Many business owners think of customer service as “just one of those things” and write it off as a necessary expense. But with a little effort you can reduce the costs of providing customer service and improve your customer’s experience.
Every cent you spend on operational costs eats into your profit margin. As a responsible business owner you want to reduce those costs as much as possible. While many of your expenses are fixed or non-discretionary (e.g. rent, utilities, salaries, etc.) there are several areas of your business where you can make better financial decisions.
One area that’s often overlooked is customer service — The way your business interacts with your customers during and after their purchase.
Here are some ways you can automate customer service, head off issues, increase customer satisfaction, and reduce your costs.
- Provide Comprehensive Instructions
- Create a Knowledge Base
- Write and Maintain Your FAQ
- Provide a Forum
- Identify Common Problems and Fix Them
- Let Customers Report Issues Online
Provide Comprehensive Instructions
When you provide products and services in the first place, make sure they’re supported with highly-relevant, easy to understand information, online tutorials, and instruction manuals. Think about the typical use cases for your goods, and create documentation to address those. Test out your guides with customers and tweak them so they’re perfect.
Reduces costs by: Giving customers the information they need up front, so they’re not contacting you for explanations and guidance on using your products.
Create a Knowledge Base
A “knowledge base” is a collection of previous issues, problems, workarounds, and guidance for both your customers and your customer service agents. Customers can search your knowledge base to solve problems themselves and your agents can use it to quickly identify common faults and resolve issues efficiently. This means less time dealing with tickets and happier customers because they get a first-time fix.
Reduces costs by: Giving customers the ability to find their issue and learn about fixes themselves. Allowing customer service agents to fix problems more quickly.
Write and Maintain Your FAQ
Similar to a knowledge base, but focused more on how customers might choose to use your products, your Frequently Asked Questions section is less about problems and issues, and more about how to get the most out of your goods. To build a good FAQ, review your customer service tickets for the type of questions your customers often ask. Then, write comprehensive, easy to understand answers and publish them on your website.
Reduces costs by: Answering customer questions before they have them, meaning they don’t need to contact you for information.
Provide a Forum
If your goods and services have an active community of users, it might be worth creating a dedicated forum where those users can interact and help each other. They can post common issues and find out how other people are resolving those problems. You can also have one of your agents moderate the forum and provide advice and links to supporting information where necessary.
Reduces costs by: Letting customers help each other and resolve issues before they need to contact you.
Identify Common Problems and Fix Them
There’s nothing like real-world testing to identify problems and issues you never thought of when you were developing your products and services. Your customers are your best source of data. Go through the customer service tickets and find common themes — What are the particular ways your goods are failing? Use this information to refine your products and services and fix the root cause of the problem.
Reduces costs by: Ensuring common problems don’t recur.
Let Customers Report Issues Online
We’re all used to self-service now, and that extends to customer service. Give your customers the option to report issues themselves through an online tool. It saves them having to email or call you with all the details and means your staff can spend time fixing the issue, rather than responding to individual calls. It also gives the customer more of a sense of control.
Reduces costs by: Eliminating the need to respond to phone calls. Ensuring necessary information is gathered in a consistent way to allow for a faster fix.
Taken together, these solutions can substantially reduce the time spent on customer service (thus reducing your customer service costs) but increase the satisfaction of your customers.
Do you have a cost-saving solution that still allows your staff to provide great customer service? Share it in the comments!