Portrait of senior man working as barber offering great customer service

Online Customer Service Tips For Small Business

The majority of people will agree that in order to be considered a business that offers high-quality customer service, you must embrace the internet and technology.

But what does that actually mean and look like for busy small business owners?

Especially when the majority of what’s out there in relation to the internet is designed to get you more leads and grow your business; digital marketing. 

Perhaps a better question would be what does digital customer service look like for small businesses?

These online customer service tips are designed to help you provide the best all-around customer service to your customers and clients throughout the entire customer journey. 

The fundamentals of serving and attracting customers online.

1. Accuracy of Business Information Online

People use the internet for many different reasons but it all rests in solving some type of problem, want, or need.

And for consumers, the internet just works; we pull out our phones, type a few words into a search bar, and boom, we’re one step closer to what we want. 

But for business owners sleeves must be rolled up and some work must be put in!

Up first on the list of digital customer service tips is the accuracy of your company’s information online. This is quite possibly the most important part of customer service in a digital age. 

It is the foundation and cornerstone of your online presence and will set the stage for all of your digital marketing efforts. 

By not having accurate information listed online you can make it very difficult for a person to find you, learn about what you offer in relation to their needs, and even contact you. 

This doesn’t just go for potential customers either. If you don’t have accurate and consistent information listed online your current customers may have a hard time interacting with your business and might even be hesitant to refer you to their friends and family.

Having accurate business information online starts to build trust with your customer base on the most fundamental level and can actually put you a step ahead of your competitors.

Managing your online presence to ensure accuracy of information shows that you care about the experience a person has with your business before, during, and after the sale. Accurate and consistent business information removes simple roadblocks in between a consumer and your business.

The way a small business can control the accuracy of the information listed about them online is by finding, creating, claiming, updating, and verifying business listings, directory listings, social media accounts, and other online citations for their business. 

Some of these sites include:

  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • Google My Business
  • Bing Places for Business
  • Avvo
  • Thumbtack
  • Zillow
  • Yellowpages
  • Foursquare
  • BBB
  • Manta
  • Apple Maps
  • Infogroup
  • Neustar / Localeze
  • Factual

All of these sites need to have the same accurate information listed about your business. Check out this free Google Form I put together to help you gather all the required information you will need to properly list your business across the internet. Filling out this form does not mean I will contact you or start emailing you things. When you complete the form you will be emailed a copy of your responses so you can keep them on hand to ensure you have consistent information listed about you across the internet.

Another great reason you want to somehow manage the information listed about your business throughout the world wide web is that otherwise these sites will try and piece together the information and create listings for you themselves which is usually missing pieces or completely wrong altogether. Furthermore, the majority of those sites that will list your business on them accept consumer input which isn’t always 100% accurate. And both of those only cause more confusion with the search engines and the consumer when they come across the information online.

The only downside to managing business citations manually is that it is time-consuming and tedious, to say the least. The positive to managing citations yourself is the zero to low cost in doing so.

But when you claim and start to manage the listings on these websites they will funnel any suggested changes over to you for approval. So managing your own business citations online is crucial to ensuring you maintain accurate and consistent business information online.

How to manually manage your business citations

  1. First, you have to write out all of your business information so that you make sure to use the same information on each site. 
  2. Second, you have to figure out which sites your business needs to be listed on
  3. Third, you have to go and create an account on their website and create a business listing. 
  4. Fourth, with some, you then have to verify that you are the business owner to claim the listing. 
  5. Fifth, you have to keep track of the sites your business is listed on as well as the login information so you can go back and update them if needed.
  6. Fifth, you have to actually keep them updated if your business info changes.

Done for you citation management

Thankfully, there is a much better way to online business listings management. There are some online companies out there that will basically do it all for you. I would recommend that you do in fact use one of these companies only because it truly makes this aspect of managing your online presence so much easier and less time-consuming. It’s also very affordable as well. 

Below are three of the best ones out there. Each offers something slightly different but all are great options for small businesses.

Another option for citation management would be to hire a local internet marketing agency to do them for you. Chances are they will use a combination of the tools above, or many other similar options. But going this route just makes it one less thing you have to think about especially when you find the right partner. 

If you’re not sure which route is right for you and your business send me an email and I’d be happy to help you find the right platform or even partner with you to manage them as well.

2. A Small Business Website

Everyone knows that you will need some type of website if you want to have success with marketing your business online. But by looking at your website from the role of customer service you’ll understand that, like the accuracy of your information online, your website plays a vital role throughout the entire customer journey and doesn’t just exist to bring you more leads. 

