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Marketing Insights for Entrepreneurs
Source: Ian Muttoo

A Dazzling List of 50+ Customer Service Resources for Entrepreneurs

Whether you’re an entrepreneur learning the tricks of the trade or a marketing guru at a startup, you can certainly benefit from reading up on customer service.

It’s a changing landscape out there. Good customer service isn’t special—you’ve got to be great.

We really (and I mean REALLY) care about customers, so we’ve gone ahead and compiled a list of resources to help you enchant yours.

But before we dive in and tell you the best customer resources on the web, let’s recap on why customer service is so important:

There are so many more reasons why customer service rocks, so find out more with these resources.

The Business, ROI, and Analytics of Happy Customers

 

1. The Business Case for Loving Customers by Help Scout

Treating customers well is about more than being nice—it’s good for business. This guide explains why loving customers works, what matters to customers, and how you can measure customer service.

The fact is, “good” customer service is already the status quo. Treating someone with respect is expected, and not necessarily rewarded. Exceeding expectations—”WOWing” the customer—is the name of the game.

2. How Online Personalization Can Create Compelling Customer Experiences and Build a Better Business by KISSmetrics

When you’re 1 in a million, it’s easy to feel like just another number in someone’s CRM. That’s why personalizing and targeting your efforts can improve customer experience, ultimately helping you build a better business. Read on for more information.

Personalization … is about using what data you have to create a compelling experience that encourages the customer to take action and come back again.

3. 15 Website Personalization and Recommendations Software Tools by SmartInsights

Looking to personalize your website for customers but need some help? There’s tons of software tools that are easy to use with a host of features. Check out this list of website personalization tools to get off on the right foot.

WP Greet Box — Many WordPress blogging users, including me, use this personalization plug-in to deliver a welcome message to first time users depending on their referrers. It’s amazing this approach isn’t used more on commercial sites.

4. Stop Losing Money and Focus on Customer Service (Infographic) by Entrepreneur

Are you really giving great customer service? Eighty percent of businesses say their service is great, but only 8% of customers agree. What’s with the gap!? This article will help you figure out how to provide excellent service.

When customers aren’t happy, there’s often significant damage done. In fact, U.S. businesses collectively lose an estimated $83 billion a year due to shoddy customer service.

5. Customer Analytics ROI: How Grasshopper Prevented SaaS Customers From Churning by Woopra

Customer service isn’t all lovey-dovey and touchy-feely—it’s actually really mathematical. At Grasshopper, we figured out how to retain customers using a churn model. Other companies can analyze behavior to reduce customer churn, too.

By looking at customer behavior as opposed to customer feedback, surveys, focus groups, etc., organizations can get a more accurate understanding of their customers’ needs and better serve them because the behavior shows a customer’s true motivations and actions.

6. Brands are PEOPLE too! by Fidelum Partners

Act like a person, not a corporation. That’s the message of this guide by Fidelum Partners. If you want to be successful in customer service, you’ll need to harness the power of brand warmth and competence. Need the numbers? Fidelum Partners backs it up with data.

Groundbreaking research in customer behavior has revealed that the way humans respond to brands is simply an  extension of the way they spontaneously perceive, judge and behave towards one another. That insight could revolutionize your brand strategy.

7. How to Calculate the Lifetime Value of Ecommerce Customers by HubSpot

There’s tons of talk about calculating ROI, but do you actually know the lifetime value of your customers? This article helps you brush up on your algebra to calculate the LTV.

When calculated correctly, you’ll know how much your customers spend, how often they spend it, and what programs and perks inspire those buyers to become regular customers. In other words, you can use the metrics to make your customers happy.

 

Building and Improving Customer Support

 

8. Best Practices for Delivering Outstanding Customer Support by Help Scout

If you want to deliver stellar customer support, you’ve got to start with the tried-and-true best practices. Help Scout explains how to deliver outstanding support, laying it out on this beautifully designed page. 

In layman’s terms, you can generate more revenue and acquire more customers by taking care of the ones you have. Word-of-mouth marketing is powerful, and customers have shown that they are willing to do repeat business with companies that care.

9. A Great Customer Experience (Ritz-Carlton Caliber) Requires More Than Just Empowered Employees by Forbes

Your customer service team needs to be empowered to provide great care, but it’s more than that. Rather than set standards, give autonomy and control. If your customer service employees have some authority in how they respond to requests, they’ll be better equipped to give customers what they need.

