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    Keep customers happy and maintain your work-life balance: Virginia Martin, founder of Búl

    Smarter Writer
    Smarter Team

    A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

    Smarter Writer
    Smarter Team

    A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

    Customers might be making enquiries about your business around the clock, but you don’t need to trade your well-earned downtime to be helpful and responsive. Virginia Martin, founder of Melbourne fashion label Búl, relies on self-service online tools, automated tech and sharing the load with her team to make sure she maintains her work-life balance – without compromising on quality customer service.

    Virginia Martin founder of Búl

    Consumers’ expectations around communication with businesses are shaped by how they interact with larger companies. In fact, 61% of consumers surveyed for the Telstra Business Intelligence report on Customer Experience say they expect SMBs to respond to their queries as quickly as large businesses. With fewer resources, it’s often unrealistic for small businesses to match the capabilities of large corporations – but some clever strategies can help you to get on par. Here, Virginia Martin shares how her business does it.

    Encourage customers to self-service

    When a customer lands on Búl’s website, a series of prompts appear to predict the most common queries – and provide answers. You could liken it to an in-store experience, where customers are greeted by an employee who succinctly explains what they can expect to find in the shop. On site, product pages are detailed with item descriptions including information about fit and materials. There are also sizing guides, terms and conditions for delivery and returns, and a helpful FAQ section. “This allows our customers to access information quickly to help with purchase decisions and not have to contact us via another channel,” says Virginia. “This helps keep our team free to manage other duties and it’s much quicker for the customer.”

    Lean on automated technology

    Tech and digital tools, like predictive live chat, can help to take on some of the heavy lifting from staff who would otherwise spend time responding to queries manually. Virginia says Búl maintains its high level of service by leaning on tech wherever possible. “The more that can be automated or easily managed through technology, the better,” she says. “It also allows for greater reporting on customer experience and insights that can help support business decisions.” And it’s these insights – which are otherwise lost in a phone call or scattered through email trails – that have allowed Búl to develop its comprehensive set of self-service tools that are working so well.

    Share the customer service role

    Before COVID-19, Virginia found that many customers favoured in-person encounters when making an enquiry. “Some preferred the ease of being able to drop into store, as generally the nature of an in-store enquiry – such as an exchange or a product enquiry – could be handled immediately,” says Virginia. As the retail and eCommerce landscape continues to change, the team has had to adapt to deliver the same quality of service through digital channels. Outside business hours, any enquiries that come through are promptly answered the following morning; a task shared by the team. Having an after-hours boundary in place helps to make sure no one is working around the clock. And reassuringly, the Telstra Business Intelligence report on Customer Experience found that only two in five consumers expect a small business to be available to respond to them 24/7 (whereas half of SMBs expect this of themselves).

    How to shore up your business’s customer service approach

    Our quick checklist can help you find opportunities to improve how you respond to customers – and potentially save you time in the day-to-day running of your business.

    • Create an FAQ page on your website
    • Make sure product pages have comprehensive information including descriptions, specifications, materials and any other helpful resources relevant to your product (like size conversions or availability details)
    • Include details about delivery and returns on your website
    • Implement automated tools like live chat on your website or social media channels, and use them to provide instant responses to customers – even if it’s just letting them know when they can expect to hear back from you
    • Manage and review enquiries through a customer relationship management (CRM) tool and use this information to inform business decisions
    • Train your team to manage customer enquiries, then delegate these where possible
    • Make responding to customer enquiries part of your daily routine, not an afterthought

    Using these simple strategies can help you sustain a balance of responsive, quality customer service, without burning out and compromising your much-needed downtime. Need help to determine what tech can help you get on the front foot? Request a call back from an expert here.

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