When starting a business, most entrepreneurs have to deal with all aspects of managing the company. This can encompass a wide range of tasks, from HR, to marketing, to carrying out customer support. It’s likely that you’ll be a little overwhelmed with all the work you have to do, but you need to ensure your customers never feel neglected.
In many small businesses, customer support is the responsibility of each and every team member. There might be times where you’ve got so many customer support calls that it seems like your small team can’t handle it, but advancements in technology have made it easier for small teams to handle customer support without any issues.
Creating shared inboxes
A shared inbox is an easy way to manage all the queries that come through from customers. You can assign emails to the team member best equipped to respond to the issue, and attach notes for other team members to see so everyone can keep up with the correspondence. By providing customers with one contact email address (such as email@example.com), they’ll always know how they can get in touch with you without the risk of contacting the wrong person. You’ll never leave a customer hanging; if a team member is ill or on holiday, other colleagues can keep on top of the support query.
Email providers such as Gmail and Outlook will allow you to easily set up a shared inbox that team members can be invited to. If you’re using something that doesn’t support this feature, you could sign up for a dedicated helpdesk service such as Intercom, Front, or Help Scout.
There may be situations where you need to prioritise which customers you deal with first; perhaps their issue is a lot more serious or you know they have previously waited a long time to be responded to. No matter what the reason may be, your team needs to be able to know which problems need to be dealt with first. Although you could dedicate time to respond to these issues, it’s hard to know when they could arise. If there is an issue which is going to affect all your customers you could consider sending out emails to everyone, or posting updates on social media.
Setting response times
It can be helpful for anyone providing customer support to know what’s expected of them when it comes to response times, so setting goals would allow team members to ensure they’re performing as expected. Response times can be used in line with a priority system; for example, any issue assigned the highest priority should be dealt with in 15 minutes, whereas less urgent problems can take a few hours. Buffer, the social media scheduling tool, let customers do their own prioritising by selecting how urgent their problem is when they request help.
Once defined, response times can be communicated to customers so they also know when they’ll hear from you – this can help to manage expectations and should mean fewer people follow up to try and force a response.
You may want to make sure your customers can get hold of you in whatever way is easiest for them. Whether this is via social media, phone, or email, it’s important that you communicate your availability and ensure you’re set up to receive messages across the channels you support. Try not to let any enquiries slip through the cracks; for example, even if you’re not very active on Twitter, it’s important that you have notifications set up in case someone does try and get in touch via this channel.
Make sure you don’t over promise on your availability either – if you can only guarantee a response during office hours, don’t lead your customers to believe that you’re manning the phones 24/7. Whilst a lot of people will be able to wait a day or two for a response, some businesses will have customers that encounter genuinely severe problems that need resolving immediately. In this case, it might be sensible to have an emergency out-of-hours phone number that can go to someone’s mobile phone – an internet phone service like Nimvelo Phone is a really cost-effective way of setting up such a system.
There are many different ways you can try and handle customer support. As long as your team is patient and handles each situation in the right manner, you’ll be able to get through busy times easily. How does your small team handle customer support? Do you have your own method you use which works well? If so share them with us in the discussion box below.