If an employee starts off defensive, rigid, or withholding, a customer tends to respond by escalating their demands. It’s a classic vicious cycle. But when employees are able to start the interaction from an accepting, flexible, and generous position, customers naturally feel inclined to be reasonable in return. The cycle turns virtuous.

10. Using Yelp and Other Sites to Get Customer Reviews by Grasshopper

How many times have you consulted a review site before trying a restaurant or making a purchase? Everyone’s doing it, which is why you need to figure out how to get customers to leave positive reviews on sites like Yelp and Angie’s List. Learn what to do about negative reviews and how to get more customers to share their experiences.

Some business owners fear review sites because they’re afraid that one bad review — much like that proverbial bad apple — will spoil the whole bunch. But, if you handle a negative review correctly, you can make it work for you.

11. 5 Ways To Improve Your Customer Service by Forbes

How can you improve customer service? Well, start by being available, offering knowledge, and letting your customers get to know you. Forbes provides tons of info on how to keep up in today’s connected world.

Be upfront about where you operate from and consider ways of contacting customers aside from email. A little personal information can go a long way, and could minimize concerns of accessibility, trust, or safety.

12. How to Improve Your Company’s Customer Service by Inc.

There’s a ton you can do to enhance customer service from hiring the right people to catering to your clientele. This comprehensive post from Inc. details how you can improve what you’ve already got to stay competitive in a world where great customer service is becoming the norm.

A company’s reputation is only as good as the customer service it provides. Please a customer, and your client base will swell with relatives and neighbors who catch wind of your top-notch representatives. But upset one, and brace yourself for disaster.

13. The “Thank You Effect”: 50 Small Ways to Improve Customer Service by Desk.com

Great customer service has very little to do with the greatest technologies and tools. Instead, it has to do with the small stuff. If you’re looking for easy ways to improve customer service, check out this list. Greg Mayer describes how being nice and following up after issues can make a huge difference.

33. Have lots of ways to be contacted (whichever way the customer prefers) and funnel all of those inbound contacts into one place. 34. Get more sleep and make it easy for your team to eat breakfast. 35. Ask your customers what gifts you should buy for a friend – you’ll learn more about what they like.

14. A Primer on Turning Customer Service Reps into Support Superstars by Help Scout

Feel like your customer support team is lackluster? This article helps you figure out how to hire for support and parse out responsibilities to improve your customer service. Also discussed is the positive influence of company culture on customer service. This article is a must-read!

Companies vary in how seriously they take culture, but one trend that you probably aren’t surprised to hear about is that many of the most beloved companies take their culture very seriously.

15. Customer Service Tips: 7 Ways to Improve Your Skills TODAY by AMEX Open Forum

If you want to improve your customer service NOW, this article is for you. Even if you’re the best customer service guru out there, you can still brush up on your skills. This article suggests using CARP (Controlling, Acknowledging, Refocusing, and Problem-solving) to make sure your customer service is up to snuff.

Finding common topics of interest when talking with a customer shows interest and capitalizes on this facet of human nature. Psychologists call it “implicit egotism,” and it means people tend to like other people who are similar to them.

16. Anxiety-Decreasing Tips For Selling to First-Time Customers by Fast Company

Let’s face it—when customers are making big purchases, they face a lot of anxiety! You want to make sure you’re striking an emotional chord with these new customers and making sure you’re cognizant of feelings at each step of the process. This article shows you how.

In the 1950s and 1960s, car salesman would use impenetrable jargon to overwhelm would-be buyers into acquiescence. No one wants to be like a bad car salesman. Show empathy to earn your customers’ trust by guiding them toward a stronger decision instead of a moment of weakness.

 

Fostering Customer Loyalty and Engagement

 

17. The Importance of ‘Brand Humanity’ for Customer Loyalty by BloombergBusinessweek

Today’s brands are propelled ahead by down-to-earth, friendliness and generosity, not stand-offish, bureaucratic and corporate attitudes. Learn why customers will stick around if your brand is more person than business. Warmth has way more power than a rule book.

Our success as humans has always depended on the cooperation and loyalty of others, and in that regard, our capacity to express warmth and competence ranks among our most precious assets.

18. Brand Love for the Long Haul: Five Tips for Lasting Connections With Customers by MarketingProfs

It’s easy to say that you want to connect with your customers, but how will you actually do it? It’s not that different from fostering a friendship— you’ll need to spend quality time together, delight with novelty, and be a good listener. This article shows you how.

