Small business superpowers: Incredible customer service

Being a small business means every employee knows your business and vision inside and out. And it means that your customers can talk to anyone and get the right answer. That's something big corporations can't do.
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We've all had experiences that go a little like this: you have an issue with a service you're paying for and you reach out to their support team. There's some back and forth about what your problem is. It turns out the person you reached out to is not equipped to deal with your specific type of problem, so they connect you with a specialist. This specialist goes back and forth with you about all the details you already described to the previous support person. It ends up taking the specialist a week to actually give you a usable answer.

In that time, one (or more) of these things probably happened:

  1. 😠 You figured out how to fix the problem yourself after hours of digging into it; in that time you've missed out on opportunities you had planned to work on.
  2. 😡This problem actually caused an issue with an existing opportunity that you now have to work doubly hard to win.
  3. 👿You've had to temporarily use something else, and now you are juggling multiple services to accomplish the same goal.

This feeling of frustration with unhelpful and untimely support is all too common. So common that this just happened to me a few hours ago (can you tell I'm still steaming about it?).

At Less Annoying CRM, our goal is to make sure our users who reach out to us get the answers they need from us in as few emails or calls as possible. Most customer questions are answered within an hour, and most demo calls result in a fully customized account within the timeframe of the call. In addition, we provide robust documentation and video tutorials for anyone to find any answer they need on their own.

While we're incredibly proud of our customer support and our CRM Coaches, we don't think this level of customer care is unique to us at all.

That's because we picked this up from other small businesses like yours.

There are 3 typical ways someone can interact with your company:

  1. A new prospect/lead wants to know if you're the solution to their problem.
  2. A new (or current) customer wants to know how they can use your service to solve (or more effectively solve) their problem.
  3. A current customer has run into an issue with your service.

The usual recommendation, which is what you see in many large companies, is to split these interactions up to be handled by teams of specialists: you have your sales team (to sell your solution to prospects), your customer success or account management team (to help your new customers find their footing and make sure your current customers stay happy), and your customer support team (to handle one-off questions).

The thinking behind this is sound: you want to have teams that are uniquely good at achieving specific kinds of outcomes to be focused entirely on doing just that, instead of spreading themselves thin.

But the problem here is that knowledge of your product or service is now segmented.

If a current customer wants to know about how pricing will work for a different service your company offers, should they talk to their account manager? Or start a new conversation with sales?

If a new prospect wants to know if your product has been tested to work in a specific environment, should they be pointed to customer support? Or stick with sales?

This set up works well when an interaction fits into one category nicely, and is efficient when there's a large volume of interactions each day. For big companies, both of these are often true which is why customer interactions are still managed this way.

However, that's how we end up with frustrating back and forths -- any person who has a question that doesn't fit neatly into just one of those options will end up paying the price.

Small businesses have the luxury of doing this better, and it's crucial to take advantage of that.

Small businesses have smaller teams. Superpower: More collaboration and less bureaucracy.

With a smaller team, even if you have specialists, you know exactly who the specialist is and can ask them right away. If there's a problem you're not equipped to solve, your contact gets sent to the correct person right off the bat with no waiting around time to figure out who the right person to handle this question is.

In fact, if you've ever interacted with Less Annoying CRM via email, you may have noticed that we often hop in for one another when a teammate is in a meeting or working on a separate project. However, we make sure no knowledge is lost in the transition. Every teammate has access to the full email threads, the complete call notes, and knows exactly who the right person to reach out to for any given type of problem they can't solve independently.

For customers, this means less time needed to get answers, and more time actually doing the work they need to do.

💡 Tip: If your entire team isn't already working together in Less Annoying CRM, this is a good reason to start! Having shared access to a contact's history means that everyone is on the same page about any contact every day. Here are some ideas on permission set ups in Less Annoying CRM to try when different departments/teams are sharing the same LACRM account.

Small businesses offer a more curated suite of services. Superpower: Everyone can be an expert.

Being a smaller company with fewer employees means you don't have the same manpower to offer everything a giant corporation can. But the benefits of offering a tightly curated suite of services (or a product with niche offerings) is that not only can you excel at delivering for clients with those specific needs, it means that your entire team can be an expert on these services.

Fewer offerings means there's just less overall that a teammate needs to know about what your company can do, which gives everyone the opportunity to fully understand your product or service inside and out.

At Less Annoying CRM, every single teammate (including our co-founders) works with customers for at least an hour a week, no matter what team they are on. This ensures everyone is up-to-date on what our product can do.

For customers, this means they don't have to worry about finding the right email or phone number to reach out to; they can contact anyone and know that they'll get the answers they need.

💡 Tip: Use your CRM account as an internal knowledge base! A contact record or company record doesn't have to just be used for leads or customers; it can be used for your team to share information about your own company.

Small businesses work with a smaller volume of contacts. Superpower: More time per interaction to build genuine relationships.

Not having hundreds of leads calling every minute or hour means there's no need to limit each interaction to 15 minutes in order to make sure everyone gets their needs addressed. (Or worse: put everyone on hold for hours!)

Small businesses can choose to dedicate more time to customers with more complex needs, and these customers can tell. Spending more time with a customer lets you build rapport with them, and is foundational to building genuine relationships outside of the transaction.

I'm not unique here in that the businesses I love working with (and recommend the most to others) are those with whom I feel heard and understood -- my favorites are those whose team I even know by name. 100% of these businesses are small businesses.

💡 Tip: Actually use a CRM. If you're reading this and you're not already using a CRM, this is exactly how a CRM can help you and your team out. By having contact profiles that you can add historical notes and other details to, you're better able to personalize every single interaction with your contacts. Be sure to keep your information up to date -- any CRM is only as useful as the data in it.

As small businesses we can't compete against large companies on many things, but can always win when it comes to quality of service.

Every single small business can provide an incredible quality of service that a big corporation down the street cannot. The core characteristics of a small business naturally lends itself to allowing every single customer interaction to be highly effective.

If your small business does not currently have customer service/support/management as a high priority, I would encourage you to consider doing so (and live up to it!). And if you already do, I'd recommend being loud and proud about it. In this day and age of automated chats and robo responders, offering quality, personal customer interactions is a huge selling point and strong differentiator.

If you're looking for a simple way to answer the question "why should I choose you instead of this big company that's offering me that incredible deal?", this is it.

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