Is Caring About Your Customers Actually Killing Your Business?!

I have a confession to make. I love watching comedies. 🙂

One of my favourites is “The Internship”. In that movie two great salesmen (played by Vince Vaughn & Owen Wilson) get fired from their jobs as they are overrun by the digital age.

Excellent at what they do, their success was all dependent on their relationship building. They were great at it. Unfortunately, things change. And finally the changing landscape rendered their skillsets of meeting face-to-face and closing deals useless, unless something changed.

Hopeless in their attempt to fit in to the workforce they decide to swing for the fences and apply for an internship at Google. They have to prove their value against much younger geniuses from all over the world.

As you might guess, things don’t quite go as planned…

Now if I were you I might be thinking, how does this movie have anything to do with customer service and customer care.

Well, let me explain.

The Two Sides To Customer Experience

I assume you’re a lot like us here at Ninjodo, trying anything and everything to take care of our customers and provide a great overall experience. Investing time in every customer and working hard to get our business ahead.

It can be time-consuming, but I feel it’s a mentality that’s well worth it.

Ninjodo Customer Care Screenshot

 

The client and customer experience is the difference between making a sale and losing it to someone else. It’s the difference between getting a great testimonial, or creating bad chatter out in the marketplace.  Every step you can take to help a lead or customer feel like they are unique, and that they matter is time well spent.

Now, if you can save time for your customer you’re getting in to a whole new world of appreciation. And using technology is one of the easiest ways you can start to do this. But you might not be aware of just what technology is available and how it can even help, right?

There is a cultural shift going on that we need to be aware of. Everything is becoming more and more automated and business is no exception.

Tools like live-chat software, knowledge bases and other small business software tools are now dominating the scene.

Acquiring customers is getting that much harder, and companies that adapt and use every tool at their disposal to help give them a boost are the ones that are getting ahead.

 

chatbots

 

Seriously! There are even AI driven bots that will engage with you on live chat. These bots are designed to try and attempt to solve those basic issues before letting you through to a live person. At that rate, there may not even be a need for customer support jobs in future.

Personally, I’m not down with that. I believe high contact and being available is the foundation of a good customer experience. But it’s pretty impressive all the same when you really stop and think about what it takes to do that.

Customers are looking for a solution to a headache, and they want their headache to go away quickly.

In this light, the situation is not so good for the average small and medium-sized business. Larger businesses are already using all of these tools and more to make sure their enquiries get answered instantly, if someone is on their website and has a question, they can get it answered immediately. This is just something most small businesses haven’t caught up with yet.

And yet, you probably have your exceptional customer service listed as something that makes you unique from other competitors.

Heck, even we at Ninjodo are proud of our deep and authentic care for the customer. This customer-centric approach gives so much value in both directions.

But how well do you really stack up to your competitors?

With most customers’ available time getting shorter and shorter, first and foremost people want their immediate pain point dealt with.

Everything else comes a distance second.

So do we need to stop doing things the way we are and just cut to the chase?

Or is this an opportunity in disguise?

Keep reading as we dig deep into all aspects of one of the biggest small business challenges today.

When you deeply care for your customer that means that you’re on a path to having customer loyalty. That’s a big plus. We all know that great feeling when you’ve just been on the receiving end of great customer service.

You feel special, unique, listened to, and like somebody has got your back.

customer-support

Sometimes, though, customer service can bring a lot of trouble to a small business.

Here are some daunting facts about customer service:

  • Good customer service can be time-consuming
  • Competitors use outsourcers which make it hard to compete
  • Good customer service can be expensive
  • Most people look at customer service as a number’s game

All of this can be true, but is it relevant to your situation? Are these relevant arguments in the customer service discussion?

For now it seems that things are pretty bad for small business owners. They are investing their time into a thing that is likely to come back to bite them sooner or later. Why is that?

 

Small-Business-vs-Corporations

 

On the one hand, you have small and medium sized companies which care deeply about their customers and clients. Working 15 hours a day to make everything perfect for the customer is not an unusual occurrence.

You answer out of hours phone calls, do video chats, demo’s, respond to customers on Facebook.

Sometimes you even neglect your family a bit. You do all that with long-term results in mind – happy customers and business success.

On the flip side, you have the big companies that don’t care nearly as much about their customers. The customer is just a cog in their machine. They are willing to do anything to automate the relationship with customers.

They find new ways of using tools and thus erase the need for human contact with customers.

Some customers appreciate this kind of relationship as it saves time…sometimes.

Most of us however, like that fuzzy, warm feeling you get from exceptional customer service.

It’s that feeling that can make all the difference between small and large businesses.

Great-Customer-Service
But how can you compete with big business?

They have endless resources, huge marketing budgets and can sustain low prices well after you spend your last penny on customer acquisition, let alone making them feel good.

Their sheer size is their biggest strength and source of value. But, luckily, that might actually be their biggest weakness.

