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Customer Service is a Function of the Entire Company

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@readwriteReadWrite

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How to Manage Customer Service on a Shoestring Budget

Customer service is a classic struggle for small- and medium-sized businesses. The time that it takes to respond to customer feedback, concerns, and questions can be incredibly time-consuming, and it can lead many business owners to neglect this critical area of their business.
But if they want to succeed, they can't.

Why Customer Service Matters

Zappos' CEO, Tony Hsieh, encapsulated the true purpose and focus of customer service when he said, “Customer service shouldn’t just be a department, it should be the entire company.”
Everything from designing UX to online marketing, laying out your e-commerce store, and fulfilling orders should be done with the customer in mind. Only after all of that customer TLC should your customer service department be called in to answer questions, put out fires, and generally resolve customers' complaints and concerns.
If you’re a small company, though, it can be difficult to maintain a customer service department, let alone a customer service emphasis. Entrepreneurs (and, often, their employees) are accustomed to wearing many hats within their organizations; the thought of adding a continual focus on customer service can sound daunting. Fielding phone calls and responding to emails can threaten to take up their entire day if they’re not careful. 
Even if your company already has a customer service department, an organization that isn't a giant corporation with virtually unlimited funds may find it difficult to stay organized and handle the call volume required. Fortunately, there are alternatives to an all-or-nothing solution to the problem.

Customer Service on a Shoestring Budget

At this point, technology has made high-quality customer service easily attainable, even for an SMB. Here are two ways, in particular, that small- and medium-sized businesses can answer their customer service needs without having to set up a massive call center or outsource their efforts overseas.

Utilize CCaaS Software

If you already have a call center, but find it’s bursting at the seams or intensely disorganized, all you may need to do is implement a Contact Center as a Service solution. Good CCaaS software enables a customer service department to utilize:
  • An automatic contact distributor (ACD): This is a service that automatically receives all of your customer service inquiries and categorizes them. It then decides which rep should field the call based on his or her skills.
  • An interactive voice response (IVR) menu: Providing a menu for customers can allow them to direct their call through an automated system to avoid long waits, simply to be put back on hold and redirected to another department.
  • On-screen caller info: a good CCaaS will deliver the caller’s known info directly to the screen for the agent to use as he answers the customer's question. In addition, it should be able to instantly and automatically store the information in your company’s customer relationship management files after the call has ended.
Using a hosted contact center solution can affordably streamline your customer service virtually overnight. A good CCaaS can help avoid the need to have preliminary conversations before customers are passed back and forth between reps in a vain attempt to find the right person to answer the question.

Take Advantage of Social Media

If a call center isn’t possible in the first place, don’t throw in the towel quite yet. One of the most effective and efficient ways to manage a company’s customer service needs with a highly prohibitive budget is by simply shifting your efforts to social media platforms. 
Social media is typically seen as a business marketing tool, but in reality, it serves incredibly well as a customer service option — according to Hsieh’s definition, marketing is part of the customer service journey as well. Using social media enables a company to directly engage with customers in a personal one-on-one format. Whether you’re answering questions via Facebook Messenger, responding to a tweet, or using Instagram to gather feedback, there are plenty of ways to interact with customers and provide excellent customer service directly on your social feeds.
If you choose to do this, though, make sure to regularly monitor your accounts to respond to notifications. Neglected comments and feedback on social media can be as detrimental as letting phones ring endlessly in your call center.
To set up a social media customer service center, start by researching which platforms your core customer demographics use most. Once you've narrowed down platforms, set up your primary customer service communication channels (i.e., Messenger, posts, tweets). Make sure customers can find these easily, whether they’re visiting your website or engaging directly on your social profile. 
Using a social media business account is a cheap and effective way to provide high-quality customer service that enhances customer retention. It can even boost your brand’s online reputation in the process as other customers see you interacting with existing and potential clientele in a positive manner.

Caring for Customers Without Breaking the Budget

Customer service is a critical component of success in an era of empowered consumers. If your customers don’t feel valued and actively listened to, it will tarnish your reputation and devastate your customer retention.
Even if you can’t afford to operate a massive call center, it’s possible for companies both great and small to tend to their customer service needs. CCaaS software and social media can enable them to respond to customers effectively — and for pennies on the dollar compared to more traditional options. 

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