We are a CX Think Tank building tomorrow’s socially conscious customer experience marketplace.
You just had that amazing first idea. The one that is going to be the foundation for the future. The future that will redefine or re-envision the marketplace. You are starting to put together a plan. You are stoked about this new idea that has now turned into a viable product. You have had so much success, you just got seed funding. As you look around at your team, you have all the players, all the folks you think you need. Then it occurs to you, you don’t have anyone for customer service. No one on your team has done that. No one on your team wants to do that. What do you do?
Most startup companies answer that question by hiring a junior support employee and assuming they’ll tackle customer service later, when they grow large enough. But many companies never make it to later, because they forgot a critical component of every business—the customer.
I believe that every startup company would prefer to love its customers from Day One. And—given the right toolset, guidance, and mentorship—I believe they can. So I am going to share my personal insights on how I would launch a customer service organization for any startup out there.
The very first thing every startup should do is hire a customer service leader. Hire someone who knows how to build from the ground up. Someone who can understand your company vision. Someone who can be the author of the customer service work that their employees will share and be ambassadors of every day with your customers.
Many startups will say it’s too expensive. Some will say it’s too early. Others will say let’s wait until we grow. Your first priority should be the heart of your company, which is your customers. Take care of them, and they will take care of you and your product vision.
Hire a super-capable leader first.
The second item to solve is how many customers do you think you will have, and how often do you expect them to contact you? How long do you anticipate these contacts to be? What medium will you use to support these customers (IE communities, email, chat, phone, AI)?
Once you understand this, you are in a much better position to determine the number of people you need to support the demand that will arrive on Day One. This will be the beginning of a weekly process of forecasting volume, average handling time, and headcount to ensure you deliver amazing response times to your customers at all times.
Next you must know thyself and thy voice. What is the voice of dialogue you want to have with your customers? Is it fun and positive? Is it direct and informative? Perhaps it’s jovial and relaxed. As a company, you have a great opportunity to start the dialogue correctly from Day One and then continue to strengthen that dialogue as you build positive, meaningful relationships with your customers.
Once you know your voice, you can then hire talent who can ensure your voice is never lost as you grow.
Too many companies fail to deliver a consistent customer service experience. Customers expect the same experience time after time, whether it’s super-fast responses, quick resolutions, or a combination of these and/or other things. It is imperative that you tell your customers what to expect and then deliver against that expectation.
Often times, great startup companies fail because they send mixed messages to their customers, not realizing the immense value of consistent and valuable engagement.
Many startups assume they can wait until they get larger to worry about how to run the customer service operation. What happens instead, however, is that they grow so quickly that they never have a chance to build that operation, and then their customer service teams become a hodgepodge of parts, rather than a well-oiled operational machine based on strong fundamentals and strategy.
Amazing operations are often not built from the fun and interesting work. A successful customer service operation requires tools and tech, CRM solutions, process, methodology, frameworks, business continuity plans, and many more super-important and often overlooked components.
If you are in a room and someone says, “We can launch customer service without data,” please speak up. This is one of the largest mistakes a startup can make. If you don’t know your customers, you can never retain them. If you don’t track them, then you can never know how to help them. Data is one of, if not the, most important items for a startup to pay attention to. At the very least, every startup should track key information that impacts customers. No matter how amazing a talent you hire to talk to your customers, without this kind of data, they will eventually fail.
Your first 90 days as a startup will be tough, challenging, and super fun!
If you can accomplish all the amazing things you want with your product and then supplement that effort with customer service acumen, you will be in position to start an amazing conversation with your customers and have them become co-creators and wonderful ambassadors for your brand, product, and future!
Jerry Leisure is a CX thought leader who believes the heart of every company is its customer and that a CS marketplace will become the lifeblood of best-in-class CX teams. He can be reached via LinkedIn or firstname.lastname@example.org.