What the Big Boys Can Learn From Your Small Fry Start-Up

What the Big Boys Can Learn From Your Small Fry Start-Up


It’s easy to talk about good customer service. Every business owner believes that they are exceptional at it and that because they experience bad customer service they understand how to give good customer service.

Unfortunately, it’s just not that simple.

Customer service cannot be a random part of your business that you occasionally think about. Not anymore. It’s a practice, it’s a strategy and it’s an integral part in setting yourself apart from your competitors.

Small and Nimble

Running a start-up may give you an advantage over larger and often slower companies. One of the main issues is scale.

Related: 4 Things Remarkable Startups Have In Common

It’s easier to teach a team of four people how to be great at customer service than it is for an organisation of 5 000 people. There’s also the size of your customer base to consider. As a start-up business owner, I can probably personally contact every one of my customers if I want to.

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Here are five really simple things that I’ve learnt over the past two years as a business owner doing my own customer service:

  1. A great product means a happier customer. It won’t solve every issue, but a great product should enable you to keep customers happier for longer.
  2. Customers want to be heard. Being heard means having someone on the other end of the phone line or twitter message who hears you and is empowered to take action.
  3. Customers know when you’re lying. Do Not Lie. It’s really that simple and it’s something that we are taught from a young age.
  4. Every complaint is a sale waiting to happen. A lot of businesses see customer service as an expense. I see it as a sales tactic. When a customer submits a complaint or query I answer as quickly as possible with a viable response that solves their problem. More often than not that customer will become a brand ambassador.
  5. People expect bad service – Surprise them! In South Africa we’ve become quite comfortable with bad service. Surprise the customers by delivering on your stated levels of service on product satisfaction. If you’re at a restaurant and the food isn’t satisfactory, don’t eat it, send it back.

Top to Bottom

This digital revolution makes customer service a tricky problem to solve. Customer service is a company trait that needs to exist from top to bottom and bottom to top.

Understand where and when people engage with your brand or products and to ensure that those places are all in line with your brand approach to customers and customer service.

Empower Your Team

Poor customer service at Telkom has improved and I firmly believe that this change happened because they empowered their team to make the changes necessary to improve.

This proves that with enough motivation any organisation can induce a systemic change, and win brand ambassadors in the process. 

Related: The 4 Things Every Customer Wants

A Quick Call is a Good Call

One of the simplest customer service hacks that I’ve learnt over time is to answer customers promptly. I do my best to answer live chats immediately and in real time, I answer tweets within a few minutes, we try to answer customer emails within the hour (nothing automated, actual human interaction) and we answer phone calls as quickly as we can can hit the accept button.

Time to answer really does matter. The faster you answer, the less irate the customer will be. Their time is as valuable as yours, so try to treat it that way at all times.

Nicholas Haralambous
Founder of the luxury sock company,, Nicharry.com , CEO and co-founder of Motribe before the company was successfully acquired by Mxit in August 2012.

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