Customer service is arguably THE most important facet of your sales cycle. If you think of the process by which you sell your product or service as a crown, customer service is your largest gem. You have to figure out how to address customer concerns, including product related questions, billing, and technical support. How are you going to handle customer service questions and issues that arise? Inevitably, many issues will revolve around billing or getting a refund for a defective product. If you can sell your wares online, working with an established player like Amazon or Yahoo can help take the burden off of you, but realize that you do pay a percentage of the sales revenue typically for this service. When I owned a gourmet meal delivery service, NuKitchen, I had to offer perfect customer service as part of the valuable proposition because customers expect to be pampered with that type of door-to-door service. Consider what “kind” of customer service your customers would demand, expect or be impressed with.
The type of business you’re setting up will dictate how much effort you’ll need to put into customer service. At minimum, treat customers as you would want to be treated – with respect – and address their concerns. Create a customer service policy and include FAQs (frequently asked questions or concerns), and provide training for anyone in your company who will be interacting with customers. On your website, provide a contact email for customers, with an automated response set up to let them know their message has been received and will be addressed within 24 hours or the next business day. Every employee interacting with customers should also be aware of online or offline sales strategies – all specials, promotions, or special needs.
With NuKitchen, for example, since we had an online business with a virtual storefront, we had several talented folks who worked in our customer care center. Since customers were spending a lot of money with us on fresh-prepared meals, I wanted to make sure they got the best service possible. Our customer care staff answered calls politely, were trained regularly, and provided guidance to customers. We had approximately one customer service staff member for every 100 customers.
Now, evaluate your own circumstances. If you’re selling through an online channel, for example, Amazon or Yahoo, then you can let that channel manage your basic customer service (including credit card processing) for a fee of approximately 15% of your revenues. While this gets you out of the business of managing a customer service department, you still need to manage your customers. Be sure you come up with a process for addressing customer concerns and challenges. In the comments below, write down the level of customer service that’s appropriate for your business.