By Alice Williams

Customer service can either make or break a small business. One bad review from a customer who had to wait too long to get help can seriously hurt your growth and your revenue. It’s a snowball effect, especially with social media. In fact, studies have shown that 82 percent of customers stopped doing business with a company after a bad customer service experience.

Trying to grow your customer base is almost impossible with a negative reputation—no one’s going to want to do business with a company who doesn’t treat their customers right.

As a small business, it’s important to figure out how to ensure your customer service process is fast, efficient, and keeps your customers happy. This will keep your customers coming back for more and will help you grow even faster. In fact, 90 percent of customers who have a seamless service experience with a company will most likely buy from that company again. This could be your company if you have a good service experience.

So how do you create an incredible service experience? How do you streamline your existing processes to get customers what they want faster? Take a look at the three tips below to help you get started.

Get on board with chatbots

Chatbots are the future of customer service. There are already several large businesses, including H&M, Dominos, Spotify, and Airbnb, that are using chatbots as part of their customer service process. Why? Because chatbots are an automated solution to customer service. Chatbots are computer programs that are designed to simulate conversation with human users. Bots can be placed in apps like Facebook Messenger, Slack, and SMS which allow you to reach and support a bigger audience.

Most companies are using bots to automate a lot of the repetitive work performed by customer service teams such as answering simple customer questions or simple date entry. Additionally, bots don’t sleep—they’re readily available 24/7, which means your customers don’t have to deal with long wait times to get their questions answered. This will keep your customers happy, allow your agents to focus on more important tasks, and keep your costs down.

Set up an online self-service portal

A study by BIA/Kelsey showed that 97 percent of customers go online to research products and services locally. Chances are that before a customer contacts one of your customer service reps, they’ve already looked for answers online. One study showed that 39 percent of customers check a company’s online FAQ page before contacting customer service.

In an effort to aid your customers in their search for answers, set up an online self-service portal. Portals provide users a simple and fast way of getting the information they require through FAQs, step-by-step guides, how-to videos, live chats, and helpful tips and tricks. Your customers will be appreciative of how easy it is to get help. This will also lessen the amount of recurring calls to your agents, which will allow them to spend more time on more complex issues.

Leverage the power of social media

Social media is an integral part of our connected society and your small business should be on at least one social networking platform. Using social media as part of your customer service process allows you to build customer loyalty, increase brand awareness, and increase customer satisfaction. By responding to your customer’s complaints on social media, your customers will see that you care about them and want to ensure they have a good experience.

As you look for ways to streamline your customer service, it’s important to remember that your overall goal is to guarantee that each user has a positive experience. By finding ways to give your customers faster, easier access to company or product information, you create a high-quality service interaction that will keep customers coming back.

Alice Williams has written in-depth on a wide variety of topics which include business, technology and social media. She has a masters degree in Communication Studies from San Francisco State University. Follow her at @1alicehw.

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