Your ability to generate long-term success in your small business is tied to the way you interact with and treat your customers. If you provide outstanding customer support, you’re more likely to stay profitable and increase your sales. On the other hand, if your support is lacking, you’ll lose customers, and your sales will drop.

The latter is preventable by focusing on creating a positive experience for your customers when they interact with your company to get help. In today’s world, customer support is everything, and it’s crucial that you get it right.

Is your customer support team efficient?

Building an efficient support team is fundamental to your success. When your support agents are efficient, they’re also productive. Your customers will be happier, and that’s how you’ll stay in business long-term. For example, say you have an overwhelming number of ticket support requests and your agents can’t get to all of them within 24 hours. That’s going to be a problem for some customers.

The solution is implementing a help desk ticketing system that automatically routes help requests to the right department or person. Taking it one step further, your ticketing system should also offer self-help solutions for customers before allowing them to create a ticket.

For example, you don’t want to give every user access to create a ticket from your support web page. If you do that, you’ll get flooded with requests from people with issues that can be easily solved on their own.

Instead, you want to put the ticket creation process behind a bit of a barrier that requires users to identify their issues first so they can be presented with information to help solve their issues on their own. For example, you don’t want your ticketing system to be filled with tickets from customers asking for the address to send their returns. An automated system can easily provide this information.

When your ticketing system is easy and efficient, your customers will be happy. On the back end, you also need your system to support employee efficiency so your agents aren’t bogged down with requests. If your support team is spending most of their time answering the same redundant, simple questions, they’re going to have less time to work on critical support issues and that’s when customers with serious inquiries will feel frustrated.

Bad experiences are subjective

Survey data shows that the majority of customers will stop buying from a business after just one bad experience with customer support. What constitutes a bad experience is subjective to each person, and some customers have a higher tolerance level than others.

For instance, some people consider a reply that takes more than 24 hours to be a negative experience. Others don’t mind waiting a week as long as they are taken care of eventually. They might be a little inconvenienced, but not enough to give you a bad online review or say something bad about your company.

However, most people agree on the basics: a good experience is characterized by having their needs met, and if that’s not possible, being refunded or credited, all while being treated with absolute respect.

How to deliver exceptional customer support

So, now that you know how important it is, you’re probably wondering what you can do to deliver the type of support that creates satisfied, loyal customers.

Here are four proven methods.

1. Automate your chat requests with AI

One of the best ways to create customer satisfaction is to automate support requests that come through your chatbot. An intelligent virtual assistant powered by conversational AI can provide 24-hour support to your customers and website visitors. Instead of sending pre-programmed responses based on a few keywords, a conversational AI chatbot will construct custom responses based on relevancy to the context.

At first glance, you might think automated support will have the opposite effect. However, self-service is a major key to a positive experience. It’s not just a way to decrease your support team’s workload. It’s actually a critical component in developing customer satisfaction. In fact, 67% of customers prefer self-service over live support.

When there’s an issue, most customers don’t want to talk to a live person because they feel like they can find the solution faster on their own, and in most cases, that’s true. They also don’t want to have to repeat their issue over and over to different people, which is usually what happens when talking with a human.

The downside is that not all automated self-service systems work. Many of them leave customers feeling frustrated. To effectively automate customer support, you need conversational AI that is connected to a thorough database full of self-help content, like a FAQ section or your blog.

Many businesses use AI regularly to improve customer service because it also increases productivity. However, an automated chatbot will only be supportive when you have the resources your customers will be requesting.

2. Prioritize your support team’s productivity

Your customer support team will be most productive when given the tools they need for success. This inevitably requires using automation of some kind. It’s just not humanly possible to manage a load of support requests efficiently without the help of an automated system. Even if all you do is use it to direct requests to the right email inbox, that will do wonders to improve productivity.

To reduce support agent workload, you can route simple requests to other people. Your support team is human and they have maximum limits for the workloads they can handle. To provide the best support, they need more time to work with customers who have complex issues.

An automated system can filter out lower level requests that don’t require anything more than someone looking up information the customer couldn’t find on the website. This type of request can be handled by anyone from your company. However, requests that require extensive knowledge of your product or service should always go to your actual support team.

If your support agents aren’t responding to tickets fast enough, find out why and then implement tools to solve those obstacles. Your team wants to be productive, and sometimes all it takes is the right software.

3. Go above and beyond

Good customer service is appreciated, but outstanding service is what gets people talking. You’ve probably seen reviews where people say a company gave them a big discount, bent the rules for them, or a rep went way far out of their way to solve their issue. This is the kind of service that will generate influential testimonials.

For example, say you provide local services for building fences and you get called to install a new fence on someone’s property. While you’re there, you notice an existing fence that is falling apart and it won’t take that long to fix. Maybe it just needs a couple of new posts and you happen to have them in your work truck. Go the extra mile and fix their broken fence.

It might cost you an extra $50 in lumber, but if they’re buying a new fence, they’re probably already spending thousands of dollars, so you may as well give them a little freebie. They won’t care about the dollar amount. The fact that you took it upon yourself to help them with something they didn’t ask for or pay for will mean a lot to them. When you give more than someone pays for, you’re showing that you are reliable and trustworthy. People love businesses that over-deliver and will tell their friends about you.

4. Be lenient with your returns

Nobody wants to get returns, but it’s an inevitable part of doing business. Plus, being lenient with your return policy will make your customers happy. Obviously, you need to set some boundaries.

It doesn’t make sense to accept returns a year or two after purchase unless it’s a defect under warranty. However, make the refund process for customers simple. If that means letting them keep the product, do it because convenience equals satisfaction.

Allowing people to keep a product they want to return also keeps your team productive. This is because you don’t have to hire anyone to receive, manage, and process those returns. You can save a lot of payroll dollars by doing it this way because handling returns requires labor. Additionally, you’ll have to figure out what to do with the returned products. Returned products will always be hanging around and taking up space. What’s more is if you have to throw them away, you’ll need to pay for disposal.

Some returns are normal. To avoid excessive returns, make sure you’re not creating false expectations from your advertising. Also ensure that your product or service delivers on all claims. Be clear in your marketing and target the right people.

Be committed to customer satisfaction

The bottom line is that your long-term profitability increases when you commit to providing outstanding customer support. Part of that requires offering self-service options, making returns hassle-free, and having support staff who are friendly and knowledgeable.

The other part involves going the extra mile to ensure satisfaction, whether you’re dealing with a return, an exchange, or a request for technical support. If you get this right, you’ll have happy customers leaving you glowing reviews. And, you’ll see a boost in your profits.

Featured Image Credit: Photo by Yan Krukau; Pexels; Thank you.