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How customer service can make or break your start-up

Thursday, 20 February 2014 | By Paul Migliorini

We all know how important customer service is. We’ve all sworn never to go to a particular shop or telco ever again. And we’ve all recommended suppliers who offer great service or go beyond the minimum.


Customer service is among the most effective business development techniques for start-ups, and also one of the biggest potential pitfalls. And nowadays this means online as well as face-to-face and phone contact.


According to a survey by Optus, 65% of consumers expect access to companies via both digital and traditional channels – i.e., social media, website and telephone. Yet only 12% of companies are doing this.


So how can you improve the way you interact with customers – whether you do it in person or via technology?


1. Know your customers


In order to put them first, you must understand what they need and want from you. Talk to them. Gather feedback. And look for opportunities to help them. For example, in our own business, we’ve responded to customer requests by opening centres in new cities and even in new countries. So wherever your customers want to go, try to go with them.


2. Take care of the details


This could be anything from answering queries quickly, to making your order systems easy to use – when it comes to repeat business, such details can be make or break.


3. Take a holistic approach to customer service


Aim for the same standards across your whole business, regardless of location. Reliability is highly valued: many of our global customers come to us because they know they’ll get consistent quality whether they’re launching in Africa, Asia or Europe. This makes it easier for them to develop their own operations.


4. Emphasise to all employees that they’re part of your marketing operation


No matter what their job title. If all members of staff understand what your customers want, why they come to you, and how you aim to develop your relationship with them, they’re better equipped to serve them. And incentivise them to do this.


5. Soft skills are important


Customers often comment on the helpfulness of staff. Some of this comes down to core business tasks, such as making a meeting run smoothly. But it’s also about attitude – being friendly or giving them a great tip for where to have dinner in a new city.


Customers aren’t just entries in a sales spreadsheet, they’re people. Give them a reason to keep on coming back to you.


Paul Migliorini is CEO, Australia and New Zealand, for global workplace provider Regus.