One-third of small businesses fail due to a lack of money. Financial issues are more urgent for them than for big enterprises with higher margins. COVID-19 has worsened an already-hard situation, forcing up to 10% of small businesses across the U.S. to close permanently.
Now more than ever, businesses are looking into cost reduction. However, the competition for the client is even harsher. A drop in service quality could drive customers away and end up costing a business even more.
Customer service is one of the areas where business owners can optimize resources without significant compromises if they're wise about it. Here are five ways to save money on your customer support without losing quality of service.
1. Introduce self-service solutions.
Self-service tools are also called Tier 0 of customer support, as they provide customers the most basic information. This saves consultants time and lets them focus on more complicated and pressing issues.
The most common self-service solution is the FAQs section (knowledge base) of a website. In addition to addressing the most frequent concerns and taking a load off the support team, a FAQs section can be useful for SEO. Adding a FAQs page to your website can boost your rankings in search results with an added schema markup.
Back your knowledge base with data detecting the most common questions. Otherwise, you may miss important insights from customers' feedback and not cover all the urgent issues.
Another self-service solution is a training video. Businesses usually create these for the customer support team, to teach them all the peculiarities of the product. Why not communicate the same information directly to customers? Explaining the product in detail can prevent customers from contacting your team with the most basic questions. Videos are much more interactive and explanatory than written instructions, so publishing one on your site can save your support agents a lot of time otherwise spent on handling technical problems.
Most people try to resolve an issue themselves before reaching out to a customer support team. By introducing a self-service option, you'll both save money on support expenses and satisfy your customers.
2. Use alternative channels of communication.
Ideally, your business should be present on all the platforms and channels your customers use. But when it comes to cutting expenses, one has to compromise.
Almost two-thirds of customers would like an immediate response from support representatives (within 10 minutes). Email is mostly used to solve nonurgent matters, so your business should have a direct phone line or live chat so that customers can reach a representative fast. Since handling calls is expensive and takes more time, the live chat option makes the most sense for saving money.
Live chat has been gaining popularity for years and can often replace the phone line. The exception would be businesses dealing with the most sensitive issues, like financial companies and healthcare facilities. Also, think twice before cutting off the phone line during sales or the holiday season, since people tend to get extra anxious and want to talk on the phone in these times.
3. Automate the processes.
AI and automation tools are increasingly part of customer service. The cost savings vary for each business, but they could reach up to 75% of the budget. A great example of customer service automation is answer templates – prewritten, automatic answers to common questions received over live chat.
Chatbots are another tech solution that can accelerate the customer support process and save resources. Elaborate virtual assistants are way too expensive and unnecessary for small business operations, but simple chatbots are still effective for answering simple questions, sorting and classifying inquiries, and handling basic requests.
The trick with this kind of tech is to not overdo it. Even though chatbots and other tech solutions optimize resources, they can drive away customers who prefer human interaction. People are more tolerant of chatbots if they allow escalation to a real person. Some issues require a human touch, so complete automation of customer support is not an option. The best way to provide an exceptional customer experience is to use a combination of digital tools and professional representatives for your customer service.
4. Consider outsourcing.
Around 37% of businesses outsource at least one department to save money and resources and to get much-needed advice and expertise. The smaller the business is, the lower its customer communication flow. Not all outsourcing companies are ready to take on a client with a small business load, so, while choosing a customer support provider, look for flexible solutions and adaptable service costs. For small businesses with a low volume of customer inquiries, the most appropriate pricing model would be to pay per ticket or per minute. [Are you looking to outsource your customer service? Consider our picks for the best call center services.]
5. Use your data for the hard choices.
There are situations when you just can't afford full-package service and need to make real cuts in service. To minimize the damage, you need to base these decisions on data.
For example, 24/7 customer support is costly but increasingly expected. If you can't afford to employ people covering the phone 24/7, focus on your busiest hours, providing a phone option for the time of day when you get the most calls. At other times, limit your options to a cheaper channel, like live chat (or offer none at all, if the money situation is dire and the call volume is that low). Set an auto-reply on your email or phone line, notifying people that they reached out after business hours. By providing an option for the customer to leave a message, you can mitigate their dissatisfaction and anxiety.
Data from your customers can also help you to understand what channel is essential for your business and which one is supplementary, the languages your customers prefer to speak, and the key factors in their satisfaction and their frustration.
If most of your customers' inquiries are general and nonurgent, it may be reasonable to narrow down your customer support to emails only. If you can't afford a phone line but your customers tend to be impatient, it may make sense to use live chat instead of email.
Whatever cuts you have to make, keep in mind that they won't go unnoticed. U.S. companies lose more than $62 billion every year because of poor customer service, since many people tend to switch to a company's competitor after a negative interaction with the support team.
Your small business can explore many ways to cut your customer service expenses, from streamlining your workflow to implementing AI solutions. The key to success is to determine the priorities for your business and apply the right strategy for those needs.