How Tiny Businesses Can Offer Stellar Customer Support


In all the best practices and how-to’s, it’s easy for a small business to get lost with applying every customer service tip.

You don’t have the budget of Amazon or the resources of Nordstrom. Forget a 50-person department dedicated to customer support – you don’t even have fifty employees, period.

Does that mean tiny businesses don’t have what it takes to provide amazing customer support? Far from it! Deep down you know that customer experience can be one of the most powerful tools to drive customer retention and business growth—and you’re not wrong. That’s exactly how we’ve built Kayako’s customer service software, and influencers have been saying this for years.

Anthony Tjan, CEO of venture capital firm Cue Ball, holds that small companies are actually better at customer service than bigger businesses:

For my money, the two best customer service practices are sincere empathy over indifferent calmness and common sense over standard operating procedure. These two simple guiding principles remind us how easy it can be to transform the customer experience.

How tiny businesses can improve customer support

Forget money and manpower. Small businesses have resources and strengths that large corporations can’t replicate. By allocating those resources in the right way, you can leverage your unique superpowers to create out-of-this-world customer support experiences. You can set your business apart from the crowd – without the multi-million dollar investment.

Focus on the customer experience

One of the best ways to lighten the load on a small, overworked customer support team? Make it radically easy for customers to use your product. When you create an effortless customer experience, you can cut off customer struggles before they become a problem. And your support team will feel a tangible weight lift off their shoulders.

How can you rally the whole company around the customer experience? Here are a few ways to get started.

Set customer experience goals for everyone

No matter the role, everyone is working to make life easier, better, faster for customers. Every member of your team contributes something unique to the customer experience. The way you measure those contributions will vary from one person to the next.

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When you’re focused on creating great customer experience, it helps to use metrics that speak to that focus – even for roles like engineering and marketing.

Share customer experience benchmarks across the business

Each team member now has their own customer experience goals to work toward. That’s great. But to help everyone stay super engaged with the customer experience as a whole, they need to see the impact their work has on moving the needle.

If you’re thinking customer experience isn’t the easiest thing to measure, I hear you. We recommend using Net Promoter Score (NPS) to get the best feel for customer happiness – and sharing your NPS performance far and wide across the company.

Collaboration station

Amazon does a lot of things right when it comes to customer service and support. That’s why they’re consistently rated number one in customer satisfaction. Everything they do holds the customer first and foremost in mind.

One of your most powerful tools here is your support department. They talk to customers every day, have a deep understanding of their struggles, and are often a customer’s only point of contact after a sale. That’s why they’re an invaluable resource when it comes to helping the rest of the team create an effortless customer experience.

When other teams collaborate with support, you can thoughtfully address real problems that real customers have.

Draw from your strengths

Big businesses operate the way they do because scale and budget are their strengths. Smaller businesses can’t compete with those – but you have your own, separate strengths to draw from. Namely, you aren’t bogged down by rigid operating procedures.

Small businesses draw strength from their agility. They leverage flexibility to infuse every customer interaction with personality. How can you take advantage of that freedom? I’m glad you asked!

Hire for emotional intelligence

As Anthony Tjan noted, empathy and common sense are two of the most powerful assets of small businesses. If you’re going to wield them against crappy customer experiences, everyone on your support team should share those strengths.

During the hiring process, we look for role-specific skills, related education, even traits like adaptability and self-motivation. To give your business a leg up, you should both hire and train for emotional intelligence, too.

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Empower customer support agents

One of the best things about small businesses is the lack of red tape. You aren’t tied down to rigid operating procedures or complex tiers of escalation. When agents have to rout customer issues to superiors, it adds time and frustration – not exactly something you want customers to feel.

Take advantage of the flexibility and empower your support team. Give agents the authority to make decisions. Give them the autonomy to take action and proactively solve customer problems.

Learn from the big guys

There are plenty of benefits to doing customer support the small business way. Still, big businesses do get a few things right. That’s why it’s important to combine your small business strengths with learnings from how the big guys have done it.

Think about behemoths like Amazon or Nordstrom – they’re renowned for their customer service. To scale that service takes big business resources, but to learn from it is free!

Consistency breeds loyalty

One of the toughest aspects of customer support is providing a consistent experience. Agents are human – they react differently to the same problem depending on the day. Some days are crazy busy. Some aren’t.

Regardless of behind-the-scenes factors, customers expect a consistent support experience every time. They want to know what to expect and to have those expectations met. Always. That’s why larger businesses have routinized workflows and escalation tiers. They enable support agents to provide the kind of consistency that breeds customer happiness and loyalty.

Invest in the best

When a multi-million dollar budget isn’t one of your strengths, it’s easy to fall victim to the skrimp-at-all-costs mentality. “We’re small, we can’t invest,” you think.

The truth is, working within a smaller budget is more about deciding where to invest to get the biggest return. What aspects of support can you actually improve by devoting some of your limited budget and manpower? It comes down to two things:

  • The right people and
  • The right tools for those people.
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The right people

We’ve already talked about hiring for emotional intelligence. It’s one thing to identify job candidates who have the right stuff – it’s another to invest in those candidates. That means a few things. It means seeking out people who might be a good fit. It means being willing to pay up for high quality employees.

And it means investing in your existing employees.

Make emotional intelligence (sometimes called EQ) an integral part of your support training. Caring, empathetic individuals give your support team a head-start, but EQ training keeps them at the top of their game.

The right tools

The right people want to be successful. They want to help customers and make their experience as effortless as possible – but they can’t do that alone. Your team needs the right tools. Tools that enable them to stay organized, to anticipate customer needs, and to understand the customer journey on a deeper level.

Investing in powerful communication and helpdesk tools (like Kayako) enables your team to provide the fastest, most effective support. Meaning they can help more customers and leave them happy as a pig in mud.

A+ customer support as your business grows

When your business is small, it’s easy to think of business growth as the only metric that counts. But if you aren’t leveraging your customer support team, meaningful growth might elude you.

We know that customers spend more money when they’re satisfied – even if that means switching to a competitor. Seventy percent of consumers are willing to spend more with a company that provides great service. That’s why businesses who focus on high-quality service and support earn 60% higher profits than their competitors.

Here’s the bottom line. Providing customers with top notch customer support means you can:

  • Charge higher prices,
  • Keep more customers around, and
  • Boost profits.

When your business is small, it’s vital that you wield every tool and in your belt to keep customers happy and spending. And customer support is one of those tools – no matter how small your support team.

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