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: A Guide for Start-ups

How can I provide effective care to my customers when selling?

When selling and looking to sell, your guiding principle should be making the process as smooth and painless as possible – take the legwork away from your customer so it is easy for them to buy from you. Some tips you could try include:

  • Focus on convenience. Make your offering as convenient and easy to use as possible for the customer. For a retail business, this might mean opening until late at night. If you run an e-commerce business, this is especially important; ‘basket abandonment’ is especially rife online as customers run into technical problems and onerous payment processes. Offer a wide range of convenient payment options (such as the PayPal e-payments system) and delivery options.
  • Minimise customer red tape. If selling your product entails a large amount of paperwork, take on as much as you can yourself rather than passing it on to the customer.
  • Keep customers informed. If there is something wrong with a product or delivery is to be delayed, keep customers in the loop and inform them honestly about the situation.
  • Remove barriers to entry. Keep minimum order levels or minimum spend as modest as you can afford, at least in the short term.

 

How can I continue customer care after I’ve made a sale?

The importance of customer care doesn’t diminish after you’ve made a sale – on the contrary, this is the crucial time in which you can secure valuable repeat business. A commitment to after-sales care is normally the difference between customer service that is merely good, and truly great customer service. You should:

  • Offer after-sales service. You can either charge for such a service or include it in the cost of the product – either way, you should let customers know about the level of service you intend to provide at the time of the sale. Give customers an after-sales call to check everything is all right, and encourage them to get in contact right away if any issues arise.
  • Obtain feedback from customers. Ask every customer to fill out a short survey after the sale, detailing what they liked about your service and what could be improved. Keep this brief so customers don’t spend undue effort filling it out.
  • Send customers information on related products. Only do this if you’re sure they will have a genuine interest, otherwise you are just flooding them with unwanted marketing material.
  • Send customers news about your company. More generally, you should send customers news and updates about your company once in a while – this helps remind them of your existence and offering.
  • Contact customers that have not bought from you in a while. The worst they can do is say no.

 

How do I deal with complaints?

Never bury your head in the sand when a customer makes a complaint. An unchecked complaint can quickly snowball out of control, turning into a full-blown crisis for your business. When dealing with complaints, you should:

  • Actively welcome complaints. As counter-intuitive as it sounds, you should encourage customers to get in contact if they have any issues at all with the way the business is run. Research has shown that only one out of 10 dissatisfied customers will place a complaint – the other nine customers will simply tell their friends and contacts about their bad experience, giving you no chance to address the grievance or put your side of the story across. Emphasise that customers should approach you if they have any issues at all, and give them a quick way of getting in touch.
  • Never argue with a customer. The importance of this one really cannot be overstated. Even if you think a customer’s complaint is spurious and unfounded, keep communications with them polite and acknowledge the legitimacy of their feelings and concerns. This doesn’t mean giving in to their every demand, but simply being courteous and expressing regret that they have had a bad experience. Arguing with or attempting to belittle an upset customer will only upset them further and could cause a serious PR nightmare for you if they decide to publicise the dispute.
  • Give customer-facing staff the power to deal with complaints. Allow them to mollify upset customers with free products or discounts – the swifter the complaint is handled, the happier the customer will be.
  • Listen. When a customer gets in touch with a complaint, allow them to put their side of the story across and sympathise with their concerns. Often, what might seem like an unfounded complaint will turn out to be a legitimate concern about something completely different.
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