Increasingly, young entrepreneurs are ditching the office and embracing the digital nomad life. Get some tips on running an effective customer service team, even if you’re halfway around the world.
Every entrepreneur knows the importance of providing quality customer service. But just how important is it? A study found that 60% of customers said they would be unlikely or very unlikely to return to a business where they had received poor customer service.
That’s a lot of repeat business down the drain for one slip-up.
If you run a lifestyle business or you are thinking of starting one, there are a few steps you need to take to ensure your customers have the best possible customer experience (even if you’re sitting on a beach in Thailand).
Step 1: Define your goals and make a plan.
You have to know where you’re going if you ever want to get there. Think about the best way to serve your customers, the experience you wish to provide, and what clients can reasonably expect from you.
Is it enough if you respond to email inquiries within 24 hours? Or maybe they will expect to contact you via telephone, web chat or Twitter.
Be realistic about your abilities and availability to provide customer service yourself. If you are planning to be riding on buses, trains and planes for one or two workdays per week, you won’t be able to provide 24/7 customer service by yourself. You will need help.
This is a key point: don’t think of customer service as a back office thing that you need to set up only after you have created your product and built out your sales and marketing strategies.
It needs to be an integral part of your ongoing business operations and planning. If you can’t hang on to the clients you have secured, your business won’t last very long.
Step 2: Delegate using technology.
The one major reason that entrepreneurs today can travel the world while they work is simple: technology.
Thanks to the fast adoption of mobile devices and the Internet, not only can you read and respond to emails from all over the world, but you can also hire, fire, market, sell, hold meetings via video chat and do everything you could do in an office, but virtually.
So, how does this affect customer service?
The arrival of virtual receptionists have made outsourcing customer service and client relations simple and affordable. If you need greater volume and could accept a lower level of service, you can also find good help with overseas call centers and freelance sites like Upwork.com.
The challenging part is to find a reliable provider to handle your customer service needs. Here are a few tips to think about when selecting an outsourced customer service provider:
Have a series of detailed conversations with the provider about their features, experience, and limitations. Think about expansion too. For instance, if you are not currently in need of web chat, but you might want it in the future, consider going with a company that also provides that service.
Do a few test calls (or web chats, Twitter convos, etc.) with a company that uses the provider you are considering. Look out for traits like friendliness and authority, and make sure the employees are easy to understand.
Look for online customer reviews, company history and feedback from current and past business partners.
If you can, make a call to your counterpart at another company that uses the provider in question. They will be more likely to share a realistic view of what you can expect from a service provider.
Another great way to leverage technology to benefit customer service is to use your email provider to do customer service work proactively. For clients who are happy and low-touch, you can send email blasts to help with things like software integration tutorials or to introduce new features.
Step 3: Measure your results.
If you don’t measure results, you won’t make any progress, and the quality of your service will plateau and stagnate. Just because you are outsourcing one area of your business does not mean you can ignore it.
For starters, you need to get reports on customer contacts. Most customer service providers will be able to give this to you, preferably on a daily basis. This will allow you to get an overview of customer complaints.
You can also learn about and fix problems with the product, thereby reducing the time your CS team spends with customers. In addition to basics such as tracking your Net Promoter Score, it is also a good idea to personally reach out to one or two customers every week.
This has a double benefit: your clients will feel extra special having heard from the owner of the company, plus you will get personalized feedback that you might not otherwise hear from your CS representatives.
Step 4: Every month, adjust as needed.
Stay in touch and maintain your relationship with your outsourced CS team. Again, just because they are outsourced doesn’t mean they are not a part of your company, or that they are not beholden to your requirements.
An outsourced team might need more upfront hand-holding, but it will likely be worth your effort in the long run.
In many ways, the CS team mans the front lines of your company out in the world, so it is crucial that you can provide them with the support they need.
Help them do their job, and everyone will benefit: customers, employees and you. Once your system is in place and optimized to comfortably scale your business, handling customer service should be relatively painless, allowing you to travel worry-free while your business thrives.
This article has been edited and condensed.
Parker Davis is the CEO of Answer 1, a leader in the virtual receptionist and technology enabled answering services industry. He believes that the application of data analytics, investment in technology, and fostering a positive company culture together create highly efficient and scalable growth companies. In 2016, Answer 1 will achieve record revenues while also being awarded the Top Companies to Work For in Arizona award. Parker is also the Managing Partner of Annison Capital Partners, LLC, a private investment partnership. Connect with @Answer1 on Twitter.