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Customer Service Tips for Your Small Business

As part of last year's Dreamforce, Alex Bard, SVP and GM of Salesforce Service Cloud and joined a panel aimed at best practices for small businesses, with a focus on customer service. Bard began by referencing both Amazon and Zappos, two brands well-known for delivering incredible customer service, with well established company cultures that place the customer at the center of the business.

With the bar set high, Bard highlights four customer service tips for small businesses to focus on in order to develop the kind of world-class customer service that makes companies like Amazon and Zappos go-to examples of getting customer care right.

1. Listen Everywhere

For Bard, this point is really important. Your customers are everywhere. They’re calling, they’re emailing, but they’re also on social media so you have to make sure that you’re listening. Listen on Twitter. Listen on Facebook. Listen on forums and communities.

"My head of marketing came up with this saying during a presentation. He said, “Social media is the new 800 number” and this got a lot of mileage and traction and lots of Tweets, and it’s true. It really is."

"One of our customers, John Rote of Bonobos, asked "If 25% of your customers were calling, would you not answer the phone?” Of course you would. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be building a business. So listen everywhere.

2. Knowledge is Power

Bard says your coworkers have the best knowledge of a product, a topic, or an idea, and you need to democratize that knowledge. You need to extract it from that individual, and share it with not only everyone in your company, but all of your customers.

"Customers prefer self-service. You need to take that knowledge, you need to put it in a knowledge base, and you need to push it out to your customers. It’s a process of continuous improvement versus delayed perfection. A lot of people put time into putting together FAQs or knowledge bases or self-service systems.

They publish it, and then they never update it again. That’s when it goes stale and customers get upset. So you always have to continue to iterate, iterate, iterate. It’s really, really important."

3. Build a System

"Obviously, I’m biased. You can use Desk. It’s great. And if you grow, we’ll grow with you, but you need a system. If you’re using Gmail, StickIt notes, or Excel, you need something, some way to track, when a customer contacts you, all the steps in getting back to that customer. I can promise you there’s nothing worse than a customer having a bad experience, then contacting your business, and not hearing back in a timely fashion, or ever at all. If you don’t have a system to track it--a process--that’s exactly what will happen."

Bard notes that every customer inquiry should be given a status and an owner, and that a process needs to be in place to move customer cases from "open" to "resolved" to ensure that no customer falls through the cracks.

4. Measurement

What gets measured, gets done.

Bard says it's imperative to understand how well you’re doing, to celebrate your wins and of course, identify areas where you can improve. "These are some of the things that we measure at our company. You have to remember we were a small business. We still act like one even though we’re now part of a bigger one.

How many cases are you getting? It helps you understand how many requests are coming in and how you staff against that. What are the people asking you about? This is actually really important because if you understand the questions that people have, you could actually take that feedback back into your product and improve that part of your product so that they never have that question again. That’s preemptive customer service so it’s really important to understand not just how many, but what they are about."

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