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Picture of a grenade with a number attached to the pinNo matter what business you’re in, your company runs on customers (or clients). Without happy customers, you can close up shop. Being excellent at customer service doesn’t have to be hard, and certainly doesn’t have to cost money if you’re just starting out.

The best advertising your business can get is word of mouth. Sure, it’s a slower process than other marketing strategies, but it’s also a lot cheaper and easier to do.

A few methods that make your customer service awesome:

  • Have a FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) on your website. If you get the same questions over and over, why not answer them in public? It saves both you and the customer a phone call or email.
  • Check your email often, and reply as soon as you can. Even if it’s a non automated message telling the customer you received the message, but are not in the office and will reply with an answer when you are.
    Answering an email after office hours shows a sign of commitment, but don’t make it habit.
  • Speaking of emails. If you’re working with someone else, make sure you have a shared inbox with your co-worker. This way,  if one of you is not available, the other can always respond.
  • When you have Facebook/Twitter setup, monitor that as well. More important: if you have Facebook set up to send status updated to Twitter automatically, make sure you also engage in the Twitter replies. The same goes vice versa.
  • I know this one is debatable, but get a toll free number. Sure, long distance minutes are getting cheaper by the day, but if you can lower the barrier for potential customers to phone you, you should.
    eVoice® is an online service that allows you to create a toll free number and forwards it in sequence, or simultaneously to phone numbers you specify. You have 2 extensions (Let’s say “sales” and “service”) and you can set “quiet time”, so you don’t get phone calls at 4am.
  • Don’t leave people waiting on the phone. If you have to put someone on hold for longer than a few minutes, tell them you’ll call back when you have the answer (or whatever it was you needed to put them on hold for). The most frustrating thing on the phone is being “on hold”, whether or not it’s with annoying elevator music and be bombed with more questions.
  • When you say you’ll follow up: do so. A great free service to send yourself reminders via email at specific date/time is FollowupThen.
  • Don’t outsource if you don’t have to. Another frustrating thing is when you phone a helpdesk and the call gets answered by someone you can barely understand and seems incompetent. Don’t get me wrong, some offshore helpdesks are great, but you have to do your research before you hire a company. These offshore companies often have no connection to your company and just read the script you’re feeding them.

A small side-note: When you send emails from your smart phone, nobody cares if you have an iPhone, Blackberry, Samsung or HTC. Please make your email signature on your phone just as professional as the one in your regular emails, which should have your name and contact information, other than the email address your customer sent the email to.

These are just a few methods to make your customer service better. We would like to hear your thoughts on how companies can improve their customer service in the comments below.