Oreo’s “Dunk in the dark” real-time response to the Super Bowl blackout, using social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, showed that it not only listens to culture but also has finely tuned brand behavior reflexes to prove it is present in and part of, the customer’s life.

19. How Gentlemint Built a Loyal Customer Base on a $0 Marketing Budget by AMEX Open Forum

If you don’t have a ton of cash, don’t fret. You can build a loyal customer base with $0, just like Gentlemint did. This article explains how you can swiftly build a community if you put your customers at the forefront of your thinking.

When potential customers start to make this connection [that you’re there for them], they react positively. They love what you do, and more often than not, they pour themselves into your company. It’s beautiful. Bye-bye, huge marketing budgets. Hello, repeat customers.

20. The 51 Best Customer Service Tips for Entrepreneurs by Mike Michalowicz

Entrepreneurs have a ton on their plate, so these quick tips will suit you well. Mike Michalowicz recommends sitting up straight and smiling, empowering your team, and picking up the phone. You’ll be well on your way to success after checking out this list.

It’s time to get your best customer service mojo flowing. Poor feedback from even a handful of dissatisfied customers will cost you dozens and even hundreds of would-be customers in the long run.

21. 10 Ways to Raise Your Prices Without Losing Customers by Inc.

If you decide that raising your prices is the right move for your business, don’t sacrifice your customers. Learn from the experts—honesty, gratitude, and focusing on value can all help retain customers when pushing prices up.

Be sure you can demonstrate that the value you provide is increasing more than the price. This way, customers know that they’re still getting a good deal. As a rule of thumb, over-deliver and really impress your customers for at least 100 days before communicating a price increase.

22. It’s easier to be honest. by WordofMouth.org

Even though we know lying is wrong, we’re often tempted to fudge the truth.  We lie because we think it makes things easier, but it actually makes them harder. Lying requires you to keep track of your story and remember all the details. Learn why it’s way easier to be honest.

My argument here isn’t that you should be honest and transparent because it’s the right thing to do (although obviously it is). My argument is that it’s the easier thing to do — even if doesn’t always feel that way at first.

23. The #1 Thing That Creates Loyal Customers by Help Scout

What’s the #1 thing that makes customers want to keep coming back to you? Hint: it’s not the free soda in the lobby. In this article, Help Scout claims that one quality is reciprocity. Behavioral psychologists have studied how mutual relationships of taking and receiving create unbreakable bonds.

Reciprocity is likely something that has evolved in the human brain in order to keep a majority of transactions “fair”. We often feel obligated to return favors, even if they are unasked for. This is the ultimate reason why great customer service has such a fantastic ROI (return on investment).

24. Writing Content and Code Your Customers Love by HubSpot

Sure, you can provide a product or service that allows your customers to get something done, but wouldn’t you rather have your customers love you, too? Wouldn’t you rather provide WOW experiences in content and code? In order to retain customers and attract new ones, you want to create experiences that are instantly beneficial, whether it be in a blog post or in an application.

Part of the genius of companies like Dropbox and New Relic is that their user experiences are so sticky and intuitive that the time between “getting started” with Dropbox and “benefiting” from Dropbox is minutes, if not seconds.

 

Nailing Customer Development and Feedback

 

25. 26 Resources to Help You Master Customer Development Interviews by KISSmetrics

Customer development interviews—they’ll help you figure out how to build the product your customers want. KISSmetrics helps you with the basics with this handy list of resources: where to start, how to find people to talk to, what questions to ask, and what to do with all of the answers that you get.

“Get out of the building!” How many times have you heard lean startup evangelists say that? Steve Blank often comments “There are no facts inside your building.” So, you need to get out and talk to customers.

26. You’ve Interviewed Customers. Now What? by Customer Dev Labs

So you’ve talked to your customers, but now what do you do? Customer Dev Labs explains how to find the nuggets and act on them with a crazy post-it note strategy that actually works.

One of the challenges of interviewing customers is analyzing the results. I’m typically left with a pile of terse notes, and a handful of questions: What were the most common pains? If my assumption was invalidated, what do I do next? Were there any major themes that I missed? My solution? Post-It Notes.

27. 5 Ways to Find Customers for Free by Grasshopper

Finding customers doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars. Creating content, leveraging search, person-to-person connections, trials of your services, and partnerships are all ways to gain new customers with no cost to you.

