Improve small business customer service with a personal touch

OM Adapter CanonElizabeth’s online business is selling merchandise on eBay. She started her company a few years ago when she decided she no longer wanted to be a banker, and in the back room of her home and a two-car garage to warehouse merchandise, her business has grown by leaps and bounds. Elizabeth used to spend countless hours replying to customers and answering questions by email; so much time that she didn’t have time for her own family, so what did she do?

Elizabeth has become streamlined and innovative, but still strives to reply to customers, improve customer support, and reduce time. Her first strategy was to refer customers and contacts to a website, and there she  introduced  her knowledge base. Up went an obvious link stating, Frequently Asked Questions. She started with the very basic questions and answers customers would repeatedly ask her and has been adding more ever since.

Next came the forum that Elizabeth set up. With nearly a one-click installation, different categories were organized giving people the opportunity to discuss pre-sale questions, member questions, customer support, while creating a personal touch. Since Elizabeth has chosen at this time not to participate on social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook, her forum still gives her the opportunity to participate and answer questions or give suggestions. When Elizabeth is not able to participate on her forum, frequently there are other members who are more than happy to supply information to new members. She does use a moderator, but has rarely had to intervene. It’s interesting to add that her forum has a search function for customers and members to find related posts, which in turn brings more knowledge to readers, participants and interested prospects.

When the FAQ and forums are not enough to help her customers, Elizabeth also has a Help Desk. A customer logs in and sets up a user account. The software program has pre-written responses for repetitive questions. If a customer still needs further assistance, she can set up an online ticket, attach files, and credit card information, and feel confident all information has been sent confidentially and securely.

Consequently there are fewer emails now to answer and a lot more time to devote to her family. Customer service has improved, and Elizabeth’s thriving enterprise continues to expand.

photo credit: muddanudo

6 Responses to “Improve small business customer service with a personal touch”

  1. Glenn said:

    Aug 30, 10 at 7:35 pm

    Hmmm. Maybe this is a generational thing, but I don’t see any “personal” touch here. I see “online,” and through the forum I see “social,” as in social media.

    However, that’s not to say I disagree with her strategy. It sounds very efficient.” But not “personal.”

  2. Gave Arnold said:

    Aug 30, 10 at 9:46 pm

    A help desk has also helped my company a lot. What do you recommend? We are currently using Zendesk.

  3. Matthijn said:

    Aug 31, 10 at 3:55 am

    Great example of inovation in the field of customer service. Some Fortune 500 companies, like Cisco and (ofcourse) Dell, also evolved their customer service strategies by adapting tools like social media, FAQ and specific (tech/non-tech) websites. It realy helped their efforts in improving customer satisfaction.

  4. Cheryl said:

    Sep 02, 10 at 10:16 pm

    Actually much of the personal touch happens with Linda’s participation on her forum. People ask her about her experiences when she started out to the most unusual items she has ever sold. Many of the forum members write about shopping for their children, husbands and even pets. She’s very personable, and it shines through in her conversations. Thanks for asking.

  5. Tara said:

    Aug 21, 12 at 11:58 am

    I agree with Cheryl. Also, from personal experience, I have interacted with business owners over facebook and i love it. It really adds a personal touch when business owners care enough to respond and really “be there for you”

  6. Cheryl said:

    Aug 21, 12 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks Tara. Facebook has become so important. People want to be appreciated.