Customer Service / Customer Experience

The do's and don'ts of customer service for small business startups

Sujan Patel

Updated: Jun 16, 2020 · 7 min read

Toolkit for download in this article

Customer service rep

Good clients service is the standard today, so much so that few clients will settle for anything less than “good” (and that’s the absolute bare minimum). That said, many of the world’s most successful companies are the ones that go above and beyond just “good” to offer clients service that’s nothing short of amazing.

To stand out as a startup, you need to offer a service that matches or exceeds this. Thankfully, startups have an advantage in that they’re usually small companies serving a small number of clients. This makes it easier to offer better, more personalized service.

What it doesn’t mean is that offering amazing clients service will come easily, or naturally, to all startups. Consider these essential do’s and don’ts to start offering better clients service right now.

Do talk to your clients

Talk to them, but also listen. Clients aren’t faceless beings that exist solely to fund your business—and many of them will understand that you’re not a faceless corporation that exists solely to sell them things.

Reach out to clients, ask for their opinions, and, where possible, act on their responses.

The best way to do this will depend largely on your business model and available resources.

Agencies should be client-facing. Talking to clients is likely to be something you just do day to day. That said, it’s easy to let regular client communications fall by the wayside. Don’t do this. When it comes to client retention, building and maintaining real relationships with your clients is almost as important as results.

If your clients aren’t calling you, be proactive and call them. This is something I’ve always made a point of doing when handling customer service—just checking in and asking if clients need any help, or if there’s anything we’re not doing that we could be. Even if all is fine, the act of reaching out is almost always appreciated, and helps strengthen relations with clients.

But what if talking to clients isn’t something you would naturally do?

Communicating is a little trickier when phone calls and face-to-face meetings aren’t a standard part of your business model. It would understandably be a little odd for an ecommerce company to call up clients and ask them what they need, but this doesn’t mean you can’t leverage things like email and surveys.

Another option is to offer clients incentives in exchange for their thoughts and feedback. I first did this myself when I was in the process of re-launching as Mailshake. The response was so positive that I now do it with every company I work on.

Do figure out (and pay attention to) your customers’ pain points

One thing all companies need in order to offer great clients service is an awareness and understanding of their clients’ most common pain points, as well as a strategy to help resolve them.

Pain points are something you should start to learn about at the market research stage—whether through competitor research, or by talking to your target audience via surveys or focus groups. That said, until you have a real-life functioning company with actual clients, any ideas you have about pain points will be largely guesswork. Your knowledge and understanding will evolve over time.

Or it will... So long as you’re listening to your clients and acting on what they have to say.

This may mean adapting your product. It will almost definitely entail using pain points to influence your marketing—particularly content marketing. I regularly use clients questions as content inspiration. It kills two birds with one stone – I get content ideas, and my clients benefit from the additional resources.

The more you understand, empathize with and are able to help solve your clients’ pain points, the happier they will be.

Do put yourself in your customers’ shoes

The best clients service comes from companies that really and truly understand their clients; but there is only one way to wholly understand where your clients are coming from, and that’s to live a day in their shoes – which is something I did last year when I worked in customer service for 90 days.

Reenact the buying journey, and post-sales experience. If possible, pretend to be a clients and “test” your business partner or employees.

Pay close attention to roadblocks, and adjust your product and clients experience accordingly.

Do take responsibility, and make amends

We all slip up sometimes. Most clients understand and respect this. What matters isn’t (usually) the mistake we make, but how we resolve it.

In short, the best way to U-turn an unhappy clients and get them on your side again is to act fast, take responsibility, and make amends.

Some companies still think it’s acceptable to wait 3 days to respond to clients. It’s not. While startups are unlikely to have the manpower to offer 24/7 support, you should still respond to clients and act on their queries or complaints within an acceptable time frame.

Needless to say, live chat queries and phone calls should be responded to immediately. The majority of clients expect a response to social media complaints within 6 hours (but ideally much less). Email is generally viewed by clients as the slowest means of communication, but the faster the better still applies. At a minimum, you should be aiming to reply to the majority of emails that same day.

Do leverage the right tools

Customer service tools exist for a reason—they allow organizations to offer better clients service, with less effort.

If you’re not using a CRM (customer relationship management) tool, you probably should be. They allow you to keep records of all interaction with clients in one centralized location, and to access clients data and conversation history in seconds.

Live chat’s another tool that I’ve found to be invaluable, both as a business owner and as a consumer.

A lot of younger consumers are averse to picking up the phone, but still want an instant response. Live chat bridges that gap between a phone call and a chain of emails.Don’t assume customer knowledge

Simplify clients interactions with your brand, from making it as easy as possible to contact you, to talking to them using terminology everyone can understand. Don’t assume that just because you’re an expert in your industry, that everyone is. If a clients or potential clients doesn’t understand you or your product, they’re unlikely to pursue more information; they’re just going to go elsewhere.

That said, don’t talk down to clients, patronize them, or assume they have no knowledge. Just use plain English.

Don’t take complaints personally

It can be really easy to love your new business a bit too much and take complaints to heart.


Be the bigger “person” and remain friendly and professional at all times. Never, ever let a complaint descend into an argument. Even if your defense is valid, you still risk looking petty and amateur if you let emotions drive your response. This can negatively impact future clients relations, especially when so many grievances today are aired publicly.

Don’t make false promises

Never promise something you can’t deliver, however much you might want to turn an unhappy clients around. You’re not only letting the clients down, but you’re also doing it by lying.

However good your intentions, this sort of behavior can seriously damage your credibility and reputation (not to mention your relationship with the clients in question).

Sujan Patel is a leading expert in digital marketing. He is a hard working and high energy individual fueled by his passion to help people and solve problems. He is the co-founder of Web Profits, a growth marketing agency, and a partner in a handful of software companies including Mailshake,, Quuu, and Between his consulting practice and his software companies, Sujan’s goal is to help entrepreneurs and marketers scale their businesses.

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