The average startup’s marketing budget usually starts at … well …$0.  That’s a scary thought, considering in 2012, Samsung’s ad budget was $4.3 billion. Fear not… With a combination of creativity and word-of-mouth, you can get people talking for next to nothing.

28. What Customers Want from Your Products by Harvard Business School

The key to success? Satisfying a need. According to this article, many marketers have lost their way, focusing more on niche segments than their customers’ actual, quantifiable needs. This article focuses on the job the customer wants to do, rather than the customers themselves, as the best way to assess your market.

With few exceptions, every job people need or want to do has a social, a functional, and an emotional dimension. If marketers understand each of these dimensions, then they can design a product that’s precisely targeted to the job.

29. Tutorials on Customer Feedback by Inc.

This customer feedback tutorial created by Inc. will help you figure out how to improve your business with customer feedback. It includes guides on how to write customer surveys, how to handle customer complains, and how to take advantage of online review sites.

Chargify’s clients were happy—as long as they didn’t have to pay. But when prices went up, the goodwill went away.

30. Saying “I’ll pass your feedback along” isn’t good enough by UserVoice

When a customer gives a small suggestion, you might be tempted to say “I’ll pass your feedback along.” But if you got that message, you’d feel like it was a cop-out. How to make it better for your customers? Figure out how to log complaints, be specific about where their feedback will go, and be honest about whether or not you can help.

Tell people no. I’ve gone over this before. People would rather hear no than hear nothing. Know something won’t ever be built? Don’t leave them hanging. Say no. See something smart that you know won’t get done anytime soon? Don’t leave it open.

 

Using Social Media

31. Will Social Media Help Kill Bad Customer Service? by LinkedIn

Social media is revolutionizing customer service because of the amount of chatter happening on sites like Facebook and Twitter. If your companies out there, people are probably talking about you. Will social media help eradicate bad customer service? Find out.

The lesson? Businesses who don’t want to risk getting scorched by large-scale social media mishaps like these are going to have to take a close look at their online customer support strategies—quickly.

32. Create Moments of Random Social Kindness by Social Media Today

Everyone wants to be treated with kindness and consideration, so why not create random moments to delight your customer? This article explains how companies make their customers feel like VIPs—and how you can follow suit.

Golden nuggets of feedback, criticism and praise that empower brands to perform random acts of social marketing kindness that makes social media relatable to our offline lives. I’m talking about that moment when someone gets their hotel room upgraded, simply because a social brand ambassador saw a Tweet about them not having a good experience.

33. 11 Best Ways to Provide Customer Service Through Social Media by The Agency Post

If you’re new to providing customer service through social media, this article is a must read. It hammers down the basics and best practices so you can provide spectacular customer service through social.

The key to responding to questions or concerns on social media is immediacy. Users love brands that listen to and try to resolve their issues, and it is important for companies to plan for those interactions to happen at any time.

34. Using Social Media to Build Relationships by Customers ROCK!

Social media is about way more than generating leads and doing business, so use it to build relationships. This post explains how tweeting the mayor of Newark, New Jersey resulted in strong relationships.

Last winter, when much of the East Coast was buried in snow from one of the largest storms in decades, Newark’s citizens reached out for help – via social media. And Mayor Booker and his team were listening via Twitter and went into action. 

35. See How The Best Social Teams Operate! by socialbakers

Do you know how many people manage social media teams or how many questions most companies anwer? The best social media teams are doling out customer support every second. Learn how to emulate the experts with this infographic laden with data.

76% of companies say that social media customer care is a ROI driver and 71% of companies see social customer care as a cost-saver.

36. How to Master Social Customer Acquisition by KISSmetrics

Yes, we like to provide customer support over social media, but ideally we acquire customers through social channels, too. This guide from KISSmetrics will teach you how to master customer acquisition on social media with awesome examples.

Non-social customer acquisition tactics are on their way out. Traditional push marketing just can’t keep up with pull marketing.

 

Fun Customer Service Stuff to Get You Jazzed

 

37. 3 Ways Improv Training Can Improve Customer Service by Fast Company

Who wants to hear someone read a script when they call customer service? Nobody does. Learn how frontline staff members can ditch the script to improve customer service. Improvise, be human, and provide great care.

The best services are also the ones that feel improvised. Customers respond poorly to those that feel robotic, automatic, or overly rehearsed. They want to be treated like a person and know that their situation is being handled based on their specific needs in the moment.