Possible Opportunity in Disguise

I invite you to go and read the book “Crush it” by Gary Vaynerchuk. Gary noticed that the economy is going in cycles. There is a cycle where big companies dominate, after that the small players take over.

It seems that we’ll soon enter into a cycle where small players dominate.. And now is the time to prepare yourself for that.

He talks about this a lot. About always being ready so that when the chips go down you have everything in place not only to survive but to thrive.

Do you remember the last blog post 7 killer growth tactics for small businesses in 2017? If you haven’t read it yet, I outlined 7 great ways you can compete with the bigger players in your market.

I also said that it’s more important to look at what an influencer does, as opposed to what he says.

Take a look at how Gary does it …

By doing this you invest in your customers. You get the emotional capital and loyalty when you need it the most. It’s at that time the small player’s cycle starts.

It’s not all that easy, but it’s a thing that can make or break your company in the future.

These are some of the reasons customer service will always be relevant for you in your small business:

The best marketing is a great customer service

  • You’re a human
  • You’re engaging
  • Anticipation is your strong side
  • You are convenient

I would love to tell you that the current situation can be described as the epic battle between David and Goliath in which a small individual beat a much bigger and stronger opponent.

Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that because that would be a lie. There is a bunch of evidence that shows you have so much in common with the big companies.

The Fisherman & The Wall Street PhD

I love the story of the fisherman and the businessman. It’s kind of the exact situation that you and I are in.

There was once a businessman who was sitting by the beach in a small Brazilian village.

As he sat, he saw a Brazilian fisherman rowing a small boat towards the shore having caught quite a few big fish.

The businessman was impressed and asked the fisherman, “How long does it take you to catch that many fish?”

The fisherman replied, “Oh, just a short while.”

“Then why don’t you stay longer at sea and catch even more?” The businessman was astonished.

“This is enough to feed my whole family,” the fisherman said.

The businessman then asked, “So, what do you do for the rest of the day?”

The fisherman replied, “Well, I usually wake up early in the morning, go out to sea and catch a few fish, then go back and play with my kids. In the afternoon, I take a nap with my wife, and evening comes, I join my buddies in the village for a drink — we play guitar, sing and dance throughout the night.”

The businessman offered a suggestion to the fisherman.

“I am a PhD in business management. I could help you to become a more successful person. From now on, you should spend more time at sea and try to catch as many fish as possible. When you have saved enough money, you could buy a bigger boat and catch even more fish. Soon you will be able to afford to buy more boats, set up your own company, your own production plant for canned food and distribution network. By then, you will have moved out of this village and to Sao Paulo, where you can set up HQ to manage your other branches.”

The fisherman continues, “And after that?”

The businessman laughs heartily, “After that, you can live like a king in your own house, and when the time is right, you can go public and float your shares in the Stock Exchange, and you will be rich.”

The fisherman asks, “And after that?”

The businessman says, “After that, you can finally retire, you can move to a house by the fishing village, wake up early in the morning, catch a few fish, then return home to play with kids, have a nice afternoon nap with your wife, and when evening comes, you can join your buddies for a drink, play the guitar, sing and dance throughout the night!”

The fisherman was puzzled, “Isn’t that what I am doing now?”

You and I are much like the fisherman from the story right? We have enough to take care of our families and live a happy life. It seems that it’s like that at the moment.But the fact that you are here tells me that you want to become bigger and there is nothing wrong with it.

I’m curious about how can we manage to do that and still have the personal touch to our customers as we have now. In fact, you and I both are a BIG company already.

You don’t believe me? Think about it this way.

Every business can scale to become multi-million dollars business.

I like this example from South Africa. There is a specialty called Kota there. In 2005 an entrepreneur started a small business called “Tibo’s Kotas” and managed to do OK with around $4000 last year.

What’s interesting about this case is that there was a franchise that started in 2013, almost 8 years later called “Kota Joe” doing basically the same thing; selling Kotas.

Kota Joe managed to do a little bit better in the market than Tibo’s. They finished off last year with around $1.5 million in profits.

Now that’s a little bit puzzling right?

Actually, it’s quite simple.

It’s all about what YOU want.

If you want to get big, you can. You just need to scale some things in order to do so, one of which is definitely customer service. And not scaling it correctly, is what often kills a business as it grows.

If you want to stay small like Tibo, you can do that also. In that case it’s perfectly fine to do customer service in the same way you are doing it now.

Even if you never want to become bigger, you should still consider growing just a little bit beyond your current comfort zone in order to have that safety capital if you go through a dry spell or the economy starts to shift.

Coming back to the Internship, not only is it a great movie, it also has some cool metaphors and lessons for us as entrepreneurs.

In that movie we see how the old-school mentality (that of deep care and building relationships) and experience can get you to a place of being a winner easily. You just need to utilize those things you already have.

But there is also a more subtle point in that movie that’s actually quite important. When the two main characters got fired, where did they go?

Yes, they went to Google, one of the biggest tech companies in the world.