Be Heard, Once Found

In today’s digital economy most are first concerned about how to get a person over to their website instead of focusing on what’s on their website and how or where it’s placed on there. This can often lead to tunnel vision and oversight as far as customer service is concerned. 

But by optimizing your website, and entire online presence, to be heard, once it is found you will be setting your business up for lasting success online. Optimizing your website to be heard once found simply means that you are focusing on making sure your website first meets the basic needs of your current and potential customers. Can they easily access the information they need about your business? Information that will help them in their decision-making process.

Doing this means that your website looks and works great on all types of devices(phones, tablets, desktops). This is also known as a mobile-friendly or responsive website. 

Your website should load fast on all connections, especially slower mobile network connections. 

Your website should be secure to protect your site visitors as well as the site itself. 

Beyond that, your website should have the right information in the right places and in the correct format. For example, you should have a phone number, business hours, driving instructions, Google Maps embed, a contact form, etc. on your contact page because that’s where people would expect to find it if it wasn’t found somewhere else on the site. This goes one step further when you make the phone number tappable so when someone is on your site using their phone they can just tap your phone number to call you.

And all of the information on your website must match the information listed about your business on other websites, business listings, directories, and social media sites.

But remember, all content on your website must serve a purpose. Ask yourself, how am I helping my customers by putting this piece of content in this place on my website. What do they want to see first? What are their problems? How can I help them?

As small business owners, you have a responsibility to serve and help and not to exploit or sell. A well thought out website will do wonders in terms of your customer service and marketing efforts in general.

3. Embrace Online Reviews

When people want to hire or buy from a company the first thing they usually do is ask friends and family for referrals. This is because, as consumers, we all know that we are more likely to find success with our company of choice that way. 

When it comes to the internet, marketing, and customer service, online reviews can be just as powerful. But online reviews are not just for the flattery of your business and it’s excellent service. Online reviews are also a great way for people to learn about the products or services you provide. 

Asking clients and customers for feedback and to leave online reviews for your business is a great way to complete the customer journey while also helping it begin for another person. It truly shows that you are doing this not just to make money or earn a living but because you actually care about helping others and providing a high-quality all-around service.

Where Do You Ask Customers To Leave You A Review Online?

The best thing about this step is that if you followed the very first tip of managing the information listed about your business online, you now also have the platforms to receive verified online reviews from your customers. 

The best review sites for customers to leave you a review on are:

  • Google My Business
  • Yelp
  • Facebook
  • Better Business Bureau (BBB)
  • YellowPages
  • Angies List

Check out this article written by BrightLocal for the best review sites by industry or niche. Niche Review Sites.

How And When To Ask For An Online Review

How and when you ask your customers or clients to leave you an online review is going to largely depend on your specific business model. 

  • Do you offer products, services, or both?
  • Is your customer cycle ongoing or one time?
  • Do you do business in person, over the phone, via email, or some combination?

It will usually be best to ask after the product or service has been bought or completed but not too long after so that the experience isn’t still fresh in their mind. 

It’ll be best to ask via the communication channel your customers or clients are most used to hearing from you on. Perhaps this is just via email or maybe even just picking up the phone to thank them for their business and asking them, following up with an email to provide the links to the sites they can leave you a review on if they desire. 

Always be thankful for them and their business and remember they are under no obligation to leave you an online review. 

If you need some help with figuring out how and when to best ask your customers for online reviews shoot me an email to start a relaxed conversation regarding. 

4. Be Consistent

When it comes to most things we understand that if we want to reap the rewards of something we have to be consistent about our efforts doing that thing. But for some reason when it comes to the internet we want it now and for very little recurring effort! 

And like I mentioned above, for consumers the internet just kind of works that way. But for businesses who want to provide the best all-around customer service there is a little bit more to it. The best way to improve your customer service using the internet is to start with the fundamentals discussed above.

When it comes to the information you list about your business online, whether that’s on your website, social media accounts, or business listings, be consistent with what you put. If you use Suite #100 on your website then you should have it listed like that on every site. 

Remember, the internet is basically just computers talking to computers. But the point is, just like with great customer service, we don’t want to make the computer or search engines job harder than it has to be. You want to empower the search engines to understand your business better so they can match you to searchers looking for you and what you offer. They don’t really have the ability to reason as we do. So little discrepancies surrounding the information listed about your business online can throw them off. 

When it comes to your website and everything else you do online, remember that value is king; not content, or design, but value. Make sure that everything you do has a benefit for your current and potential customers and not just your bottom line.

Check out this article I wrote for a detailed look into the 5 tools a small business can use in order to increase the chances of digital marketing success.