As a solopreneur, you do it all.
You manage, own, and work at your business. You create your products or services, market your business, and handle expenses. Though it can be challenging to maintain a business all by yourself, it's an incredible feeling to know that you — and you alone — are responsible for your success.
But however much autonomy you enjoy as a solopreneur, you're still heavily dependent on one group of people: your customers. Loyal customers and clients not only purchase your products — they generate buzz on social media, leave reviews that bolster your business, and market you through word-of-mouth.
Whether you're a graphic designer, a consultant, an independent travel agent, or an event planner, learn how to take your business to the next level by practicing excellent customer service. Let's take a look at the top customer service tips for solopreneurs:
1. Be Available—But Maintain Boundaries
Quick and efficient communication is key in our age of instant gratification. In fact, 90% of customers desire an immediate response when they have a question. And unlike large companies with hundreds of employees and a call center staff, you alone handle the phone calls and emails that pour into your business day-by-day.
While it may not always be possible to immediately respond to one of your clients, try to respond to inquiries as quickly as possible within operating hours. Don't let an email marinate in your inbox, and don't ignore a voicemail while you focus on other aspects of your business.
That being said, it's also especially pivotal for solopreneurs to maintain boundaries for a healthy work-life balance. Here's how to be available to your customers — while still maintaining boundaries:
Set (and stick to) clear hours of operation that customers can see on your web presence
Create an away message for email inquiries that come in after hours, so customers know when you will get back in touch
Set voicemail messages that specify your hours and when you will call back
Never skip a meeting or a consultation with a customer without advance notice
2. Keep Meticulous Records
According to a Customer Service Report from Microsoft, 72% of customers expect their customer service representative to know key details about who they are, what they've purchased, and what sort of communications they've had in the past. When customers come to your business with this expectation, it's important to meet their standards by maintaining excellent records of all your sales, conversations, and interactions with customers.
How you accomplish this depends on your scale and size. For some starting solopreneurs, a spreadsheet that tracks sales and conversations might be sufficient for a time. As you expand, however, you may start to see the need for Customer Relationship Management software (also known as a CRM system), so that you can easily see details of previous conversations.
Keeping a detailed spreadsheet or maintaining a CRM will help you with another crucial aspect of customer service: keeping up-to-date contact info. Confirming records of clients' email addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers should be built into your customer service process.
3. Maintain Multiple Channels of Communication
Every customer is unique and will be more comfortable with certain modes of communication over others. So while 98% of customers will expect to be able to reach you through email, a full 82% will also expect to access information through knowledge bases on your website.
Since you're only one person, you need to optimize each channel of communication and customer service that you have available. While this includes the obvious -- like phone and email access -- open yourself up to efficient, creative ways of offering information to your customers:
Regular blog posts that explain key aspects of your business and establish you as an authority in your field
An FAQ page that's regularly updated
Technical documents related to your product available online for download
Consistently updated social media account
If appropriate, availability through alternate channels like text message, chat, and online contact forms
4. Ask for Feedback & Respond to Reviews
One of the biggest customer service mistakes you can make is to miss the opportunity to respond to customer feedback. First of all, 77% of customers have a more favorable view of businesses that welcome customer feedback. And secondly, listening to and responding to customers allows you to hone your customer service, streamline your products and services, and keep customers happy.
As a solopreneur, combine the roles of customer service representative with the role of public relations expert. One way to do this is to immediately respond to online reviews, whether they pop up on Facebook, Google, or another social media site. Respond publicly to negative reviews, giving customers the chance to resolve grievances. For positive reviews, express gratitude and enthusiasm.
Talk to your customers about sharing their experiences on social media. See if you can share customer stories and testimonials on Instagram, Facebook, or another platform. Truly engage with feedback and incorporate it into your business practices.
5. Leverage your Solopreneur Status to Connect & Empathize
As a solopreneur, one of your biggest challenges is that you're running a business on your own. However, you can turn this challenge into your greatest customer service strength. As opposed to a big corporation, you have the incredible opportunity to truly connect with each and every one of your clients and treat them as individuals. This individualized attention can help set you apart, create an incredible customer service experience, and earn you clients (and word-of-mouth referrals) for life.
Being a solopreneur also means that you can set high standards for customer service, and stick to that degree of excellence with all your interactions. When you handle all the calls and emails yourself, you don't have to worry about a customer service rep having a bad day and alienating a customer. Leverage your solopreneur status by consistently extending warmth, compassion, and kindness to your customers. Keep in mind that three-quarters of customers stay loyal to a brand because of experiencing friendly customer service — so simple connection, empathy, and kindness can be irreplaceable assets.
Your Customers are Essential to Your Success
Manager, accountant, marketer, product developer — as a solopreneur, you do it all. However, your hard work won't take you very far without the support of loyal customers who truly believe in your brand. They are essential to your success, so use these customer service tips to help guide the way you interact with, respond to, and communicate with your customers.