They didn’t resist the changing tides, they adapted and figured out how to inject their existing talents into the new. And so should you.

Whether you want to scale your business to big profits or you’re happy with getting a little bit ahead for safety & comfort, here are some things you can do to improve your results while protecting your time allocation as you grow.

Simple Action Steps

1#
Focus, focus, focus

In order to continue to give great customer service, you need to make sure you have the time to do so, and that means making sure you’re not stuck doing mundane things or chasing your tail with admin.

The sun’s rays don’t create fire until they are brought to focus.It’s the same with people.

Focus on only the task at hand. One of the simplest and most effective techniques for this is to use what’s known as the Pomodoro technique. Basically, you set a timer for 25 minutes, and in those 25 minutes do only one thing without interruptions. You can do it with your smartphone, a kitchen timer or on this free website.

When you first start to do this you realize very quickly how easily you get distracted, and how quickly 25mins can disappear.

I use this technique in blocks of 45mins up to 2hrs depending on what I need to do.

However, it is really important that you work up to that once you‘ve gotten the hang of getting the most out of a 25min block. Otherwise, you risk wasting a lot of time early on while you are just getting started.

Once you’ve been doing this for a while, you’ll realize just how much you can get done when you ACTUALLY FOCUS.

This allows you to either; double down if you’re trying to go big or need to bring in a bit more cash, or finish earlier and get that all important work/life balance.

The thing I suggest you start with first for this is answering emails. Seriously, do this one. When the timer stops, you get out of your inbox. In a training session a ran for some Ninjodo customers I asked the group; “How much time do you spend each day in your inbox?”

The answers I got back left me gobsmacked. Some people spent as high as 5hrs a day trying to run their business from inside their inbox. That doesn’t leave much time to work on your business.

In that session we went through several techniques you can use to reduce how much time gets sucked up answering emails. You can watch the training here. (You can watch the whole training or jump to 33 mins to get the just the conquering your inbox techniques)

Applying those techniques with the Pomodoro technique is an absolute dynamite strategy to becoming high effective.

Other things you could think about doing during these chunks:

  • Customer care calls
  • Learning something new
  • Write a blog
  • Process invoices
  • Pay bills
  • Bookkeeping
  • Contribute on LinkedIn (see item 2)
  • Contribute in Facebook groups (see item 2)

2#
Utilize online tools for your business

Tools like live web chat for your website which allow visitors to reach out when they have questions or can’t find something they are looking for. If you’re not sure what I mean, take a look at the bottom of this screen. We use a company called Purechat which I highly recommend. It’s a great tool with a free start plan and gets you up and running super quick.

See sites like Product Hunt or Alternativeto.co and find a tool that’s made for you. You will find almost anything you need there.

Using a CRM to keep on top of your customer relationships is an absolute must these days.

The ability to know or look up anything on any customer or lead within seconds gives you a massive advantage of your competitors when it comes to giving good customer service.

Whether you’re on a call and need to check what you’ve said in past conversations or you want to reach out and say thank you to someone for referring you so many clients over the past year, a good CRM system will help you do that.

Our customers for example use Ninjodo every day to manage their customer and client relationships, as well as things like cutting down their email and getting organised with their day-to-day, which in turn frees up even more time.

That’s time they get to choose how they spend; with family, on their customers or strategically on their business.

#3
Create a knowledge base

A knowledge base is simple and elegant software solution for frequently asked questions you get.

You know that it can be frustrating sometimes to listen and answer the same questions over and over again.

Well, this is where a knowledge base comes in to solve the problem. You can create articles for frequently asked questions and that can cut down your customer support requests by as much as 50%.

Well, this is where a knowledge base comes in to solve the problem. You can create articles for frequently asked questions and that can cut down your customer support requests by as much as 50%.

This allows people to find answers quickly when they need them at a time that suits them, instead of having to wait to get a response. They can also send through their questions if they are unable to find what they are looking for.

This allows people to find answers quickly when they need them at a time that suits them, instead of having to wait to get a response. They can also send through their questions if they are unable to find what they are looking for.

Here is how our knowledge base looks like …

 

Ninjodo-Knowledge-Base
What I like about knowledge bases is they are completely customizable so they fit perfectly to your website. This is a smart, elegant and effective solution for customer service issues.

We use a great software tool called Groove, take a look at their guide on how to create a knowledge base.

That’s it for today. Hopefully, you’ve got some new insights into the subject of customer service for small businesses and how you can find the ideal balance you need to succeed.

We’re living in a cluttered online world and complicated market. We should use any competitive advantage that we can get. You have a huge advantage over these new kids on the block.

It’s just like the Internship – go out there and win. But be smart about it and make sure you share this blog post “On the line”. 🙂

Check out the 6 figures growth tactics below and stay updated with our blog posts regularly.

Speak to you inside 🙂

About the Author

Simon Ogilvie-Lee, Founder & CEO of Ninjodo.