Good customer service is critical to business success.
Most business owners believe this to be true. If you get a glimpse of their monthly budget allocation, however, you’ll be surprised to discover that it’s not getting prioritized the way it should.
Customer service, like other aspects of the business, should be just as important. You have to remember that it is the direct connection between your business and your customers.
Without great customer service, it will be difficult for any business to win over fans and attract a loyal following. It’s safe to say that when customers don’t feel valued, they’d rather look somewhere else.
With that being said, having a customer service SOP is essential especially if you outsource customer service. Freelancers or virtual assistants may come and go but with an established SOP in place, there’d be consistency and continuity no matter who’s at the helm.
What should this guide cover and which questions should it answer? Below are some of our suggestions based on customers’ frequently asked questions.
The Purpose of Customer Service SOPs
The purpose of customer service SOPs is to initiate a consistent process that will effectively help customer service representatives to render services and respond appropriately in a variety of possible scenarios.
The guide will serve as a reference that will help members of the customer service group to determine the best course of action to take given a customer’s unique situation.
The scope of this customer service SOP covers the process of providing customer service itself. It contains information about the various answers to the customer’s most frequently asked questions that involve different aspects of the business.
Being familiar with the business represented makes a customer service representative sound more reliable. How can you trust someone to take care of your purchases if he has no idea what the business is all about?
Under the general section is where the common questions about the business should be addressed.
- Why is it called FreeeUp?
- When was it established?
- How did it come about?
- What sets it apart from its competitors?
- Is the business purely online or does it have a local presence?
While it’s understandable to focus on products and services, basic information about the business shouldn’t be overlooked or taken for granted. It’s going to be difficult for customers to trust members of the customer service group if they can’t answer the simplest questions.
This section not only gives you the chance to address questions about your products but it also gives you the opportunity to highlight their best features.
Below are some of the common product-related questions you’re bound to encounter:
- Where are your products manufactured?
- What are they made of?
- What are the care instructions?
- Are they safe?
- How is the product made?
- Where do the materials come from?
Knowing the answers to these questions gives the customers the impression that you’re not just selling the product but actually know it inside and out. This gives people the impression that you really did your research and that this product went through quality tests before you decided to put it out there.
This also gives you an advantage because customers want reassurance that they’re spending on something they can benefit from. If they’ve got all the answers they need, making that decision to buy shouldn’t be far behind.
Questions Involving Payment
Along with buying things online comes a variety of payment methods to choose from. From the ever-popular PayPal to the equally-recognized Payoneer or WePay, it goes without saying that having knowledge of each of these payment gateways is an absolute must.
Below are some of the questions you’re most likely to encounter:
- What are your payment options?
- What are the taxes, duties, etc. that I have to pay?
- Is it safe to use my credit card?
- How do I use a promotion code?
- How and when is my payment processed?
- What happens if my card is declined?
- Will I receive a tax invoice?
- How do I make changes to an order I’ve already placed?
- Is there a minimum order value?
An important thing to keep in mind is this section goes beyond payment methods. You have to understand that customers are shelling out money. It’s perfectly normal to want to ensure that the transaction goes smoothly and that they will receive a product in return.
With that being said, the customer service group should know what to do whatever scenario the transaction leads to. What should the customer do if their credit card gets declined? What other options do they have in case the payment methods available don’t suit them?
It’s critical to know the answers to the questions above because it can make or break a potential sale. The customer has made a buying decision at this point. Good customer service will help put that decision into motion.
Questions Related to Shipping & Returns
More than the presales support, this customer service SOP becomes more valuable when it comes to post-sales questions and transactions. As with anything in life, things don’t always turn out the way we expect them to.
Unexpected problems or issues may come out of nowhere. More often than not, they’re even beyond your control. This doesn’t mean that you can’t be ready for them, though, which is why it’s important to anticipate possible issues and have a standard process in place for dealing with them.
Below are some of the frequently asked questions you’ll likely come across:
- What is the return policy?
- What are the shipping options?
- When will I receive my order?
- What do I do if I never received my order?
- What do I do if I received a defective product?
- What if there are missing or wrong items when I receive my order?
- Can I deliver to another address, other than my card billing address?
- How do I track my orders?
- What is your cancellation policy?
- How do I contact your company if my question isn’t answered here?
