Starting a business is a financial juggling act. To grow an impactful, profitable business, you need to pour money into your infrastructure and resources. But in the early days of your development, you won’t have access to much revenue. Unfortunately, one of the most commonly neglected areas of a startup is the customer service department; because you don’t have many customers in the beginning, you might think you don’t need one, or that it can wait until later. However, you do need some kind of infrastructure so you’re ready for your first-stage customers — some of the most important customers you’ll have.
So how can you build and develop a suitable customer service strategy without spending too much money?
Use customer service software
One of your best options is to use customer service software, which can either facilitate greater efficiency in your customer service team or outright replace them with automated features. For example, TeamSupport’s customer service software enables businesses to better manage B2B customer interactions. Some startups shy away from customer service software because it costs money, but the monthly rates associated with these products are far less than the time and money you’ll save using them — not to mention, they’ll lend themselves to better overall customer experiences, which is invaluable for an early-stage business.
Hire freelancers and contractors
Another option you have is to increase your reliance on freelancers and contractors, rather than full-time staff members or other high-commitment hires. You can use a tool like Upwork or Outsource to get the job done. Freelancers are generally less expensive than full-time workers, partly because full-time benefits are not involved. With freelancers and contractors, you’ll also have access to a broader range of potential candidates, so you can find someone with the exact skills, expertise, and price level you need. The flip side, of course, is that the search process is time consuming, and you may deal with flakier workers than you would with full-time staff.
Hire remote workers
Also don’t underestimate the potential to hire a remote customer service team. With modern communications technology, it’s relatively easy to set workers up for a regular schedule, and track their performance no matter where they are or when they work. The advantage here is that you’ll save on office costs; every worker you add to your office-based team increases your total expenditures, so the smaller you can keep the local team in the beginning, the better.
Utilize support and coordination software
Support and coordination software – such as team ticketing programs, cloud storage, and instant messaging platforms – can help your workers remain coordinated and productive in their individual and group-based efforts. This is especially important if you plan on having multiple customer service reps working under a team leader or supervisor. Again, you’ll have to pay a bit of money for subscriptions or licenses here, but if it helps your workers execute their tasks more productively, it will be worth it. Chat apps like Slack and task management apps like Producteev are some of your best bets here.
Create FAQs and help content
You can also encourage your customers to help themselves by creating more FAQs and help content for them to access. Granted, you’ll have to pay for this to be created, either with a freelance writer or by investing the time yourself, but it’s a one-time expenditure rather than an ongoing cost. Once created and made available (and easy to use, with a search or indexing function), your customers will have an immediate option for support that requires no dedicated team member. It’s not a good idea to rely on this entirely; some people will always prefer human contact for their support, but it’s a solid and cost-efficient foundation on which you can build.
Offer social media support
Another option is to use your existing social media marketing platform as a secondary means of providing customer service. For example, you can set up sub-accounts or separate profiles to handle incoming customer service inquiries. By hybridizing your marketing and customer service efforts, you’ll be able to save on some labor and infrastructural costs. However, this is a difficult strategy to scale, so be prepared to change tactics if you plan on seeing a significant increase in your customer base over the years.
Just because you’re operating on a limited budget doesn’t mean you can’t build and train an excellent customer service team. In fact, you can continue to use some of these frugal strategies as you scale your team and business upward; hiring more productive workers for less money can only be a good thing for your brand’s reputation.
Just remember to keep your customers a top priority, and closely monitor customer satisfaction rates so you continue to improve.