5 Simple Customer Service Rules for Every Startup

Great customer service is at the core of every successful business, especially for startups. This is because what they lack in brand recognition and resources, they make up in exceptional customer services.

At Tenantify, we have learned from the playbooks of many successful startups, and strive to deliver exceptional customer experiences. Here are the five rules that we practice.

1. Delight the customer beyond a script

Large companies are often burdened with rigorous processes. This is great for avoiding customer service mistakes, but it limits agent’s ability to serve customers beyond a phone script.

In contrast to this rigorous customer service process, Zappos encouraged their agents to throw away phone scripts and delight customers in unexpected ways. Their founder Tony Hsieh likes to tell this pizza story: One night, Hsieh suggested his friend call Zappos to order a pizza even though they don’t sell pizza. Despite this though, the customer service agent actually found a list of local pizza places that would deliver to the hotel for Tony’s friend.

I am not suggesting that every startup should prepare agents to order pizza for customers. However, every startup should prepare everyone with the customer-first mentality.

2. Protect the customer even if there’s an invisible threat

When the whole world was aware of the Heartbleed problem, we made a swift decision that diverted engineering resources to fix the bug for Tenantify. It was not an easy decision internally. One pushback was the opinion that we are too small to be hacked. Another pushback was that many large websites were resolving the issue slowly, so why should Tenantify prioritize?

Ultimately, we looked at our customer-first value and believed that we had to do the right thing. Our customers might not be aware of our effort, but at least we can sleep tight at night, knowing our customers have been protected.

3. Constantly improve your product by listening to the customer

The idea for anyone to pay lip service is simple enough, but the practice itself is so difficult that only a few companies do it well.

Ed Zimmer, CEO of Ecco, a maker of back-up alarms and lights for trucks, said that the company’s success is inseparable from its customer feedback loop. Ed said, “We talked to customers a lot. We were always accessible. And we did some simple surveys… while other people were putting in automated phone systems, we continued to have someone answer the phone—and our goal was to have it answered on the first ring.” It turns out customers loved these simple things. While it had increased Ecco’s operational cost, it has kept them successful until this day as it keeps innovating based on customer feedback.

4. Do not sell product; solve customer problem instead

It is often too easy for a startup to fall into a sales mode because they often live at the edge of survival. As a result, “making revenue” is often the Number 1 goal for many startup CEOs.

However, being in the sales mode becomes a problem when the interests of the startup and its customers are not aligned. Very often, the product offered by the startup is not the best solution for the customers. The question that then comes up, is, “should you still try to make the sale?”

At Tenantify, we do not. We ask all of our agents to solve our customer’s tenant screening problem first. Sometimes, it naturally leads to a discussion of employment / income verification. That’s great. Other times, the customer left with a good answer without any mention of the Tenantify product. That’s even better, because the customer will not only adopt a better product to solve their problem, but also regard us as a trusted partner. Moreover, this will pressure our product team to develop a better product to win more customers in the future.

5. Be human

It sounds like a silly rule, but it’s actually rather difficult. It’s easy to treat a customer as a “customer”, but forget to treat them as a “human”.

“Cold” and “heartless” are the words most frequently attached to customer services from large corporations. It’s, therefore, refreshing when I saw Domino’s Pizza’s latest campaign where they admitted that its previous recipes were lackluster.

Domino’s could have opted for the less-risky route, but it didn’t. It was confident that its “new and improved” recipe would win back customers, and it exercised a bit of humility in order to relate to customers in a human way. As a result, the campaign paid off enormously in terms of the company’s public image.

This article originally appears on Desk.com.

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