Customer service is one of the highest priorities for any small business. Good customer service creates good customers. Good customers are reliable source of revenue who will advertise your products on social media and with friends and family. As Entrepreneur points out, good customer service means better employees, fewer problems, and a whole host of myriad benefits for your business.

But that does not mean you have to purchase expensive CRM software right away. You can have a strong customer service approach while spending little with the right moves and understanding of what good customer service looks like. Here are some basic ideas.

Promote Employee Communication

Your employees want to provide good customer service as much as you do. Poor customer service means angry customers, and no worker likes to spend their time fending off angry customers. Unfortunately, many employees do not know how to provide good customer service due to a lack of training.

You could purchase expensive training programs even though most training programs barely provide more than motivational talk. Or you can promote better employee communication so that older employees can teach newer employees how to do things.

Slack is a highly useful, virtually free tool for small businesses which can help here. Set up a channel to talk about employee or customer problems, and older employees will rarely hesitate to show off their knowledge. Also consider setting up a mentorship program which can help train employees by having them follow around older employees to see how they approach customer service. Better communication and mentorships can create better employees and customer service at a minimal cost.

Social Media and FAQs

For customers, “customer service” often means sitting around on a phone line waiting for a bored employee, or worse an automated voice, to not tell them how to fix their problems. But even with good customer service training, the need to call can be humiliating for customers who have to admit they cannot fix their problem by themselves.

Consequently, businesses should make it easier for customers to figure out the solution themselves. Create an easily accessible FAQ on your web page or social media profile. A FAQ requires little maintenance beyond the occasional update, and lets customers find solutions with their own efforts.

Of course, an FAQ cannot be the only method to answer customer inquiries. While larger businesses have dedicated call centers, social media is a good, cheap approach for small businesses. Some business like Lyft have a dedicated social media channel towards answering customer inquiries. You may think that you do not receive enough complaints to merit setting up another channel. But by directing customer complaints from your main social media account to another channel, such as a business answering service, you can ensure that such complaints are in a single spot and can be taken care of by someone dedicated to that job. Businesses should understand the importance of technology towards bringing good customer service, but you can accomplish a great deal and save money with free programs.

Use Freelancers and Contractors

As a small business, you may already be using freelancers and contractors to save money. Freelancers are cheaper and easier to hire than full-time employees. This means that you can find contractors who already have a solid customer service background instead of training your employees to have those skills. You can also consider hiring a remote customer service team to handle affairs like social media and FAQs. The result is a more flexible, specialized, and cost-effective business.

However, remember that using freelancers carries risk. Retaining freelancers can be harder than full-time employees, and it can be difficult to figure out their capabilities before you hire them. Make sure to thoroughly vet freelancers by talking with references and examining their past work, and go with quality over cost. You should ideally have a key core of full-time employees bolstered by freelancers.

Never Stop Learning

There is no one simple trick to get great customer service, especially because what customers want can change over time. This means that entrepreneurs should be constantly learning new customer service approaches and thinking about how to provide better service. Never rest on your laurels.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways for owners to learn on the cheap. Read blogs, online articles, and books. Listen to podcasts like some listed here by Bluleadz. Network and find small business mentors who can teach you their approaches to customer service. Attend business workshops and events.

You will have to figure out which learning approach works best for you, but there are always ways to learn more about customer service without taking expensive classes. And if you learn nothing else, understand that customer service is a critical field which can make or break your business. Simply being passionate about customer service and communicating said passion with the rest of your staff is an important first step.