We’ll go out on a limb and assume you know the basics of customer service, so let’s do something a little different here. Let’s talk about the master-level skills it takes for a small business to stay competitive today.

We’re living in the experience economy, which means service matters most to customers… yep, even more than price. In fact, 86% of people surveyed would pay up to 25% more for a product, if they knew phenomenal service was part of the deal.

Experience economy: A term first coined in 1998, this movement is marked by customers’ feelings about a company driving revenue even more than price or quality. Their memory, or experience, of the company becomes a product itself.

What does this mean for small businesses? It means you finally have a leg up on the Goliaths who can undercut you on price.

And while it’s great to be customer service oriented, it’s even better to be customer-obsessed. That might sound daunting, but we’ve broken it down for you.

Ready to make the leap? Keep reading. (Or, just skip right to the quiz to see if your business is customer-obsessed.)

Today, we’ll cover:


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7 essential skills for customer-obsessed small businesses

1. Empathy

This valuable customer service skill is so much more than saying “I understand how frustrating that is” if a customer calls with a complaint. Empathy is the ability to put yourself in their shoes, at every single stage of the customer journey. Think: how would this process make me feel if I were them: Confused? Annoyed? Delighted? (Hint: you should shoot for that third one.)

2. Self-service

This is a huge piece of the experience economy. People are busier and more technologically savvy than ever before, and they love being able to get their own questions answered without having to talk to someone. Good examples of this would be forms of online customer service like having an FAQ page (or knowledge base) or online bill pay on your website.

The benefit of making the easy answers accessible is it frees up your service team to focus on more complex customer requests and issues.

3. Consistency

Are all communication channels created equal? While you should curate a unique tone for each channel’s services—for example, social media responses feel more authentic if they’re a little less formal—it’s important to handle inbound calls and requests from every channel with the same level of attention and responsiveness.

A customer-obsessed business treats Twitter comments with the same weight as a phone call or email. That way, people feel comfortable reaching out on the platform they’re most comfortable using because they know they’ll get the same level of attention.

4. Personalization

Here’s another place you can get a real leg up on big-box stores. Customer-obsessed businesses give off a boutique feel, no matter their size, making each customer feel like a regular and a VIP.

5. Collaboration

This one’s mainly for your team (although customer collaboration is a valuable concept too). A business that communicates well across departments is better at getting customer problems solved more quickly, which means a better first call resolution rate. And the more quickly you can help your customers, the more like they’ll be to come back.

6. Proactivity

So much of customer service is reactive—you wait for the phone to ring or an email to come through, and then you handle it. Rinse and repeat. But customer-obsessed businesses (and businesses that do well on customer retention) don’t sit back and wait for an issue to reach them. They find ways to reach out to customers and check in, which often prevents mole hills from, well, you know.

Pro-tip:

Learn about agile customer service, how to do it, and why small businesses should look into it.

7. Adaptability

Customer service isn’t “set it and forget it” (here’s hoping the rotisserie chicken guy didn’t copyright that). Your strategies should live and breathe and evolve as your customer base grows.

5 steps to becoming more customer service oriented

1. Meet customers on their channel of choice

Customers today expect their experience with your business to match the rest of their life, and that means being able to contact you with questions or concerns however they feel most comfortable. If you’re easy to reach, chances are you’ll hear more from them, and they’ll feel more connected to you. This can only make your business better.

2. Use technology to personalize customer interactions

It can seem like a lot of work to tailor experiences to each customer, but technology is your friend. Upgrade to a customer engagement platform that integrates with your customer relationship manager (CRM), and you’ll be able to see each customer’s full history when they call, write, or comment on your Facebook page.

3. Dig into demographics

The best way to figure out how to talk to your customers across different channels is to know which generations are using those channels most and tailor your messaging accordingly. These are generalizations, but they tend to hold up:

  • Boomers are more likely to call you or leave a Facebook comment. They might be less likely to have patience for chatbots or other forms of automated customer service.
  • Gen Xers might call, but they’re comfortable with email and social, too.
  • Millennials and Gen Zers would rather put a fork in an outlet than make a phone call. They want self-service options so they can disrupt their day as little as possible.

It’s a lot of different channels, we know. And customer service software like RingCentral puts all your communications in one place for better response times:

4. Make your customer service more proactive

One easy way to get out in front of customer service issues is to regularly survey your base. It can be an in-depth customer survey you send out once a year, or a single question at the end of every purchase (“How likely are you to buy again?”). Or both!

However you decide to reach out to get customer feedback, be consistent with your questions, so you can measure year-over-year changes to your ratings.

5. Bust up these silos for better collaboration

Working in a vacuum can put a damper on good communication, which in turn slows down your ability to serve customers. Here are three silos you should work to break down to get everyone on the same page:

  • Agent silos. Are your agents marooned on their own island, either physically or technologically on a separate platform from the rest of your team? This can mean customers sitting on hold while they struggle to get answers from other departments. Customer service teamwork can solve that problem.
  • Tool silos. If agents are using a bunch of customer service apps on different platforms and they need to toggle between them all the time to solve issues, that slows down efficiency. This means longer wait times and fewer people helped overall, and maybe even the need to shell out for more agents to pick up the slack.
  • Customer info silos. With many common customer data systems, people’s data is tied to how they enter the support system, locking them into whatever channel they first used. On the surface this might make things feel streamlined, but it hampers any kind of cross-channel sharing of information that can allow, say, the social media team to see a customer’s journey with the company when they leave a message on Instagram.
Pro-tip:

Cloud-based communications platforms like RingCentral quickly and easily break down the walls between teams, tools, and data by putting everything needed to serve your customers in one convenient app. When everyone is working in the same software to serve customers and share information with each other, it can drastically improve wait times and first call resolution rates for even happier customers. And every moment matters in the experience economy.

Go from customer service-oriented to customer-obsessed

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a powerful customer service strategy. Take the quiz, find the areas where you really need to improve by talking to your customers and your service team, then set reasonable goals and timelines so you’re sure to succeed.

One major speedbump you can clear up in a snap? Streamlining your communications, both internally and externally. With RingCentral’s customer engagement software, you can respond to customer phone calls, social media comments, emails, and more in one easy-to-navigate platform Book a demo to see how it works today.