How to Build a Blueprint for Stellar Customer Service

Follow these tips to develop a team that will deliver awesome results.
With the right blueprint for success, you don’t have to be a big brand to do customer service right. (Photo: Will Scullin/Flickr.)

You don’t have to be a big brand to do customer service right.

Ask yourself, “Does my small business have a customer service culture that helps me meet goals and shows customers that my business cares about their needs?”

Read on if your answer is something other than a resounding “yes!”

Hire the right people for the job

You don’t need a big business budget to build a team of customer service rock stars.
Hire carefully and thoughtfully to put the right employees in place. The skills for a customer service rep aren’t as clearly defined as they are for a position like graphic designer or office manager.

Instead of reinventing the wheel, look at customer service job descriptions posted on sites like LinkedIn or Indeed, and use those as a template to craft your own detailed job listing.

In general, a customer service role requires someone who is detail-­oriented, great with people, and able to multi-­task and manage multiple deadlines.

Enthusiasm and a thick skin should definitely be in the “required” column. During the interview process, role-­playing will give you a good idea of how the candidate will respond to routine and challenging scenarios.

Invest time in training

Your customer service employees need to be on the same page working toward the same goals. Each staff member should be aware of the expectations and how that fits into your small business sales strategy.

If you don’t have the bandwidth or the background to train your customer service staff, find an employee within your organization who is qualified and willing to share his or her experience.

Another option is to send your customer service representatives to an outside training seminar or pay for them to attend an online program that teaches needed skills. BizLibrary is one provider of online customer service training. Thousands of customer service training videos are included in its employee training and development catalog.

The SBA’s Small Business Development Center in your area might also offer customer service training resources.

Once you’ve trained your team, you’re not done. Schedule a periodic refresher meeting to make sure the training has been sufficient and is still effective.

Identify upsell opportunities

When a small business owner is considering adding upselling to the duties of his customer service staff, the path to an upsell needs to be clear to the team.

First, identify what your potential upsell customers look like. In short, customers who are happy with your product and service will be receptive to purchasing more. Poorly executed upselling can cost you customers and create a wave of negative word-­of-mouth.

A survey from AchieveGlobal, Why Your Customers Stay or Stray: Insight From Global Customer Experience Research, reports that more than 40 percent of consumers get annoyed when an employee “talks to me about things other than the problem I am trying to resolve.”

Encourage your customer­-service employees to stay on task when helping customers. Schedule a workshop to teach upselling skills or suggest that your staff read bestselling books that cover the topic.

Identify discount opportunities

Your customer­-service team is in the right position to execute discounts. Before you give your team the ability to share coupons or discount codes, make sure you have a tracking system in place through your POS system. If you don’t monitor performance, you’ll miss out on valuable sales information that can shape future strategy.

Some reasons to offer discounts include moving excess or old merchandise, increasing sales of a seasonal item, introducing a new product or attracting a certain type of customer, like students or senior citizens. Discounting is productive under the right conditions. Educate your customer­-service staff so that they know exactly why and how you are offering discounts.

Are you a one-­man show?

Not every small business owner has the luxury of a customer­-service team. For a one­-man shop, customer service can seem like an overwhelming proposition. One easy way to handle customer service issues is to monitor your business’ social media channels where customers comment publicly on your business.

Yelp is a popular platform that is often a first stop for consumers checking out small businesses. Claim your Yelp Business Page and create a business login. This gives you the opportunity to respond publicly and privately to customers, track leads and polish your page with photos and links.

If you’re promoting your business through Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or other popular social platforms, make sure you have the time to review and respond in a timely manner.

Whitney Weiss is the VP of marketing and sales for Weiss Watch Company, a small business in Los Angeles that designs and builds luxury timepieces. In addition to handling all marketing and sales, she’s also the only employee in charge of customer service. Her best advice?

“Create a document that has answers to the most commonly asked questions,” she said. “It can save a ton of time.”

She also stressed the importance of setting aside specific times for customer service tasks.

“I address all issues within 24 hours during the work week, but I only allocate three specific blocks of time during the day for customer­-service tasks. The key is efficiency.”

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