Providing great customer service when you have just one location of your retail store is manageable. You can answer all emails yourself, talk to customers, oversee employee behavior, and generally make sure that everything is running smoothly to make sure customers get the help they need in a timely manner.
Things get more complicated, though, when you decide to branch out. It’s obvious that there are financial considerations to take into account when thinking about opening a second location or increasing the size of your store, but have you considered that you’ll need to create a new customer service plan for your expansion as well?
Building customer service to scale is no easy task, but there are definitely ways to make it easier. Check out these tips for building customer service to scale:
1. Offer FAQs. You’ve probably noticed that you get some of the same questions over and over from your customers, and if you don’t offer an FAQs page on your website, you’re wasting valuable time answering the same questions repeatedly. Although many companies are hesitant to provide canned answers, just remember: Letting customers help themselves when they can is not the same thing as leaving customers to make due totally on their own. Offering an FAQs page is a win-win: Customers find what they’re looking for quickly, and you reduce your workload. Some companies also set up an auto-response to emails that lists FAQs so that customers with easy-to-resolve issues can get help right away, and then offer a second email address or toll-free number in case they still need help.
2. Develop specific company policies. If you’re growing past the point where you’re able to handle all customer service issues on your own, it can be scary to allow others to take the reins with customers. However, if you develop very specific policies for dealing with specific situations that arise, everyone in a customer service position will know what he or she is supposed to do. For instance, employees might be granted the power to refund purchases of up to $50 on their own in order to resolve customer complaints; for higher amounts, they’ll know they need to come to you.
3. Do thorough customer service training. Don’t assume your employees know what you mean by“customer service.” Make sure you train new hires not just on how to use the cash register or the difference between two similar products, but also on exactly how they’re expected to treat customers, both when customers are happy and when they’re mad. Go through practice scenarios to make sure they really understand what’s expected of them.
4. Cross-train your employees. Customer service is everyone’s job, and as you grow your company, it becomes more and more important to make sure everyone knows how to handle customer questions and complaints. Your customer service representatives won’t always be around to help as your store grows, so if others can help out in a pinch, you’ll rest assured knowing that someone knowledgeable will be there to keep customers happy.
5. Maintain the same standards as before the expansion. Just because you’re trying to do more with less doesn’t mean that your customer service has to suffer, so go into your expansion assuming that you’ll be able to maintain the same high standards you’ve always had. It’s easy to get into the mindset that you just don’t have enough time to adequately respond to customer demands, but rather than give up and let your customer service suffer, remember that you have options. Rely more on key employees, think outside the proverbial box to find solutions, and remember that customer service is of supreme importance, and you’ll be much more successful at scaling your customer service to fit your growing business.
About the Author: Valerie Cecil is a research coordinator, marketing specialist and writer for Outbounding.com. Her work allows her to investigate many topics, ranging from online consumer relations to effective communication in the workplace. When she is not working, she enjoys kayaking, watercolor, and scouting out the cutest gift bags she can find on RetailPackaging.com.