There are a couple of other possible scenarios that can happen. Make sure to dig in from past experience and try to think of other things that may happen and put a process in place for each of them.
It’s crucial for the customer service group to know how to deal with each scenario so customers can be assured that they’ll get their money’s worth (or their money back in other cases).
Resolving issues like this may also take time which means there’s a possibility for them to speak to the customer multiple times. It’s important for the group’s answers to be consistent no matter which group member they speak with.
You have to remember that customers may not be in a good mood when they’re requesting returns or replacements. An established customer service SOP will help lessen the tension and disappointment the customers may be feeling when they reach out to you.
The Benefits of Having Customer Service SOPs
Having an established customer service SOP brings about a couple of benefits and below are some of them:
1. It saves you time reviewing responses
As much as you trust freelancers to take care of your customers, it’s not unusual to worry if they’re getting the task done. This is especially true when you don’t have an established process. You can’t help but wonder if they’re making the right decisions or answering customer’s questions correctly.
As a result, you’ll try to review all of their responses and tell them how to do things right next time. The problem with this routine is that you are the business owner and your time is valuable. Instead of doing quality checks, what you should be doing is finding ways to grow the business.
It is in situations like these that a customer service SOP comes in handy. With a documented and established process, everyone should know what to do in specific situations. They should know how to process a refund, help customers track their orders, and process replacements without doubting their responses.
This would help save you a lot of time too because as long as they follow the customer service SOP, there should be nothing to worry about. Yes, you may get escalations from time to time, but not having to check every response daily will definitely go a long way.
2. It reduces onboarding time and cost
If you want customer service reps to perform their duties correctly, you need to properly set them up. Onboarding, however, will cost you time and money. While this is the kind of cost that’s worth every penny, as a business owner, you’d still prefer to save money whenever possible.
An established customer service SOP will not only help save you money, but it will also help you save a lot of time.You already have a manual they can refer to that covers every aspect of customer service in it. Instead of doing a detailed onboarding, you can use the customer service SOP as a jumping point and just clarify any confusion or questions they may have after reading it.
3. It cuts down errors and improves productivity
One of the biggest benefits of having a customer service SOP is that it reduces the likelihood of committing mistakes.
There’s no denying that self-doubt can lead to a lot of wasted time. It can cause hesitation that could lead to more questions being asked instead of addressing an issue directly.
With a customer service SOP within reach, customer service reps can easily go back and check if the solution they have in mind corresponds to the existing process. While it’s ideal to know what to do in every situation they are presented with, having that reference guide will help erase any doubt that may exist.
The less hesitation, the more productive freelancers will be. The fewer the questions, the more customers they help. The fewer the errors committed, the happier the customers become. It’s a win-win situation no matter how you look at it.
4. It helps prepare your business for the future
A customer service SOP does not only help your business in its current situation. It also helps you prepare for the future especially if you’re planning to expand anytime soon.
With a ready-made guide, new freelancers can easily adapt and uphold your existing processes wherever they are. While it may require a few updates to your processes to keep up with the times, the consistency it promotes helps you keep your reputation intact.
You shouldn’t expect any disruption in business operations as well because new freelancers are aware of what they’ll do given certain inquiries or situations.
Good customer service plays a huge role in the growth and profitability of a business. People love the idea of being valued by the brand they follow, which makes them become more loyal and supportive, all the more reason to keep them satisfied.
This is easier said than done, though, especially without an established process that will guide them through. If your business doesn’t have an established customer service SOP yet, this template should give you a headstart.
This is of course, not a one-size-fits-all kind of template. Processes and procedures may vary for different companies. The best way to begin creating your own guide is to analyze and anticipate the possible questions and scenarios your customers may run into. If you have an existing FAQ page, that would be a good place to start.
Have all the answers and processes you have for the scenarios mentioned documented and categorized the same way we did above. Once you’ve collected all of them, compile them into one document which you can choose to either print or save as a sharable file, like a PDF or Google Doc. The point is to have this customer service SOP accessible to everyone who does customer service for your business.
Noel Rosos is a personal development writer, motivational speaker, entrepreneur and founder of Life’s How You Live It, a personal development blog dedicated to helping people live the life they’ve always dreamed of. He is also a writer/contributor for Arianna Huffington’s wellness site, Thrive Global. He is an affiliate marketer, a full-time husband and father, and a self-proclaimed FAILUROLOGIST.