Customer service is one of those jobs people either love or they hate. There doesn’t seem to be much middle ground. As this is a service I offered myself in my early Virtual Assistant days, here is what you need to know.
There are a few different ways you can offer customer service to other businesses. You can offer phone, email or chat support, or any combination of the three. Phone service is always the most common, so that’s what I’m going to address. There are some things you need to accept before jumping headfirst into a customer service business.
1. There is always a need for customer service. It can make or break a business. Solopreneurs often don’t have the time to handle every little call. They have much bigger fish to fry. This opens up big opportunities for virtual service providers.
2. These are going to be long-term clients. This isn’t a one-off project. You are hopefully going to be landing steady clients that will be on retainer.
3. When I was offering this service, there was little competition compared to other service offerings. It wasn’t taking long to land clients.
1. You need to provide the best, most professional options for your client. This is likely going to include utilizing a virtual phone system. If your client is simply using the call forwarding option offered by their phone company, they may find themselves with a hefty bill at the end of the month. There are often double-billing charges with using this service. If you are fielding a good number of calls this can be a shocker to your client. You also need to consider any outbound calls to your client’s customers that you may be making. Obviously those calls are going to be billed to you.
RingCentral covers both of those bases, and is what I used in the past. Calls are forwarded to you without double-billing the client. You can make outbound calls on that account if needed. All incoming and outgoing calls are logged by RingCentral. There is complete transparency for your client. They have a number of plans available, and you may be looking at around $50 per month for this service. You can add this into your costs, or bill your client separately for this system. If you are utilitizing their toll free number, watch those minutes for your client. At this time, there are 1,000 minutes included each month. You are billed 3.9 cents for each additional minute.
Skype may be an option as well. When I was offering this service, Skype was still a little sketchy. It’s my understanding that it is pretty reliable these days.
2. Pricing is an area of concern with customer service. Are you going to need to be available to field calls eight hours per day? If so, you may not want to bill by the call. If you are staring at your computer eight hours per day waiting for calls yet only take 15 minutes worth of calls per day, this billing option may not be the most profitable for you. On the other hand, you likely won’t want to bill your client for eight hours per day either. If you try, you probably won’t land many clients. Do ensure you are getting a bit of compensation for your availability however. Make it worth your while for the limited personal flexibility this business model offers.
3. You also need to set clear boundaries for your hours from Day One. You do not want to get yourself into the position where your client is expecting those calls answered live day and night, Monday through Friday, weekends and holidays. Set the rules. Make your availability clear and known in your initial conversations and in your contract.
Set yourself up for success and you should have no problem landing clients. Every business needs an outstanding customer service system. I had clients ranging from other VAs to insurance agents to solo entrepreneurs with no online presence. Network! Check out my list of places to find freelance clients. There are thousands of opportunities out there.