5 Essentials for Startup Customer Service Teams

Authored by Kayla Brehm

Published on January 30, 2015

One of the best aspects of working at a startup is the possibility to wear many hats during the work day. Customer service teams, for example, may focus on all customer-facing sides of the business including phones, email and social media. How do you remain calm in the face of chaos? How do you set yourself up for success?

1. Know your customer

In a startup environment, it’s essential for any customer support representative to know the ins and outs of the customer. Without this understanding, support teams won’t know how to “wow” their customers with stellar service. Where some business target audiences who may need a guided step-by-step instruction to solve a ticket, others have customers who are more tech-savvy and rely heavily on knowledge bases and self-service. Where does your customer fit on the spectrum?

A day in the life

Either during the onboarding process or an all-hands meeting, work with your customer service team to create a profile of your ideal customer. Collaborate with each other to answer the following.

While some of this may seem too detailed, it’s important to understand everything you can about your audience. Put yourself in their shoes and walk through your product. What would stand out about the product to your customer? What are they looking for? Understand how they think. Use this information to help guide your team through common tickets.

2. Go the extra mile

There’s a reason so many companies use Zappos as a benchmark for superior customer service- WOWing the customer is at it’s core (literally). The Zappos websitestates that in order to “deliver WOW” sufficiently, “you must differentiate yourself, which means doing something a little unconventional and innovative. You must do something that’s above and beyond what’s expected. And whatever you do must have an emotional impact on the receiver.”

How do you set yourself apart from your competitors? How do you create a unique and innovative customer experience for your product? Brainstorm as a team areas where you can make a difference. From picking up a phone to sending hand-written thank you notes to customers you’ve interacted with, you’ll find there are many benefits to delighting your customers.

3. Metrics

Tracking progress is critical. NPS is the best (and easiest) system to implement because it tells you how your company is doing in the eyes of your customer. The customer satisfaction survey allows you to track which areas of your business may need more work and, in turn, what keeps them coming back. Have your customer service team follow up with detractors to see what influenced their rating. Perhaps there’s something you can do to salvage the relationship. A lot of the time customers simply want to see that a company they’ve chosen to work with genuinely cares and is going to work to improve/make it right.

4. Empower your employees

An extension of going the extra mile, empower your employees to make decisions to make the customer’s experience the best possible. Bonobos is a company famous for empowering it’s customer support “ninjas” to be self-sufficient. In an article with SmartPlanet, VP of Customer Experience at Bonobos, John Rote, states that the company’s success lies in going script-free and giving the team the power to alleviate issues as they see fit.

Virgin America’s Richard Branson follows a similar philosophy. In an article with Forbes, he states that “Empowerment is a very important concept at Virgin America. Team members are not only empowered to satisfy customers, they are publicly rewarded when they do. For example, during a fog delay in San Francisco, one Virgin American in-flight team took it upon themselves to bring the first class drink cart out to the gate. Waiting passengers were offered complimentary cocktail service before they boarded the plane. Those team members received a call from Richard Branson himself, congratulating them for finding a creative solution and keeping their customers happy.”

Work with your customer service team to identify comfortable parameters that they can work within to make certain judgement calls. Trusting your team to make the right decision is an important step towards a happy, healthy workplace culture.

5. Create a positive learning culture

Every call, email and chat is important in a startup environment. Not all experiences will be positive and you should learn from the negative ones. Work with your customer experience team to evaluate what went wrong with the conversation and use that information to better your team. Host a weekly Q&A or forum with your team to go over tough calls learned strategies for the week. Most importantly, celebrate your wins.

At startups, oftentimes early employees have to wear many hats. Encourage your team to pursue topics that interest them. Perhaps one of your customer support agents has an interest in social media. Create opportunities for them to shadow your marketing team to gain an understanding of what that career could look like for them.

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