5 things you're doing to drive away customers

Posted Jul 22, 2013 by Jenna Cyprus
As online reviews become an increasingly important factor in consumer decisions, good customer service is paramount. However, providing it isn't difficult.
In a startup, founders are usually focused on products and marketing ... but you shouldn't forget about customers. They make or break any business, and startups ignore them at their own peril.
Great customer service is one of the pillars of a successful business and should get just as much attention as quality product control. Unfortunately, many startups make the same mistakes over and over again.
Word of one ignored customer can spread like wildfire, if he or she takes to posting online reviews or simply telling friends about a bad experience. People are increasingly dependent on review sites to make decisions, so what happens if your startup gets bad reviews early in the game?
It can shut the entire company down. But it can be avoided. Here are five things startups often do to drive away customers.
1. The silent treatment
People are increasingly going to social media pages to connect with businesses, and salespeople are using SM to succeed. If a person posts a question or DMs something to a business and doesn't hear back for days -- if ever -- that forms a bad impression. If an email is sent and no reply is posted, or a phone message goes without attention, these things can destroy a business. It might not be intentional, but it doesn't matter.
2. The runaround
Nobody likes being sent on a wild goose chase, but it's common in startups because most of the employees are learning. Teach every customer service rep not to pass the buck but to take ownership of every call. This doesn't mean they have to know the answer, but it does mean they need to find it and get back to the customer within the same day. It's just proper business etiquette.
3. No contact info
It should be easy for customers to contact a business, and the contact information needs to be on every landing page, social media page, and anywhere else there's an online presence. Don't make customers go searching for a phone number, because they'll simply wander somewhere else. It's not their job to track down contact information, so make it more than simple to find.
4. Poor customer service
Getting customer service right is a two-part process. A startup needs to hire the right reps for the job, but it also needs to provide adequate and ongoing training. Record calls, provide weekly training updates, and make sure the reps are giving the right kind of service. If someone has an experience with a grouchy rep, he or she might just share that information on review sites. That's something that can be avoided.
5. No SOP
Even in a tiny startup, there should be a standard operating procedure (SOP) for handling customer relations. It should dictate how all communication is handled, whether it's phone, email, social media, or live chat. This is an essential part of the training of new reps, and should be in place well before hiring begins. Having a standard is a must.
How can a startup improve customer relations from the beginning? Start by purchasing CRM software which helps keep everyone accountable and can take care of the recording side of things. Work with a consultant to create a training schedule and platform that ensures all customer service reps have the same updated information. Consider customer service training an integral part of the process.
It's also important not to jump on the first few people who apply. Trying to match people to jobs, especially customer service, is paramount for a successful business. Choose applicants with a solid history, actually check their references, and make sure they have a good reason for wanting to join the team. Customer service is both an innate talent and a skill, so you'll want to find people who have both.