Boss Lady

What customer service is, and how to do it cost-effectively


This comprehensive guide outlines what customer service is, why it is different in the current business era, and how to do it without having to spend too much money on it.

No matter what size your business is, if you want it to succeed over the long term, you need to take customer service very seriously. At the same time, you probably also need to keep your budget as low as possible. The good news is that you can deliver great customer service without breaking the bank. Here are some tips to help.

What customer service is…

As a company, you sell a product or service to your customers. Some of these customers come back to you with problems (“The product does not work”, “I have a problem with this invoice”, “Can you tell me how …”, “Where is my ticket?”). You have to help your customers and deal with their problems; otherwise you will lose your customers (and later on, customers will scold you publicly on social media).

It was not always like this. In the distant past, even before the Internet existed, it was difficult to come into contact with companies. You were state, there were monopolies and nobody really cared about your problems. You were lucky if you could order over the phone.

Nowadays you can find at least 10 different mobile phone providers on Google within seconds and quickly get an overview of each one. Customers who have had bad experiences share them on Facebook. As a well-informed customer in a transparent market, I choose the provider that offers the best customer service. Prices hardly differed and offers over the phone are no longer that exciting. In other words, customer service has become one of the most important considerations when choosing a provider.

Providing service to your customers, something that companies have done a chore with, has become the most important issue in terms of competition. If you take good care of your customers, they’ll stay with you even if you aren’t the cheapest provider. Taking good care of them means that you are available when your customers want to contact you and then deal with their concerns quickly and professionally.

… and what customer service is in the modern world: 6 strategies

1. Try to push not pull, for better customer service

Try to preempt your customers’ needs and wants and reach out to them rather than waiting for them to come to you. Ideally, reach out to them in the way which suits them best. For example, if you’re selling a physical product, make sure the key instructions for use are included with the product. Never rely on customers just going to the right part of your website.

This can involve some creative thinking. For example, if you minimize your packaging, you will also minimize the space you have to put instructions on your packaging. In general, the solution here is to include printed instructions alongside the item. You might also want to include a QR code to take the customer to the relevant part of your website.

Remember, however, that, in general, you cannot rely on your customer’s being able or willing to use QR codes. If they are not IT-literate, they may not be comfortable with the mechanics of how they work. If they are IT-literate they may have concerns about the security implications of QR codes. In either case, there may be times when people simply cannot get online.

2. Never rely on your customer’s memory

This applies to all businesses although its most obvious application is in the service sector. No-shows used to be one of the biggest headaches for all service-sector businesses. Thankfully, automated appointment reminders have done a lot to bring this under control. Depending on your business model, you may also want to consider penalties for no-shows.

If you are selling physical products, then the main implication of that statement is that you need to focus on user-friendly design. Ideally, your customer should just be able to pick up your product and use it without any thought whatsoever. Of course, in the real world, that may simply not be possible. You should, however, aim to get as close to this standard as you can.

You could also think about using the principle of automated reminders in your products. This can be something as simple as putting marks on the product itself to indicate key usage instructions. For example, if you look at a modern kettle, you’ll generally find a minimum-fill line imprinted on it.

If you’re creating electronic products, then you can have them give audio reminders. Again, this can be something as simple as a beep or series of beeps. That said, as electronics improve, it’s becoming more common to have voice reminders.

3. Leverage your websitefor customer service

If you are still at microbusiness size, then you may be able to operate without a website. Even so, however, it’s strongly advisable to buy the domain you want as soon as you can. That way, you can rest assured that it is yours and hence that you can put up a website any time you want.

For most businesses, a website is likely to be vital. To get the maximum return on your investment, you need to leverage it correctly. From the point of view of customer service, this means giving your customers as many opportunities as possible to serve themselves. This is a win for both customers and agents as it means customers get the quickest service with the least effort from your customer-service team.

Now, anyone familiar with customer service (or just human behaviour) will know that simply putting the information out there is nowhere near enough. If customers cannot find what they need quickly and easily (preferably immediately) they will either go elsewhere or make an unnecessary call to your customer-service team.

You, therefore, need to use three key strategies to maximize your chances of giving customers what they need as soon as they know they need it (or even before). Firstly, you need to ensure that your website has intuitive navigation. Your visitors should never need to think about how to get from one part of it to another.

