One of the problems that many small businesses and start-ups face is customer outreach. Small businesses are trying to reach out and build an audience, but they first have to convince that audience that they are capable of providing the same level of service as any larger or more mature company in their industry.
As a child, I remember that sensation of standing on the tile floor of my kitchen, looking up at the countertops. I would stand on tiptoe and stretch my arms up, grasping at lower cabinet knobs and the smooth granite tabletop, my sneakers scraping and squeaking against the wooden drawers. I was trying to reach all the things on top of the counter: the fruit bowl, the cookie jar, the telephone; all the numerous fun things I imagined up there, but could barely see from my vantage point. The kitchen counter was full of limitless possibility. But, I wasn’t tall enough. So how could I reach?
If I asked my mother, she could give me what I wanted. Or, I could find a stepping stool or stack a pile of cookbooks. It would take me years to grow on my own, but if I had something to stand on, I could make myself tall enough to reach.
In order to get up to that “kitchen counter” of customer reach, small businesses and contact/call centers need to find stepping stools to make them stand tall. Here are six ways to reach up and out.
1. Cover Your Bases
By establishing a contact center for your small business, you have made a great start. Excellent customer service is one of the most important aspects of business, as I have already discussed here and here. Providing customers with easy and varied means of contacting you shows off great customer service and leaves that customer with the best experience.
When a customer calls your business, they want to know that they will reach and connect with your company. They may be looking for user help, looking to place a complaint or leave a compliment, or merely seeking more information on your company. The person who answers the phone should be friendly, knowledgeable, and willing to assist. That is the customer’s only concern.
The customer has no way of knowing how many people you have on your end available for their call. So, even if you have only two or three seats (agents) in your call center, they only know that the person they are speaking to connected to them personally. You can have a small contact center with customer contact capabilities equal to that of a 200-seat call center, you just need the software solution with the scalability to do it.
2. Hire the Best
Operations for your small business have to run smoothly with as few employees as possible. This might mean that some employees have to take on multiple roles, such as accounting and HR, or shipping logistics and customer service. You might be tempted to hire employees with less experience in order to cut back on costs.
Do not do this.
In order to be the best and grow as a company, it is better to hire select professionals with a real understanding of what they are doing. The best have a working knowledge and up-to-date experience in the industry. It might be difficult to persuade them from the cushy support of a full-size company, but the recent recession has left a number of qualified individuals looking for work. Snatch them up while they’re in between jobs by showing them your big picture creative vision (as well as a detailed plan of action) and ply them with promises of future growth. Be sure to deliver on your end, though, especially when the incentive you provide is belief in your vision and not necessarily monetary.
3. Supplement with Free Labor
Since your hiring budget has gone to finding the best of the best, you should look to supplement that with free or cheap labor. Namely, interns.
There are thousands of college students and recent graduates looking for industry experience and willing to work for free or for a small stipend for it. It’s a win-win situation. You find the help you need without blowing through huge amounts of capital, and you are helping them by providing recommendations and industry experience that has real value when it comes time for them to find a full-time industry job. And, it gives you the opportunity to mould the perfect employee from the ground up, so that when you find you need to fill a position internally, you have a selection of proven and qualified candidates.
4. Internet Presence
One of the best ways to get your small business’s name out to potential customers is to have an engaging internet presence. On the internet, you can have a huge presence without needing to be a huge company.
An internet marketing strategy is key. Pick two or three of the best social media sites to reach out and engage your customers. Make sure you update regularly and post content that is interesting, informative, and engaging. LinkedIn is great for B2B connections. Pinterest works wonders for creative industries like fashion, home, and retail. Facebook is the best way to engage customers on a personal level. Twitter provides instant updates and is a good way to promote your blog. Make sure that all your content is easily shareable between the social media sites, and that all content links back to your webpage.