8 Tips to Improve Your Startup’s Customer Experience

Sarah Bai · March 26, 2024

8 Tips to Improve Your Startup’s Customer Experience article visual

Startups are in a unique position when it comes to their customer service strategy. Since they have a smaller customer base than their established competitors, they’re able to spend more time with each customer, provide them with more personalized service, and implement their feedback quicker.

As a result, a startup’s customer experience (CX) can often become their selling point. But because resources are limited, founders often balk at investing in this initiative. After all, good enough is good enough, right?

Luckily, you don’t need to spend thousands of dollars to improve your customer experience. A few strategic tweaks can keep customers loyal and coming back for more. With this in mind, here are eight tips to help startups improve their CX:

  1. Take a customer-centric approach
  2. Set metrics and measure performance
  3. Choose your communication channels wisely
  4. Prioritize your tickets
  5. Keep your customers in the loop
  6. Create self-service resources
  7. Gather feedback from customers, then implement it
  8. Personalize your interactions with customers

1. Take a customer-centric approach

Building a company that revolves around your customers — rather than the goals of your leadership team or shareholders — isn’t just a smart strategy for savvy founders. It’s good for business too.

In fact, 85% of customers said they’d go out of their way to do business with companies that offer better customer service. A different report from Forrester revealed that investing in a customer-centric business strategy can result in a 700% return on investment (ROI) over 12 years.

A customer-centric approach to how you do business encourages the entire organization to play their part in improving customer experience, and creates a moat around your company that protects it from competitors.

Start by providing your customer service team with the resources and access they need to assist your customers. This may look like including customer service leaders in your startup’s business decisions or assigning a different engineer each week to handle support tickets.

Empower the rest of your organization to approach their work with the customer in mind too. For example, you might ask your product team to take customer feedback into account when choosing new features to prioritize for the next few months.

2. Set metrics and measure performance

Measuring your progress helps keep you focused and on track to meet your goals. It’s why companies set and track metrics for nearly every aspect of their operations. To make sure your customer service strategy is moving the needle in the right direction, it’s important to measure your support staff’s performance too.

Set specific, measurable goals to guide your efforts and indicate whether your CX is improving over time. Then, choose which metrics you’ll use to measure your progress. Focusing on just a few of them is ideal, as attempting to cover them all will overwhelm your team.

So if your goal is to help customers as quickly and effectively as possible, you may decide to measure interactions-to-resolution — the average number of interactions it takes to resolve an issue — and customer satisfaction scores, or CSATs. Other metrics you can use to track your progress include:

  • Net promoter score (NPS)
  • Response time
  • First contact resolution rate

3. Choose your communication channels wisely

Nowadays, startups have multiple ways to communicate with their customers: email, phone calls, social media, community forums, and even live chat.

However, startups that want to communicate effectively with their customers without spreading themselves thin should focus on just two or three communication channels at first. Most founders start with email and phone calls, as they’re easy and inexpensive to implement, and add more over time as their customer service team grows.

Eventually, you’ll need a streamlined solution to help you stay on top of customer communications across multiple channels. Investing in the right tools at the right time can massively improve the quality of service your team provides.

In addition to a robust ticketing system to manage issues and service requests, startups can use omnichannel help desk software like Zendesk to handle multiple communication channels on one platform. This tool helps customer service representatives track users across the communications ecosystem for a seamless customer service experience, no matter what platforms they use.

When these tools are used strategically, even a few customer service representatives can manage the needs of a growing user base with ease.

4. Prioritize your tickets

While every ticket and inquiry deserves attention, not all customer issues carry the same weight.

Some issues are urgent and must be resolved immediately. Others will be less time-sensitive, and as a result, they can be addressed after all of the higher-priority tickets are handled. Prioritizing these requests helps your support staff make sense of the seemingly endless requests they receive and focus their attention on those with the biggest impact on the company.

New startups may opt for a first come, first serve approach since they have a relatively small volume of tickets to work through. But as your company grows, you’ll need to define what issues take priority so your customer support team can address them accordingly.

For example, you might make pre-sales questions from potential customers a priority to ensure your team doesn’t lose the sale. Alternatively, you may choose to prioritize tickets submitted by high-frequency customers over occasional and prospective buyers.

Defining which tickets and issues take priority helps establish a standard for your support staff to follow and builds trust with your customer base.

