During a recent discussion with a VCE investor for a very successful NYC tech startup, I heard something that’s been echoed by nearly every business I’ve discussed customer service and client success with: that as the business scales, customer communication necessarily becomes less personal. The logic, as it was presented to me, is that it eventually becomes impossible to provide great customer service—the personalized responses, the follow-ups to inquiries, the going above and beyond the customer’s initial concern. I shared this with CircleBack‘s Customer Success team and, to them (and many currently successful companies like Google and ModCloth), that’s a bunch of bologna.

While I’m the first to admit that, as things scale the nature of client success changes, the idea that customer impersonality is a side effect of large business runs contrary to everything we know about customer retention, about customer service, and about organic PR (of which, obviously, customer service is roughly 100% responsible for).

Whether your business is just starting out or already has millions of customers, quality customer service rests on four pillars.

The 4 Pillars of Quality Customer Service:

  1. Providing timely (within 24 hours) responses to customer inquiries
  2. Responding with as near 100% accurate information as possible
  3. Treating client inquiries as if they are life or death, because, frankly, to clients, they are
  4. Going above and beyond with client services, whether that entails providing more than the requested information, researching information that does not necessarily pertain directly to your company, or finding creative solutions that don’t violate company policy but which ensures that the client feels they’ve received special treatment

It’s truly when these four elements are in harmony that your business is set up for client success, for retaining those who’ve already shown loyalty and commitment to your product. But how do you do it to scale, affordably?

How to Improve Customer Service:

  • Develop modifiable templates to answer common questions while still retaining personality and consideration. If you’re a tech-specific company, make sure you have multiple versions of the templates ranging from explanations to the tech-literate to the computer illiterate.
  • If you have the resources, go big like Google in your customer care department.
  • Use a ticketing system that features timers and escalates problems that haven’t been resolved in whatever reasonable amount of time your business sees fit.
  • Consider an on-site, live chat function to respond to clients’ immediate problems.
  • Develop an extensive online knowledge base for your customers. Make it simple, obvious, and easy to use.
  • Value your client success team. They are not minimum-wage phone jockeys; they are product ambassadors whose job it is to step in when things aren’t going right. In this department, you get what you pay for 100% of the time.

Because retaining clients is so much cheaper than obtaining new ones, it’s absolutely crucial that you pay attention to the pillars of customer service. Get yourself a plan of attack that allows you the flexibility of your scaling company while still providing top-notch responses to your clients, and you’ll go far.

Did I forget anything? How do you go about making sure your clients succeed?