How Small Businesses Can Virtualize and Automate Customer Service 

According to a study by Gartner, 89 percent of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer service. Just four years ago, that number was only 36 percent. Customers expect more from their service experience, and more companies are meeting the demand. The study also found that by 2017, 50 percent of consumer product investments will be redirected to customer experience innovations.

Small businesses may already understand the need for a strong CRM process in theory, but face real challenges putting it all into action without a dedicated staff and large budget in place. Fortunately, there are ways to create automated, virtualized services to turn your business into a customer service success story. Here are five tips to get started:

Provide Self-service Options

Customer service has extended past hopping on the phone with traditional service representatives and into self-service options. And the ability to get quick answers could be the key to nailing your next sale. Data from Forrester found that 53 percent of U.S. adults are likely to abandon a purchase if they can’t find quick answers to their questions.

Sort through your email for the most commonly asked questions to create a guide for your business, and make the options for self-service highly transparent and readily available for your customers. Give your customers the answers they’re looking for with a comprehensive FAQ section, a video library of product tips and tutorials, and common answers featured alongside the product description.

Offer Multiple Support Channels

Customers want to reach your business with the channels they use most whether Twitter, Facebook, phone or email. Monitor your social media channels with a service like HootSuite to keep tabs on who is talking to your company, what kinds of questions they need answering and what problems they may be having.

Email and phone are still a necessary tool for your company’s customer service experience, but you still need a number that can be reached universally. Set up a toll-free number to display on each page of your website for quick support options.

Use a Virtual Call Center

A virtual call center is another way to offer call support for your customers. A virtual call center allows your representatives to work from anywhere, whether in your office or their own homes. Hire call center reps through a site like UpWork for help only when you need it. For example, companies with a largely seasonal business model can fuel their virtual call center with freelancers and scale up and down as needed.

Create Service Automation Emails

Automating the customer onboarding process can free up your time while giving your customers the immediate tools they need to get up and running. For example, a company selling software can set up email automation that starts deploying the moment a customer purchases a product.

Use a system like Convert Kit or MailChimp to automatically send out emails daily, weekly or monthly to your customers. Cover commonly asked questions, tutorials on using your products and helpful tips to offer automated customer service.

The real key behind automated and virtualized customer service is to focus on the processes involved. Customer relationships can’t be automated, and still need nurturing to grow. At the end of the day, customers still want personalized, quality care from brands. Master the art of automation, virtualization, and personalization and turn your customers into loyal fans.

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