Choose the Right Customer Service Tools for Your Small Business

There are many tools available — from social media, to chat, to CRM systems — that can make it easier to serve your customers. Consider these small business tools to help you provide stellar service:

CRM System

A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system is an essential customer service tool. Not only will a CRM provide you with the reports you need to monitor your customer service, but it also can help you organize and streamline other aspects of your business, such as operations and marketing.

Essentially, a CRM helps you manage your customer relationships by letting you store and analyze data about your customers, create customized reports, and send custom emails. A CRM also lets you slice and dice data so you can analyze patterns and trends.

For example, with a CRM, you might see that your top customer often places a big order in the fall, so you can give her a call in early September to see what she needs. You can also automate contacts by, for example, setting up the system to send follow-up sales emails to customers who opened your e-newsletter.

CRM systems are available at various price points. On the high end, SalesForce costs $125 per month per user, with a user being anyone who puts data into the system. Users could include you, your customer service manager, and all of your customer service representatives. On the lower end, Zoho CRM costs $35 per month per user.

Help Desk

While most CRM systems have some functions that allow you to create “tickets” to handle customer complaints, consider a help desk application if you want more features, such as metrics and workflow.

A help desk application like Zendesk or Freshdesk can make it a snap for you to serve customers and can be used for online businesses or hybrid brick-and-mortar and online businesses. You’ll be able to create a service ticket for each issue and route customers through the proper channels to get their issues resolved.

Both SalesForce and Zoho CRM can integrate with help desk applications. Cost varies by feature. For example, Freshdesk ranges from free to $89 per agent per month, while the cost of Zendesk ranges from $5 per agent per month to $199 per agent per month.


Most CRM systems do not offer chat functionality that allows a customer to “chat” with you about issues online, but both Freshdesk and Zendesk offer it in their mid-to-higher-priced packages. Or use chat software such as LiveChat or SnapEngage. LiveChat ranges from $16 to $149 per person per month, while SnapEngage starts at $17 a month.Different customers prefer to reach out to you in different ways. While some might like email or phone, chat is essential for any small business. In today’s world, customers expect instant gratification.

Social Media

Make sure customers, at minimum, can reach you on at least one social media platform. Social media is not just a place to occasionally post about a new line you’re carrying or an award you won: It’s an essential customer service channel that needs to be monitored and used to interact with customers and fix their problems.

It’s easy to get alerts directly from Twitter if someone uses the @ sign in front of your Twitter handle, but to monitor other mentions of your company on Twitter, use a Twitter management tool like TweetDeck or the monitoring tool offered by Sprout Social. Or, to track mentions of your business across multiple online platforms, use a tool like Brand24.

Knowledge Management Tools

If you want to set up a library of frequently asked questions for customers, you can use tech tools to help you. For example, Answerbase is a good option.  However, expect most customers to want to get a response from your business rather than read an answer off an FAQ.

So why use them? They offer features that make the Q&A on your website easy for customers to navigate, through categorization and tagging, and they offer extras like community support, so customers can help each other.

Team Communication Technology

Desktop and mobile apps can help your customer service team communicate issues quickly with each other and with you, as necessary. Good choices include the popular business app Slack and alternatives like Azendoo and Bitrix24, which is totally free.

These tools can help you stay plugged in and tuned in to your customers and the team that’s helping to meet their needs.

SOURCE:  The Hartford SmallBiz Ahead

Allie Johnson

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