Secondly, you need to ensure that you are on top of your search engine optimization. Ideally, you should supplement this with an on-site search function and a site map. Thirdly, you should have an easy route for customers to get help when they need it. If at all possible, this should be immediate help. It’s even better if you can pre-empt their need for help and actively offer it to them.

4. Chatbots to enhance customer service

Chatbots are AI-powered apps that can perform basic tasks such as providing results to search queries. Well-known examples of chatbots include Alexa, Siri, Google Voice Assistant and Microsoft Cortana. There are countless other less-known versions on business websites literally all across the internet.

Although the term “Artificial Intelligence” may sound impressive, at present chatbots are actually fairly basic. In most businesses, it will be a long time, if ever, before they can take on meaningful customer-service tasks. They are, however, great for three functions.

Firstly, they can be used as a way to offer assistance proactively. You cannot have live customer-service agents watch over somebody’s shoulder as they use the internet and proactively ask them if they need help. Chatbots can do just that. This function is particularly helpful for reducing cart-abandonment.  

Secondly, they can act as first-responders. This is probably the most visible function of business chatbots. Many businesses now implement chatbots in their live chat function. When the user types a query, the chatbot tries to answer it. If they can’t, or if the user wants more help, the query is passed to a human agent.

Thirdly, they can provide out-of-hours service. This is particularly relevant to small businesses. The fewer people you employ, the harder it becomes to offer extended service hours. This may not be too much of an issue in the business-to-business environment. It can, however, be a real stumbling-block in the business-to-consumer environment.

5. Limit your service channels

This may seem counterintuitive but it’s actually often vital to providing the best possible customer-service experience at the lowest possible cost. Big companies can deploy teams of staff to multiple social-media platforms. That said, even they don’t always do it particularly well. Small businesses need to be selective.

As a rule of thumb, if you’re using a social-media platform for marketing purposes, you need to be prepared to field customer-service queries on it. That doesn’t mean you have to answer them on it. You can divert them to your standard channels. In fact, that’s often the best idea. You do, however, need to respond to them and you may choose to answer them.

If you’re not using a social-media platform for marketing purposes, then it’s usually a really bad idea to offer customer service through it. Basically, all you’re doing is increasing the number of channels you need to monitor, probably for very little reward. At the end of the day, if a social-media platform was really useful for your business, you’d be using it for marketing.

Most customers are likely to value a phone number a lot more than service through social media. If you don’t have the resources to provide a phone number, then try to offer live chat. Make sure that customers can always get through to a real human reasonably quickly if appropriate. At a minimum, provide a dedicated support email and turn queries around briskly.

6. Streamline your communications

Traditional phones have had their day. Switching to internet telephony is really the only practical option for modern businesses, especially small ones. The reason is that internet telephony treats voice data in the same way as any other data. This may not sound like much but it actually opens up all kinds of interesting options.

Possibly the most obvious one of these is that VoIP allows you to add “click-to-call” functions on your website. This makes it massively easier to capture prospects in the moment – provided that you actually have people available to answer those calls.

VoIP also makes it possible for small businesses to use call-handling features which used to be strictly for enterprises. Even call recording is challenging if you’re using the traditional phone system. With VoIP, it’s easy. Similarly, you can use call-routing features such as hunt groups to maximize the chance of a caller being properly assisted.

You can also associate numbers with other data relating to the caller. This means that the moment a caller reaches out to you, your choice of software can bring up anything you need to know to serve them. Likewise, if your customer-service team makes outgoing calls, they can be well-prepared for them.

Using VoIP also makes it a lot easier to support flexible working. For example, if you take on extra customer-service staff at peak times, you can just create numbers for them and have them start work. You don’t even have to give them phones, VoIP will work directly through computers. VoIP is also great if you use remote or mobile workers or even if you just have hot-desking.


It is very important for customers to assess how readily and quickly the company reacts to complaints and what measures it is taking. In addition to guarantees, some of the rights of consumers are regulated by law. Good customer service results from customer orientation; poor customer service can result from a lack of customer public relations.

About Business Woman Media

Our women don’t want to settle for anything but the best. They understand that success is a journey involving personal growth, savvy optimism and the tenacity to be the best. We believe in pragmatism, having fun, hard-work and sharing inspiration. LinkedIn

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