Customer service is the responsibility of the entire organization, not just the customer support team. For a company to live up to its promise of being customer-centric, it must be customer-centric across all departments and teams. That includes support, sales, marketing, accounting, product, and operations.
So, what steps can you take to make customer service a priority and, as a result, improve customer satisfaction? Here are five customer service tips.
1. Start with a clear understanding of the present
Improving any initiative is difficult without performing an honest evaluation of the status quo. Customer service is no exception. Start by forming a cross-functional team whose mission is to objectively audit customer service on a company-wide basis. Diving into existing metrics, such as your CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) score, may be a wise place to start—but it’s not the only indicator of service. Online review sites, social media comments, and surveys can provide additional context into customers’ perception of the service that they receive.
CRM reports, such as won and lost opportunities by reason, can be tremendously insightful, especially if you have a critical mass of data to analyze. Seek to understand why potential customers are opting for competing solutions instead of yours. Does a competitor offer premium support plans that you’re not currently equipped to provide? Or, are you competing against a company who is well known for providing excellent support at no extra charge? Either way, analyzing deal data can surface insights to identify gaps in your customer service strategy.
2. Align training with the ideal customer experience
For years, thought leaders in the customer service world have stressed the importance of empathy, active listening, clear and on-brand communication, and in-depth product (or service) knowledge. These skills, in most cases, must be learned and reinforced through training. Simply picking up the phone and fielding inbound calls from unhappy customers is not a winning strategy.
Top-performing companies align their training programs with a vision of the ideal customer experience. Emphasizing the importance of delivering great service—at every stage of the buyer journey—is key to realizing this goal.
Ask yourself these questions as you evaluate your training programs.
- What is your company’s definition of an ideal customer experience?
- Is customer service a focal point of your existing training programs?
- Do all team members receive customer service training, or just the support team?
- Could a series of service-focused workshops make an immediate impact?
Bonus tip: Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Consider implementing a “customer service hero” award that spotlights one team member who goes above and beyond to provide amazing customer experiences. Point out how the “hero” took steps that align with desired behaviors that are emphasized in your training materials.
3. Eliminate points of friction in customer service
One bad interaction is all it takes for the customer to form a negative opinion of your company. The customer does not know—or care—when a support rep is at the end of a ten-hour shift and less patient than usual. The customer simply wants a positive experience, but human weakness sometimes stands in the way.
Customer-facing teams, in particular, must continuously find ways to eliminate points of friction from the customer experience. If lengthy shifts, for example, lead to negative interactions, leadership may need to reimagine the team’s structure, management, or processes. When a team cannot serve each customer’s unique needs—even at the end of a long shift—then change is necessary.
4. Respond quickly & effectively
No customer wants to be stuck on hold for twenty minutes only to find out that no solution is possible. That’s why time to resolution is arguably one of the most important service-related metrics that influence customer satisfaction. Customers want fast service, but they also want effective service that helps them achieve success.
Providing fast and effective service must extend beyond the walls of your customer support department. Prospective customers, for example, expect price quotes that are accurate, detailed, clear, and promptly delivered. Channel partners need timely and accurate sales collateral that help them create awareness for your brand. Your customers’ accounts payable teams expect invoices to be sent to the right inbox, on the right day, and for the right amount.
Here are a few strategies for accelerating your company’s time to resolution.
Document & share internal knowledge with customers
Certain customers may prefer self-help resources as opposed to interacting with human beings. How can you use customer-facing web portals and other online resources to enable immediate access to helpful information?
Ideas: Customer knowledge bases, online price quote generators, FAQ pages, email templates with helpful links.
Provide inter-team & cross-team support
Some questions are too complex for one person to solve in a timely manner. Look for ways to streamline and enhance your escalation process.
Example: A software company routinely receives product enhancement ideas from its customers. Support team collects the ideas in a shared document and occasionally shares a summarized report with the product team. By the time the product team reviews the report, there is usually not enough context to understand the original idea. A better approach may involve immediate escalation to an on-call product team member, which would help the company understand new feature requests and simultaneously make the customer feel valued.
Invest in automation
Some things work better when automated. Take customer onboarding for example. Should every step in the process (emails, training sessions, etc.) require a manual action by your staff? Probably not. Check out Insightly’s workflow automation guide for ideas on how to use automation for sales, marketing, customer onboarding, and project delivery.
5. Value lifelong customer relationships
Companies that provide great service also tend to value lifelong customer relationships, which makes perfect sense. Providing great service makes customers more likely to stick with your company. Focusing on keeping customers for life, by its nature, forces your organization to continuously ask—and answer—important questions, such as:
- How can we provide even better service for customers?
- What gaps in service prevent some from becoming lifelong customers?
- Which service-related challenges have the biggest impact on churn?
- What positive interactions have led to long-standing customer relationships?
Spend time developing your customer journey map to begin the conversation.
It’s time to move beyond buzzwords & take action
Simply saying that you’re “customer-centric” has minimal benefit for your organization and customers. It’s time to take action. Start with a data-driven understanding of your customer service strategy. Align your training and programs around the customer experience, eliminate friction, find new ways to improve time to resolution, and value lifelong customer relationships.