5. Keep your customers in the loop

No matter how you decide to prioritize tickets, not all of them will be handled immediately. In these cases, it’s important to stay in communication with the customer — from the first point of contact until the issue is resolved — so they know their inquiry hasn’t fallen through the cracks.

This is because a majority of today’s customers expect an immediate response from brands. Salesforce’s sixth State of the Connected Customer report showed that 77% of customers expect to immediately interact with someone when they reach out to a company.

If this isn’t feasible for your startup — for example, if you only offer support for several hours out of the day — consider setting up an autoresponder message that lets customers know you’ve received their request and how long they can expect to receive a response from your staff.

As you learn which questions and issues come up most frequently for customers, you can write up canned response templates for your customer service team to use. This ensures that these customers get the answers they need immediately, and your staff has more time to focus on the issues that need their attention most.

6. Create self-service resources

Research shows that, more and more often, customers want to fix any user issues themselves instead of reaching out to customer support for help. According to a 2021 report from CX platform Emplifi, 39% of US consumers feel that having a fully self-serve customer care option is “very important” to them.

So, as your team learns more about the needs of your customer base, create self-service resources that help your customers help themselves.

When customers resolve issues on their own, it reduces your staff’s workload and gives them more time to focus on urgent tickets. How-to resources will also be a helpful reference tool for newer members of your support staff who may not be as well-versed on certain issues as your veteran employees.

To get started, build a knowledge base on your company website with guides that explain how to use your product’s features and how to troubleshoot common issues.

Continually update it with new articles based on the inquiries you get in your customer support inbox. As your knowledge base grows, complement your how-to articles with image-heavy walkthroughs, video tutorials, and resources in other formats for customers who have an easier time learning through these alternative methods.

If customers have a hard time navigating your knowledge base, set up a chatbot on your site to help visitors find the information they need even when your team’s offline.

7. Gather feedback from customers, then implement it

Collecting feedback directly from customers is one of the most useful ways to get guidance on improving your offerings — but not all feedback is created equal.

You’ll need to gather qualitative and quantitative feedback, as each type will give you different insights into what customers think of your offerings. The way you collect feedback also influences how honest customers are with their feedback.

So, consider implementing two or more of the following methods to get a comprehensive look at how your customers view your startup and its offerings:

  • Email surveys
  • Social media polls
  • In-app feedback forms
  • Customer interviews
  • Website heatmaps
  • Analysis of website analytics

Take negative feedback in stride, as they offer helpful tips on how your startup can double down on its strong points and fix outstanding problems.

Once you’ve gathered feedback from customers, do your best to implement it. Customers who have provided feedback in the past may hesitate to do so in the future if they realize that no changes have been made.

And if other parts of your organization — like your product, design, or engineering teams — can benefit from your findings, synthesize the data so it’s actionable for them. This ensures each team makes the most of the data you’ve collected for them.

8. Personalize your interactions with customers

At the end of the day, your customers are still people. They want to be treated like human beings.

Case in point? The Salesforce report from earlier showed that 65% of customers expect companies to adapt to their changing needs and preferences, but that another 61% of respondents also feel that most companies just treat them as a number.

One of the easiest ways you can show you care about your customers is by giving each interaction the personalized touch it deserves.

Show them you’ll make every effort to answer their questions and resolve their issues — that you won’t rush through the conversation even if you have hundreds of other messages to respond to. Even if you’re working off of a script or their issue seems inconsequential, keep your responses warm and empathetic.

If you haven’t already, invest in CRM software that keeps track of customer data — including everything from the products they’ve purchased to the previous conversations they’ve had with your staff — so your support team can get a sense of who they’re talking to before they respond to the ticket or inquiry.

Turn your startup’s customer experience into a selling point

Customer service is one of the biggest ways startups can set themselves apart from their competitors — and larger companies in particular. So, lean into that. Make it a selling point for your company. Build connections with your customers instead of simply optimizing for efficiency.

Newer startups with smaller customer bases may recognize the same people reaching out again and again for information or assistance. With fewer tickets to handle, you have enough time to get to know these customers better.

Once you learn more about them, you can go the extra mile for them when it counts. For example, if your small talk reveals they’ve just celebrated their birthday or reached a milestone in their business, you could send them a gift to celebrate.

Make an effort to support and surprise your most loyal customers — and you’ll find they’ll return the favor.

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