You need to improve your customer service. And not necessarily because you are doing something wrong. But because demand for improvement is ever-increasing.
Recent customer service research from Microsoft suggests customer service expectations have risen sharply in recent years. It matters to your bottom line because customers base their future spending on their customer service experience.
It’s not enough to be good. To compete, your customer service needs to always be better. And if your offering exists largely online, a customer service associate may be the only human contact a client has with your company.
Surveys used to calculate your net promoter score can help you address pressing customer service issues you didn’t know existed. But beyond putting out fires, you want to take your customer service from good to great.
We’ve assembled some top methods to get you started.
Mission is not a statement, it’s a call to action.
Even if your company doesn’t have a formal mission statement, your offering certainly started with a dream. Whether that was a dream to organize the community action or to ensure every buyer enjoys a fresh, hot cup of coffee, that mission should never become a mere statement. Your mission statement must be a call to action.
Instill and nurture these mission values at every level of your company—not just on the phone line or customer service desk, but in sales, management, and in yourself. Your approach to customer care will have long-term consequences. And yes, prickly customers exist. Some seem hard or impossible to please. Rather than argue away their complaint, take a breath. Remember why you built the company in the first place.
Avoid unnecessary transfers of responsibility.
Ever call or visit customer service? The first person can’t help you, so they transfer you to another. And it turns out that they can’t help you either? Few things wreck a company’s reputation as much as being “transferred around.” The client’s time is valuable. And so is yours.
Train your customer service representatives. Give them as much responsibility as possible to respond to nearly any situation. Typically, associates feel better about their roles with more responsibility. And happy employees decrease costly turnover. And where an issue arises that is beyond the associate’s scope to handle, make sure that associate knows exactly whom to refer the customer to for swift resolution.
Admit to errors and take action—see issues from your client’s point of view.
Have you ever known someone who always wins an argument? Maybe they have a gift for debate. Or they really do “know everything.”
More likely, they just won’t stop arguing. They win by wearing you down. Do you want to be around this person? Or do you avoid them?
Winning isn’t always winning. Winning can destroy relationships. And in a business setting, it loses you clients.
Ensure that you or your customer service associates understand the value of listening. And of developing empathy for every client no matter the issue. This is not to say that the customer is always right. But actively listening and truly caring about the customer’s issues will provide you the perspective to find a reasonable resolution.
It’s not enough to win the argument. You want to win your client back.
Flatten silos and allocate customer service resources strategically.
Companies often place customer service representatives in one silo and their social media managers in another. And although a solo entrepreneur may never miss a phone call, they ignore their business social media page for hours or even days at a time.
Yet social media is an integral part of customer service. For many clients, direct messaging from social media is the preferred means of seeking service. That is, everything from specific product information to questions about returns.
Flatten the customer service and digital media silos. Ensure your digital team is embedded with—or at least trained in—customer service.
Script and automate seldom… and strategically.
As your business or department grows, you will find that automation increases efficiency. For instance, phone menus attended by automated or virtual attendants can decrease work hours while providing quick resolution for consumers. If your company is inundated by calls, and 95% of them begin with a simple transfer to a particular department, automated menus make a lot of sense.
But keep in mind: for many businesses, the person-to-person phone call is the only point of direct contact with your company.
Automate only where necessary. Similarly, require your staff to rely on scripts as little as possible. Even the best voice actor will begin to sound robotic and tired after repeating the same script for the hundredth time. Apart from legally required disclosures, ensure that customers hear from a real, living person in every engagement.
Prevent customer service issues before they arise.
Clients often don’t reach out to customer service until a problem arises. And this part might surprise you: you are lucky if they did.
If a client reaches out for assistance following a problem, it shows that at least they are still invested in your service. Often, clients don’t reach out at all. They instead simply stop being a customer.
When a client takes that initiative, it is important that your customer service representatives can resolve their issues. And do so in a kind, empathetic, and professional manner.
Yet, great customer service may mean that the most common issues don’t arise in the first place. Pay attention to common problems and pain points. They may be as simple as late shipping or service, incorrect order placements, or over-promising by a salesperson or marketing media. Create a map of the entire customer journey, and learn where issues arise.
Remember customer service basics
One customer service fundamental seems to have faded amid today’s economy of scale. That is: the customer you have today is more important than the one you may get tomorrow.
Consider the introductory offer. New clients receive discount rates and waived fees on everything from a digital network provider to auto insurance.
But see these great offers from the client’s perspective. “I’ve paid every bill on time for 10 years. Never a complaint. Even bought additional products. Why am I not treated as well as the new person?”
Introductory offers are great and may fit your expansion model. But don’t forget existing clients. Improve your customer service with loyalty programs and even surprise perks. For instance, have you ever received a thank-you card with a discount code for remaining a loyal customer? If you have, it’s surely a company you remember.
Emerging markets and new technologies have forever changed the way we conduct business. Sometimes, we get caught up in them and miss the forest for the trees.
Improving your customer service often boils down to stepping back, taking a breath and looking at the big picture. And using those new tools to provide the same caring and respect as decades ago… and even better.
Photo by fizkes.
Bryan enjoys the digital space where arts and technology meet. As a writer, he has worked in education, health and wellbeing, and manufacturing. He also assists smaller businesses in web development including accessibility and content development. In his free time, he hikes trails in central Florida.