While most startups are already paying close attention to customer service, particularly in the early years, they can sometimes struggle with striking a balance between being productive, scaling and maintaining the human touch of personalised customer experiences as they continue to grow.

When it comes to customer service, what works for a few customers over email also needs to work for hundreds more across all channels. And no startup wants to sacrifice quality or drastically increase costs.

Here are a few practical ways to help your startup stay productive and scale, without making your customers feel like they’re working with a robot.

1. Empower your customers to help themselves
A well-designed Help Centre – or an all-in-one online knowledge base, community and customer portal – deflects customer enquiries and appeals to the 67% of consumers that would prefer to use self-service rather than contact support. When your customers can find their own answers quickly and easily, everybody wins.

2. Collaboration is the key to productivity
Small inefficiencies add up quickly and drain your startup’s resources. Saving you and your staff time and improving collaboration boosts productivity without becoming robotic. Collaboration tools like Flowdock and Trello are two cloud-based collaboration and productivity tools that allow employees to communicate and stay organised.

3. Context is vital
Scale is about more than simply handling an increasing amount of customer enquiries. Discovering that certain customers have different expectations requires that you have enough context to respond to them in a helpful way.

Ordinarily, you are likely to respond differently to a VIP customer or a customer that is emailing you after having already called three times that week. In order for you and your staff to continue to do just that, you need to be armed with context quickly and clearly in each customer interaction. That means providing data about each customer immediately when they get in contact with you.

4. Be everywhere at once
This sounds impossible, but it’s actually rather straightforward. The modern customer demands an effortless experience, which means they want to be able to connect with you when and where it’s convenient for them. That might be on the phone, or via Twitter, over email or even within your company’s app.

Building a multi-channel support foundation allows you to tie these multiple touch points together so it’s manageable for you and your team. It also means that you’re able to easily add new channels as they arise and increase in popularity with your customers. Consider solutions that can expand to include traditional phone, email or live chat support alongside social media, self-service and embedded mobile offerings.

5. Embrace automation
Striking a balance between a personalised customer experience and responding to customer requests in a timely manner can be difficult. So how do you ensure a good experience for your growing customer base without taking too long to respond?

Use technology that extends your capabilities rather than becoming an unpleasant robotic replacement. Consider setting up time-based escalations or action-based alerts for customer enquiries and writing templates for FAQs and frequent responses. Little things like these allow you and your staff to respond faster, but maintain a personal touch when it counts.

Daniel Scheltinga is director of customer advocacy, APAC, at Zendesk.

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