner, total visibility also works in your favour. If you can respond to one person’s question or concern in a clear, honest manner, you’ve made the answer clear for scores of others who have the same issue now and in the future. There’s no way to build a customer’s trust in your business like showing publicly how you treat your other customers.

Make sure your social media channels are always visible to your customers. This means clear links to your Facebook and Twitter pages on your website (in both Contact Us and sidebars at least), on business cards, and in stores. You might even want to give your social media channel its own domain name for easier access by customers. Finally, use mobile apps (like Facebook Pages Manager) to help keep track of and respond to comments as quickly as possible – this can stop potential crises and earn you a reputation for genuinely caring about your customers.

Keep an ear out.

Social listening tools send an alert to your inbox or phone whenever your business or name is mentioned online. Pay close attention to these alerts, and respond quickly when someone talks about your business in a blog post, online review, or social media comment. Respond to negative criticism by apologising and offering to make amends – in other words, treating them as you’d like to be treated as a customer.

But don’t ignore positive mentions either: thank your customers for their kind words, share their posts on your own social channels, and keep them in mind for a special something the next time they make a purchase. This is a great way to build up not only return sales, but also referrals and new leads who come across these testimonials in the search process.

We recommend using Google Alerts to track standard online mentions (like blogs or articles), and Social Mention for social media posts. Both are free to use and deliver alerts straight to you, but you can pay a small annual fee to get more in-depth Social Mention coverage and features. Also make a note of sites which collect reviews related to your industry, like TripAdvisor for hotels or Zomato for restaurants, and check them frequently for comments that need responding to.

Be direct.

When a customer signs up for email newsletters, send them a personalised thank-you note. When a customer buys a product, email them a few weeks later to check how it is – not to ask them to buy more, but to simply see if anything needs improvement. While you can automate these emails, you should personally respond to anyone who emails back: these are the customers most likely to evangelise your product or service with others, or the at-risk ones who you may still have a chance to win back.

No matter what digital channel you’re using, always treat your customers as you’d like to be treated. Bigger businesses might have the budgets and the manpower, but there’s no excuse why you can’t do just as well by your customers with a little bit of extra attention.

Tara Commerford is the GoDaddy Country Manager, Australia and New Zealand

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