As your brand expands, it creates a number of challenges, equal parts exciting and frustrating. Scaling your business – effectively laying the groundwork to support your company's current and future growth – minimizes the pitfalls commonly associated with next-level success.
You're adding infrastructure and automation and positioning the right resources and team members for your business to thrive. You're also moving away from the manual processes that served you well in your early startup stages.
Scaling your business solidifies your long term prospects. It can also have a less than desirable impact on your customer service. Especially if you scale too fast or overlook the needs of your customer base during the process.
Even with the best intentions of expanding your brand to support more clients, those same processes can put distance between you and your customers.
How do you ensure your brand is ready to take on greater success without losing that personal touch that your customers value? Let's explore five tips to scale your brand without hurting your customer service.
1. Know Thy Customer
When scaling your business, it's essential to recognize what scaling really means. Yes, you're building a foundation to ensure your brand better supports more growth. What you're doing is creating a platform to accommodate more customers.
Knowing who your customers are and what they want from your brand will help you scale wisely. To create systems and processes that attract both your current customer base and entices a new audience to see what the fuss is all about.
To achieve this, you need to ask yourself some very specific questions:
- Who are our customers?
- How do they discover our products or services?
- How do they engage with our products or services?
- Do our products or services solve a problem for our customers? Bring them joy? Address a specific need?
- What will make the discovery and engagement process easier?
You can take those five questions in all manner of directions to fit your brand's specific needs. The point, though, is to ensure you don't merely focus on making your life easier but also the life of your customers. When you know what your customers want, you're better equipped to put in place the processes to address those needs.
And, if you find yourself struggling to come up with the answers, ask your customers directly what works best for them. What will keep them coming back to your brand again and again?
2. Give Your Team Members Control
Scaling any business can be a painful process. It's a particularly tough road for your earliest employees. The individuals who were on the front lines during your startup days.
Not only were they working behind the scenes to set your brand up for future success, but they were also dealing directly with your first customers. They extolled the brand benefits to anyone who would listen. They made sales, solved customer problems, nurtured connections, and built the rapport that your most ardent fans would come to love about your brand.
Scaling often adds a layer of process between your core startup team and the customers they once dealt with. It also means new employees are taking over their previous front-line role. They often don't possess the same “startup” mentality that helped your brand secure its early customer base.
To avoid this, and maintain the critical personal touch, train your new employees on the same service skills your team developed during your initial growth stages. Empower them to make decisions that put the customer first.
You may not have the same people addressing your customers after scaling as you did before. However, you can impart the same customer-first mentality that carried your business to the point of needing to scale.
3. Don't Sweat the Small Stuff, Automate It
For some businesses, automation is seen as a dirty word. The narrow view is that automating any process removes the human touch from your interactions, whether it's with customers, vendors, investors, or internally with other team members.
Automation as a replacement for interaction, however, is a myth. You can automate any aspect of your business and yet retain flexibility for your customer service or general engagement to shine through.
Or consider something more involved like your sales process. Adopting specific sales methodologies allows you to standardize your brand's overall approach to converting new customers. They also allow you room to personalize the approach your sales team takes in connecting with potential customers.
Play to your team member's strengths and appeal to new clients while at the same time scaling your sales approach to handle more volume. You can easily duplicate the process across your business – IT, marketing, operations, and yes, even customer service.
As it relates to your customers, self-service automation such as knowledge centers, how-to videos, or online chat provides engagement opportunities for customers to get the answers they need without being stuck on hold or waiting for a return email.
Conversely, eliminating the “simple tasks” from employees' daily to-dos free them to attract new business or provide one-on-one service to those who need it the most.
4. Play Up Your Brand's Uniqueness
If you want your scaling efforts to prove successful, you need to understand what sets your brand apart from others. Successfully scaling your business relies heavily on knowing what attracts people to you.
What draws customers to your brand goes beyond providing a useful service or product. Considering we're in a very image-conscious time, customers don't just want to buy from your brand, they want to connect with it. They want to feel a part of something bigger than a simple transaction of currency and commodity.
Whether it's the way a product is sourced or delivered, a charitable association, a socially responsible directive, or a service that not only fulfills wants but needs, build your company's unique “hook” into your brand's foundation.
Not only will it raise your profile among would-be customers who find a connection with your message, but it also makes the message easier to manage and far more consistent.
5. Communicate and Coordinate
We know this sounds simple. But for many brands in a growth spurt, effective, consistent communication often gets lost in the shuffle. In addition, you're so focused on what's to come, you lose sight of what needs to happen now.
After all, your brand doesn't expand in a vacuum. It requires everyone with a stake in your brand's success to be involved. Your executive team, your management and front line team members, as well as any investors, partners, and vendors, all need to be in lockstep to avoid impeding your customer engagement.
Scaling involves different ideas, intense internal discussion, and, yes, plenty of disagreements. Maintaining positive communication and team-based coordination keeps your efforts on the right track and away from public view.
If your company is at the point of scaling up, that's a great position to be in. It's also important to realize that expanding your brand can prove a difficult road to travel as you move from startup to established business.
The key is to recognize that no matter what occurs behind the scenes, focusing on your customers and the services you provide them come first. Understand who they are, what they expect from your brand, and how to engage them and meet their needs.
Even as your brand expands, the only thing your customers should notice is your company's continued success without sacrificing the service you've long prided yourself on.
Guest post courtesy of Nicholas Rubright