When an entrepreneur starts a business, his or her concentration centers on developing and marketing a product. Once a product is ready, sales and developing a customer base becomes the top priority.
Unless the entrepreneur has a detailed business plan, including how to deal with customer issues, customer service is an afterthought; most businesses don’t give any thought to dealing with customer service – the service is classified as overhead instead of profit-generating, and is usually underfunded and low down on the list when money is allocated.
While this attitude is prevalent in business today, it’s wrong. A viable customer service department can save your business customers by resolving their issues promptly and courteously, provide valuable data on trends, and assist your sales force in reaching new customers. However, funds to provide proper customer service are usually not part of a start-up’s budget.
Keeping your customers happy
A large proportion of a company’s headaches are caused by customer complaints; valid complaints lead to product improvements, but managing customer expectations is a difficult task. Customer service representatives must be courteous, even in the face of outright rudeness and hostility from customers, and resolving their issues is usually beyond their authority level.
Depending on the company’s product, the customer service representative may deal with end-users trying to install or use a technical product, or may deal with unrealistic expectations from a beauty product or a supplement. Whatever the product, the customer service representative must do the “tap dance” to keep the customers happy with the company and its products.
The customer service department
In most companies, customer service is not planned; it comes up when the company must deal with unhappy customers. The department is also not planned; it grows from one or two initial employees to a full-blown department as the customer base grows.
The handling of calls, the recording of trouble complaints, the procedures for resolution all evolve over time, until a workable system results. Usually the lowest-paid employees, the representatives (reps) hold the company’s reputation in their hands – not something a business thinks about until a customer relations nightmare happens.
Paying for customer service
As we said before, unless a start-up’s business plan has provisions for a customer service department, with funding, the business will develop its customer service area as an afterthought – something come up with to meet an unforeseen need. On the balance sheet, customer service is considered overhead – a necessary expense of doing business – instead of an income-producing asset.
One way or another, a business will have to pay for its customer service, and usually it will under-allocate for the service. There are businesses who exist to provide other businesses with customer service call centers; we’re all familiar with reaching call centers in countries where English is not the primary language.
There are businesses, however, who provide customer service assistance with English as the primary language, and who have locations in English-speaking countries, including the United States. These businesses are cost-effective for small companies who need top-notch customer service, but who can’t afford their own in-house facilities just yet. Outsourcing customer service is an effective way to pay for the business function.
There are many companies who provide customer service outsourcing, ranging from barely adequate to first-rate. One first-rate company is Boomsourcing. Boomsourcing started ten years ago, in 2007; their initial product offering was hosted call centers, giving small companies a way to have a call center without having to spend the resources to build one.
Boomsourcing provides an outsourced call center for low cost, allowing the company to focus on their product or service while providing excellent customer service. The company changed its name to Boomsourcing to reflect its growing product offerings, but their primary product is their patented call center software, PitchPerfect. Boomsourcing is a fast-growing outsourcing business; they were recently listed as number 54 on Inc. 5000’s 2017 list of fastest growing private companies.
Customer service as a vital business need
Whatever product a company sells, it must have a way to keep its customer base happy, with the product and with the company. In this technological world we live in, finding alternate sources to do business with has become an easy thing to do; it pays a company, in terms of keeping existing customers and in finding new ones, to have a first-rate customer service experience.
Whether the company develops its own in-house customer service department, outsources the function, or a combination of the two, to survive in this competitive market, customer service is no longer an afterthought, but a vital business need, and companies must recognize the reality; customer service is moving from a back-office function to a front-stage player.
This post is part of our contributor series. The views expressed are the author's own and not necessarily shared by TNW.