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Small business customer service: 4 must-have support channels

Small businesses rely on their customer strategy to differentiate themselves from competitors. Ensuring a pleasant customer experience makes them more memorable and increases their customers’ satisfaction.

As such, customer service is critical to growing your small business. It’s the key to convincing people to repurchase products and services, which generates loyal customers. Because they’ve experienced the quality of your service firsthand, loyal customers recommend your brand to people they know, bringing in more revenue.

So as a small business owner, you should invest in your customer service strategy to encourage people to keep coming back to your store. One of the sure-fire ways to improve your customer service is by offering support on multiple channels. Multichannel customer service ensures that you don’t miss any valuable requests, reviews or even complaints and that you can provide the support that your customers expect from you.

Below are four customer support channels that every small business should have:

1. Phone

Phone support will never grow obsolete, even in the age of digital customer service. People will always want to talk to a human customer service representative when they have concerns that are too complicated to send through email or social media.

The most significant advantage of phone support is that it helps you ensure a positive brand experience. It lets customers air out their complaints or negative expertise while giving you the chance to rectify your mistake. If, for example, the customer called to complain about a builder’s shoddy work, you can quickly de-escalate the situation by offering to fix the problem free of charge.

If you’re still using a traditional landline, we recommend switching to a Voice over Internet Protocol or VoIP phone system. VoIP technology requires little to no hardware, making it easier for you to scale your phone network as your business grows.

Additionally, BT Openreach is switching off all PSTN networks by 2025, which means traditional landlines will no longer be functional. It’s better to migrate your phone system sooner rather than later to make it easier for your staff to adjust to the new technology.

2. Email

Email remains an important channel for customer service despite the rise of instant messaging and social media. Some customers prefer contacting you through email when they need to attach images or files to their message. For example, they might complain about a damaged item and attach a photo as proof.

Your response time is critical to the success of your email customer service strategy. Although some people are okay with a 24-hour response time, the recommended standard is one hour. The faster you resolve customer queries and concerns, the more likely they are to trust your brand.

The best thing about having an active business email is that you can also use it for marketing purposes. You can send newsletters, exclusive offers and discounts to your existing customers. These perks also count as part of your customer service strategy since they’re ways to nurture your relationships with your current customers.

3. Instant messaging

Instant messaging platforms are among the top customer service channels used today. According to the Salesforce 2019, State of Service, 55 per cent of service-based businesses use messenger apps, including WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SMS-based text.

Instant messaging is a channel that small businesses can easily integrate into their business processes. Small businesses have one advantage: customers feel more comfortable sharing their contact details with you than large corporations.

Consumers commonly give their contact number to community establishments, such as local laundry shops, restaurants and salons they frequent for their convenience. This way, they can send a text to confirm if there’s any available seat at this time or if their order is ready for pick up.

Offering customer support through instant messaging channels also improves your mobile experience. Consumers are more dependent on their smartphones than ever for shopping-related activities, including reaching out to businesses. Providing this support channel makes you more accessible to your customers, which makes them trust you more.

4. Social media 

Social media is a channel you can’t ignore, especially if you’re marketing to a young demographic. For instance, recent data showed that 97 per cent of Gen Z is actively using different platforms to shop online, thus showing the importance of offering customer service on social media.

Social media for customer service also grew more popular when the coronavirus pandemic forced thousands of small businesses to close down. Customers contacted their go-to establishments to ask if they were still open; their hours of operation, if they offered delivery services or curbside pick-up, and other questions related to lockdown restrictions.

Although the country has already reopened, many business owners still use social media for customer service. It’s fast, convenient and ties up neatly with their social media marketing strategy.

Like with email for customer service, people expect you to reply quickly to their messages on social media. Seventy-nine per cent of consumers expect a response within 24 hours, so be sure to give them an answer within that period to maintain their interest in your brand.

Invest in your customer service strategy

The goal of a multichannel customer service strategy is to cater to your target market’s varying digital habits. It ensures your brand’s presence in their preferred channel, allowing you to make the most out of every interaction you have with your customers.

Ultimately, excellent customer service makes sure that people have an enjoyable experience buying from your brand, which encourages your customers to continue buying from you. This customer loyalty is what fuels the growth of your small business.

If you want to learn more about customer service and set up your customer contact centre, browse the Gamma blog. For enquiries about business communications solutions, fill out our contact form.