Customer Care: A Guide for Start-ups
For a start-up, good customer care is all-important. Read on for a comprehensive guide
Customer care is always important. As a start-up, however, its importance really cannot be overstated – how you deal with your first few customers will determine, in large part, the success or failure of your business as a whole. Get customer care right, and you will amass an army of loyal customers who buy from you again and again – get it wrong, and dissatisfied customers will complain about your business to others, burying your reputation before you have had a chance to establish it.
This article provides an introduction to good customer care techniques for start-ups. We will take you through customer care at every stage of the process – you will learn what procedures to put in place as a starting point, and how to properly deal with customers before, during, and after a sale. Finally, you can read some tips on how to foster a culture of customer care amongst your employees.
What systems can I put in place to improve customer service?
The starting point of good customer service is having processes in place to ensure it is at the core of your business. Some particular systems you could put in place include:
- Ensure your website deals with popular queries. Your website should contain a ‘FAQ’ page or similar which provides answers to frequently-asked customer questions, such as “How long will it take my item to arrive?” or “Who do I contact if there is a problem”? This will often allow a customer to resolve a query themselves without requiring you to deal with the issue personally.
- Use reliable, trusted suppliers. Inevitably, a problem with your supplier will harm your business and diminish your own trustworthiness in the eyes of the customer. Quality and reliability should be high on your list of priorities when choosing suppliers – don’t just look at price.
- Keep communication honest and open. In general, honesty really is the best policy when communicating with customers. For example, if you don’t offer the cheapest product on the market, don’t claim that you do in the hopes you’ll make a quick sale. Instead, focus on what you can uniquely offer the customer – for a smaller business, this is likely to be along the lines of flexibility and a personal touch.
- Make sure production runs smoothly. Identify any hold-ups and address them.
- Put a returns procedure in place. Offer to pay for delivery of returned goods. If a customer finds your returns procedure needlessly complex and obfuscating, they are unlikely to trust you with another sale.
How do I deal with a customer before a sale?
When a customer contacts you with an enquiry, a commitment to customer service is more important than ever. It is often the difference between making a sale and losing out. You should keep the following tips in mind:
- Respond quickly. In general, you shouldn’t leave more than 24 hours to reply to a customer’s email, especially in the early stages of your business. You can set up an auto-reply service to let customers know that their email has been received and you will provide a response within a set time. It goes without saying that you should stick to these deadlines.
- Listen. A surprising number of business owners don’t ask customers about what they actually need, and by not doing so, they are committing a major customer service faux pas. You might have a groundbreaking product that you are convinced a customer will need, but don’t push it on them without actually listening to what they want first. By focusing on their needs you make them feel valued and unique. Only sell them products that genuinely meet their needs, rather than the product that will make you the most short-term profit. A happy customer is a repeat customer.
- Be honest. Don’t make promises you can’t deliver – it’s always better to exceed expectations than to disappoint. If you know that a customer will only receive next-day delivery on an item in very rare circumstances, for example, don’t go promising that items will turn up the next day.
- Practice good interpersonal skills. When speaking to a customer on the phone or meeting them face-to-face, your body language and general manner are extremely important. In particular, you should:
- Look customers in the eye, shake their hands and act pleased to see them.
- Learn their names. Remember them. Use them every chance you get.
- Use humour (appropriately) to put customers at ease.
- Make sure your appearance – and that of your staff – reflects the image of a professional, positive and welcoming business.