It’s a conundrum growing businesses face all the time - how can your company continue to grow whilst not compromising the experience your customers have come to love?
In order to solve this problem let’s first break a few things down.
What is it that your customers love?
With a smaller business customers often value the service and attention to detail they receive when dealing with you. In many cases a smaller business will be selling the same product or a similar service as a much larger more established competitor, but it’s the quality of interactions with customers that differentiate.
Why do customers love that so much?
If we examine what people mean by “great customer service” it usually comes down to 4 things:
- Knowledge, advice, experience: most people who start a business choose to focus on a field they already know a lot about - customers appreciate dealing with knowledgeable and experienced staff who give good and considered advice.
- Consistency: we all know there is nothing worse than dealing with a larger company where different members of staff say different things or - for example - the call centre says something different from the in-store staff. When you deal with a smaller business things tend to be smoother and more personalised because you usually talk to the same person each time and they will likely remember you, your situation and the previous conversations.
- Passion: people who start businesses tend to be passionate about what they do. They also tend to be motivated to do things better. Their job isn’t just a means to make a living - it’s their passion and most small business owners put their heart and soul into their start-up.
- Empathy & going the extra mile: small business owners want their customers to be happy so they will be accommodating of requests, listen to suggestions, work long hours and do things quickly - no wonder people keep coming back!
So now we know why you’ve been successful and why your customers love you - but back to the original problem - how do you scale and grow without losing what made you great in the first place?
What do other small businesses do?
It’s always good to look sideways at what other people are doing. Many small businesses do some or all of the following:
- Hire more staff - hiring part time or full time staff gives you another pair of hands but for many small businesses this can be a big cost to absorb and may not be possible. Plus finding people in the first place and then training those people to be as good as you is a big time consuming task.
- Try and outsource some activities - some companies try outsourcing certain parts of what they do to other companies - for example sales & marketing or after sales support. This can be quite hit and miss as the quality of outsourcing companies varies greatly and the cost can be high. Depending on what you outsource you also run the risk of upsetting your current customer base who may be fond of the personal touch you’ve been offering.
- Work longer and longer hours - this is actually what most small businesses end up doing - they simply work more and more. They start earlier, they finish later, they work weekends. This can often be unsustainable in the longer term and at a certain point you will hit a wall - there are only so many hours in the day and you can’t scale yourself forever.
There is another way!
So what is the solution? There has to be a better way, right? The good news is there is - and it’s called Malcolm!
Malcolm! is easy to use software that enables you to digitise your knowledge and the way you do things and put that in front of your customers.
At this point you might be thinking “Software? That will never work for my business”. Bear with us and we’ll explain how it could.
Use Malcolm! to reclaim your time
If you analyse a lot of your interactions with customers you’ll likely find that a lot of the time is taken up answering questions (for example explaining how something works) or taking them through a process (for example collecting all the information needed to set them up as a new customer or progress an order).
Malcolm! lets you create a knowledge base containing frequently asked questions (FAQs) or articles. You can turn your common tasks or processes into web based forms (we call these Workflows).
Once you’ve done this your customers can self-serve to find answers to their questions and progress tasks themselves whenever they want.
If you receive a lot of after sales enquiries you could set up a portal in Malcolm! specifically to handle aftercare issues. Let’s say you install intruder alarms. All those questions about setting, unsetting and resetting an alarm you could put in the knowledge base.
If a customer wants to change their alert settings or request a new control panel fob you could build a Workflow (a web based form) which collects all the information you need to action that request and route that information to the person in your company who deals with those requests. You can have the portal match your brand and even put it behind a password.
Plug into other systems
Even more clever is that you can plug Malcolm! into other systems and automate routine tasks.
You want every customer request via Malcolm! to get added to a Google Spreadsheet and email your accountant? No problem! Or maybe you’d like uploaded files to be added to Dropbox? Sure!
With over 1,500 integrations available you can do all sorts of neat things that drive efficiency, improve accuracy and - most importantly - remove people related bottlenecks to free up your time.
How to use start using Malcolm!
Going back to the start of this article it’s important that you scale your business without killing what made it special in the first place.
With that in mind we’ve some tips to successfully integrate and launch Malcolm! into your business:
- Remember Malcolm! is your assistant, not your replacement - Use Malcolm! to support and augment what you do - this will free up your time to deal with the more complicated customer queries and other tasks within your business that need your time.
- Create quality content - your customers appreciate the depth of your knowledge and experience so do take time to ensure that the information you commit to Malcolm! is comprehensive, well structured and logical.
- Test on a subset of customers - new customers can be a good opportunity to trial new ways of working. Use Malcolm as part of your customer service process with this group and see how things go!
- Introduce your current customers to Malcolm! slowly and when the time is right - for example if you are asked a question that is answered in Malcolm! you can send your customer the link to the answer or show them how they could access it themselves but emphasise you are available if they still have questions.
- Use Malcolm! content on your website - we’ve plenty of embed options to let you do just that. You could also link to Malcolm! content from social media or promotional emails. And if you don’t have a website or want a dedicated area for all your customer service content Malcolm! can do that for you too via our hosted hub - all in a couple of clicks.
- Enable the customer feedback tools in Malcolm! - these let your customers rate content as helpful or not. If the customers rate some content as not helpful they can leave a comment to tell you how it could be improved. This can be an incredibly valuable source of feedback and helps you refine and produce the right sort of content.
- Use Malcolm! as a differentiator - it’s another resource for customers in addition to what you already offer and is there to help them resolve their query quicker - another example of how you are a customer centric business!
- Tell people about it - multiple times! Whenever you have the opportunity gently remind your customers the fastest way to find an answer to a question or complete a task is to use Malcolm!
- Remind customers it’s available 24/7 - you’d be amazed at the number of people who browse the internet and use it to get things done in the middle of the night! Plus this will reduce out of hours emails or voicemails - perfect for reducing the start of week stress!
- Remember why you are doing this - every time a customer is able to self serve and resolve their issue it’s one happy customer and one less phone call or email or face to face interaction you need to deal with - this is the key to facilitating your business growth!
So what are you waiting for?
Malcolm! has the power to change your business for the better - and it takes less than an hour to set things up.
If you haven’t already done so why not start our 14 trial - you won’t need a credit card.