38. What Women Entrepreneurs Can Teach Us About Customer Service by AMEX Open Forum

Female entrepreneurs are leading the way with customer service, and some believe it’s because of their empathy and collaboration skills. This article discusses what we can learn from women entrepreneurs.

“When customers have problems, [women] often have a broader empathetic understanding, and quickly look for ways to fix not only the initial problem but also other areas surrounding the issue,” says Elaine Allison.

39. 99 Legendary Customer Service Quotes by Customer1

Yes, Henry Ford and Benjamin Franklin both had something to say about customer service. Check out this list of quotes to get some advice from the cream of the crop.

“Well done is better than well said.” – Benjamin Franklin and “Make your product easier to buy than your competition, or you will find your customers buying from them, not you.” – Mark Cuban.

40. Why Steve Jobs Never Listened to His Customers by Help Scout

Steve Jobs believed that people wouldn’t know what they want until they saw it, so don’t let your customers’ demands and requests bog you down. This article explores the benefits of sheltered innovation versus the impact of customer feedback.

In light of the case for innovation at the individual level, the problems with predicting customers’ intentions, and the potential lack of honesty in customer feedback … is there any point to listening to customers?

41. A slice of absolute customer service perfection by CBS

What if your son was traveling home from summer camp and got stranded at an airport without any money? Michael Hess explains how Wolfgang Puck Express came to the rescue with absolute perfect customer service. The story is extremely inspiring– definitely one to emulate.

Am I plugging a restaurant here? You bet I am — stories like this should be shouted from the rooftops, and lackluster service companies should pay attention. Bravo, Wolfgang Puck, I doubt I will experience a more perfect example of humanity in service anytime soon.

 

The Best Customer Service Blogs and Sites

 

42. Help Scout’s blog

Help Scout’s blog is chalk full of the BEST relevant, well-researched, and actionable customer service advice out there. We highly recommend giving it a read and signing up for the weekly newsletter.

43. Damn, I Wish I’d Thought of That!

Great marketing and customer service stories are everywhere. Andy Sernovitz finds them and explains why they’re great in this blog, so you can try to think of your own. Posts are short, sweet, and extremely inspiring.

44. Wordofmouth.org

Isn’t it great when customers come to you because someone told them you were great? Make more of that happen with tips, tricks, and stories from WordOfMouth.org.

45. KISSmetrics’ blog

KISSmetrics covers everything under the sun when it comes to online marketing, and they’ve got tons of tips to help you with customer retention. Make your marketing all about your customer and using KISSmetrics as your guide.

46. Customer Think

Think, feel, and connect with your customers by reading Customer Think. Experts discuss how marketing analytics can affect customer retention, how contact centers can profit from great experiences, and how you can create powerful brand messages that resonate with your customers.

47. Business 2 Community

Business 2 Community has articles about everything business, including articles on social media and lifestyle. A lot of these articles are packed full with information about great customer service.

48. Support Ops

Chase Clemons, customer support pro for the beloved 37signals, shares his tips and tricks for providing the best service. This guy really knows what he’s doing. Trust us when we say that it’s worth paying attention.

49. Freshdesk’s blog

For a daily dose of peppermints, orange juice, and customer support advice, pay a visit to Freshdesk’s blog. Articles cover tons of topics under the customer support umbrella.

50. CustomersThatStick

Want your customers to stick around? Check out CustomersThatStick for tons of articles about keeping your customers around.

51. Chief Customer Officer 2.0

It helps to get information from someone who’s been in your shoes, so read Chief Customer Office 2.0 by Jeanne Bliss. Jeanne writes with the customer service manager in mind, covering all kinds of topics.

Your Turn: What resources did we miss? Tell us!

  • http://www.verygoodservice.com/ Very Good Service

    Great post. As you suggested, here are three of our resouces that we would have loved to see added to your post:

    http://www.verygoodservice.com/

    http://blog.verygoodservice.com/

    http://verybestservice.blogspot.com

    Apologies for posting links like this in your comment box but if you think some of these are appropriate maybe you can add them to your post and take down this comment. Please do let us know via Twitter (we are @verygoodservice) so we can make sure we share it. Many thanks :)

    • http://www.emmasiemasko.com/ Emma Siemasko

      Thanks for the comment. I’m excited to check out your resources. This list is complete and was carefully curated– I am definitely interested in hearing about other resources, but I think we’ll restrict them to just the comments section until we do a new post, maybe next year!

  • http://www.customerserviceguru.co.uk/ Sophia Wright

    Fantastic list, very inspiring!