So you’ve pulled the trigger. Your new business is officially under way. You’ve got the right product in mind, the right team in place, and a brand new site/store to show for it. The world needs whatever you’re selling. We believe you.
But your customers don’t necessarily have to. That’s the world of customer service. No matter how much us customer-centric people try to evangelize the idea that customer service should be on your top 3 list of things to discuss while starting a new business, it’s all too common to see businesses fail at the basics. We’re not saying these businesses don’t care about their customers but many do think about service in a suboptimal way. Oh, we don’t need it yet; it’s a cost center. Oh, we don’t even have any customers yet and we need to focus on revenue. Oh we’ll think about it once the product is ready. Etc. Etc.
If you’ve said or thought these thoughts before, you might be missing the bigger picture – the picture of the entire customer life cycle. You see, patrons that eventually become your customers often start their relationship with you not at the purchase phase. That’s the common misconception. It starts at the discovery phase. Perhaps they came across your business from a friend, an ad, or an awkward eavesdropping session that they want no one to know about.
Either way, customers are looking for engagement long before they pull out their wallet to pay for whatever you’re selling. How do you educate, encourage, and put their minds at ease prior to them pulling out their wallet? This is what we want to discuss briefly. Here are the top 5 reasons why you should invest in customer service for your brand new business.
1) Because it’s easier to design customer service into your core business practices while fresh.
It’s so common to talk to new businesses and find them scrambling to cobble together a support solution AFTER they’ve hit a rhythm. That usually comes out to a combination of Gmail and 3 – 5 free trials of products they hear others use. How do you expect to continue executing on that rhythm when you now have to spend hours every week going through trials, experiments, and debates on what support solution to get? Wouldn’t it have been much easier to think about this earlier? You might realize the need for a knowledge base / FAQ, a contact form, a tool for collecting email and social media requests, etc. That’s a lot of work when you need to focus on generating revenue!
2) Because your brand starts from day 1 and customer service is part of your brand.
Lots of businesses fear a potential influx of customers. While counterintuitive, that is what drives business success. In today’s attention economy, your brand is immediately associated with your customers’ experience interacting with you. Your entire business can be at stake based on first-impressions of your customer service. All it takes is one customer to fall through the cracks to cause a snowball of poor or negative word-of-mouth from which it can be hard to recover. Take a second to think of your favorite brands — and it would not be surprising if the first things that came to mind were your experiences as a customer interacting with representatives of the brand, whether in a sales or support capacity. You want to start day one on the right track in building your brand reputation.
3) Because it’s easier to make good first impressions when you’re new.
It’s so common to run into new businesses than want to hide behind curtain and veil until they’re ready to reveal. That’s good if you’re running a magic show but that’s not the likely case. Our research and experience indicates that customers don’t mind if you’re the new kid on the block. In fact, being the new entry earns you some credibility points if you’re promising something new and your customers can be a part of that realization and growth. Many vocal customers who’ve stuck with us since breaking beta have accompanied our personal growth and success. Even if you just have a plain landing page with a product drawn up on paper you can still converse with customers who’ve shown interest in what you’re doing. You’ll make some great friends, some great impressions of being open and receptive to feedback, and all that can go a long way. Our most recent survey with customers proves that promptness and friendliness account for over 80% of positive customer experiences. The take-away? Make as many good first impressions as possible!
4) Because you will always underestimate the demands of your customers.
There’s this new term being thrown around called “omni-support”. The idea is that you want to be everywhere your customers are because they’re demanding and you better step up. However, this is mostly recommended for established businesses with massive support infrastructures. We’re not saying you should be as omnipotent as those big guys are but it’s definitely better to prepare now and implement a good combination of support resources so you can always be one step ahead of your customers’ demands. One way to accomplish this is to pick a tool that you’re comfortable with and one that can handle various formats from email to social media and from knowledge base to contact forms. Having a streamlined resources center for your customers will make sure you never underestimate their needs. Our survey showed that while email is still the most dominant channel, Live Chat, self-service, and social media are all growing at rapid rates.
5) Because you’ll find it impossible to staff up a customer service team if you don’t involve the right people now.
People are key to the successes of a business. In our book (here if you’re interested), we talk about having everyone, even CEOs, participate in support. This is a tried and true formula so everyone can be a critic for what makes customers happy or sad. An important part of how to make this strategy work is to involve everyone in support on day 1. This requires not the investment of money but the investment of time and commitment. Getting everyone on board with this idea is also easily accomplished in the early days of a business. And while it’s not realistic in the long term, an entire culture of placing customers first can be well established through this exercise.