February 20, 2016 By Suzanne Robertson

If you’re looking for a company that does customer service right, it’s hard to beat online retailer Zappos.

See if you pre-qualify

Headlines appear regularly touting a customer service team that goes above and beyond. The company has 500 employees in a Las Vegas call center who have all received seven weeks of training on how to make customers happy. Most recently, headlines told of a wrong shoe order that turned into surprise donation of fleece blankets for South Carolina flood victims.

The good news is that you don’t have to be a big brand like Zappos 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?” If your answer is something other than a resounding “yes!”, read on.

Business plans focus on product development, marketing, branding and sales but often resources allocated for customer service operations are small or non-existent. Few things can sink a small business faster than poor customer service. Happy customers want more of what you have to offer and unhappy customers - poof - disappear.

As online sales skyrocket, stellar customer service might be the only opportunity a small business owner has to connect directly with current and potential customers. Don’t blow it!

Build a world-class customer service team

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. Unfortunately, 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 opportunities posted on sites like LinkedIn or Indeed and use those as a template to craft a detailed job listing. In general, a customer service role requires someone who is great with people, able to multi-task, able to manage multiple deadlines and is detail-oriented. 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 tough questions.

Invest Time in Training

No matter how great a new employee is on paper, nothing can replace face-to-face training. All of your customer service employees need to be on the same page working towards the same goals. Each staff member should be aware of the standards expected 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 their 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.

See if you pre-qualify

BizLibrary is one provider of online customer service training. Thousands of customer service training videos are included in their 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

The classic upsell, “Would you like fries with that?”, gets it right. The hungry customer is in the drive-thru with their money in hand. What does your customer, ripe for an upsell, look like? That’s one of the details a small business owner needs to nail down before implementing an upsell strategy. When a small business owner is considering adding upselling to the plates of his customer service staff, the path to an upsell needs to be clear to the whole team. First, identify what your potential upsell customers look like. In short, customers happy with your product and service and 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 forty percent of consumers surveyed said they 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 that topic.

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 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 in Los Angeles, CA, a small business 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. It can save a ton of time.” She also stresses 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.”

Do you need extra funds for your small business? An SBA loan is the best bet for small businesses with low rates, long terms and low monthly payments. Visit SmartBiz today and discover in about five minutes if you’re qualified for an SBA loan.

See if you pre-qualify