Managing Customer Service on a Tight Budget

“We have always found that people are most productive in small teams with tight budgets, time lines and the freedom to solve their own problems.” – John Rollwagen

Even the largest conglomerates and giant corporates face problems – varying degrees and kinds but these problems may not exactly interfere with customer service.  It is smaller businesses that are constantly struggling with customer service on a tight budget and shortage of staff. Irrespective of these limitations, customers expect a certain level of service ranging from speedy responses via social media to effective answers over the phone and or email. They would expect that IVR systems and online chats work effectively and they receive appropriate and quick answers.  However, the fact is that to maintain so many different communication channels and staff to manage them requires an extensive budget which is not always available to companies. So how can company manage customer service on a tight budget?

Customer service is about keeping customers happy, providing for their needs and meeting their expectations – customer service on a tight budget is possible.

– Start with your most valuable and important resource – your employees. In the frenzy of work schedules and the anxiety to serve customers, companies often ignore the all-important fact that if employees are treated right – valued and respected – they will pass this on to the people they interact with namely customers. Having employee friendly policies, incentives, congenial working environment and proper facilities will ensure that your staff members work in conjunction and cohesion delivering great service to customers. Also respect and value to employees cannot be on the whims and fancies of the top line or supervising managers – it must be part of the culture, something that your company is known for.  Employees will naturally give what they receive. If you want your customers to receive great customer service even on a tight budget, then start by treating your ‘own people’ right.

– When employees are treated right, they will also be given enough leeway to do whatever is required to resolve a customer’s problem or just be so great with customers that even a tight budget, customers won’t know the difference. Making customers happy or providing stellar customer service does not necessarily have to be about spending large sums of money. It is about empowering your staff and coaching them to serve customers right the first time. Teach your staff to smile when they speak with customers, remember important personal details, speak to the customer by name, call back to check with an elderly client and other such value-added means without an added cost. Doesn’t it bring a smile to your face when you see a store assistant carry grocery bags for an elderly customer or a pregnant lady? These gestures don’t just impress the customer for whom they are being done others too know that if they needed value-added service, the company would shower them too with it.

– Leverage the strength and harness the power of social media for your benefit.  The visibility and response anyone can and does receive from social media was never expected or anticipated. Businesses can reach out to billions of potential customers with just one message. Customers can gain information, have discussions with other customers and make known their views to not just the company they are doing business with, but a host of others too. Companies gain from each other’s social media sites by learning what customers want, think and expect. It’s a great way to remain connected, build contacts and gain new business. Due to its high visibility and widespread reach, social media can be used effectively for new product launches, promotional campaigns or just to keep connected with clients and that too without the added cost.  Keeping your company and your clients visible is a great way to build loyalty towards your brand, strengthen relationships with customers and gain widespread acceptance for your company that will hold you in good stead if budgets were to get tighter due to economic downturns or market volatility. The other great advantage of social media is that your company can know first-hand what customers are saying about it and you can take immediate remedial actions in case something is going amiss. Social media allows companies to be pro-active which in turn keeps problems to the minimum. A great way to manage customer service on a tight budget!

– As you build a happy client network, they will be more than happy to promote your offerings and service to people in their circle of business.  Great client referrals earn you richer rewards and additional business with decreased costs that would normally be very high for attracting new customers.  Doesn’t it feel great when a prospective client calls you because they have heard ‘great things about you from the market’?  Customers can teach you so much just by the words they utter, the language they use and the way they reach out to you.  If you are facing a crunch then there is no better way to provide great customer service on a tight budget, than listening intently to current and prospective customers.

– Use your company website to provide information to your customers. We are not just talking about your industry or their industry information but rather a gamut of subjects that they could be interested in.  Putting up informative blogs and write-ups that customers could use or even sending information via email. For example a client maybe a new parent – sending them information on baby products, healthcare for the mother and other such related information will show the client that you sincerely care about them beyond the scope of business.  Providing this information does not cost anything but is customer service at its best.

– Reward and encourage employees who go over and above the call of their duty to help a customer. This not only boosts morale but also motivates everyone to leverage their strengths to serve the customer.  No effort – however small – must go unnoticed.  Even on a tight budget your customer service levels can consistently go north if the people providing it are recognized duly and timely for their efforts. It will cost you a lost less than attracting new customers and hiring new employees.

All customers are concerned with is whether your company cares about them, how valued the company makes them feel and what can you give them more over and above what they expect. Pricing, strategies and other such technicalities come in later.  Customers care about speedy and effective responses, knowledgeable and empathetic staff and ease of doing business with your company. All these are matter of repositioning and revamping some internal processes and do not cost much. Being courteous to a customer such they remember every experience with your company fondly has nothing to do with money or the budget you are operating with.

If a company is using a tight budget as an excuse for why they cannot provide great customer service, as a customer you are better off switching to a new company. As a company it is your job to provide the best for your customers, even great customer service on a tight budget.  Creating a culture of respect and customer centricity can be done despite ‘the company’s pockets not being deep’.  It should begin from the top – the leaders must show respect and concern for customers and employees if they expect employee engagement that should be translated to how customers feel when interacting with their company.  Each customer must be made to feel like they are the only ones you have and are the most important person they know.  Be there – be accessible – let your customers know that they can count on you.  Great customer service is a mind-set – a desire to do something for the people who have trusted you with their time and money. Customer service on a tight budget is not difficult to achieve.

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