Customer service is an ongoing effort for any organization with a ton of essential ingredients that make it all work. Customers continue to demand more timely service and personalized experiences. Listening to feedback and improving systems are important considerations for remaining competitive. As technology advances, the traditional barriers for customers to switch between companies are reduced. A customer’s experience with your customer service team could mean the difference between a loyal customer and a lost one.
A recent research report from NewVoiceMedia revealed that an overwhelming 91% of customers said that they would take action after experiencing a negative customer service experience. These actions can include switching to another company or posting a negative review. Customer service requests are inevitable, but how you respond matters. It’s important to remember that the entire customer service experience is within your organization’s control.
Here are five best practices to differentiate your customer service from the competition and provide a positive customer experience.
Hire and Retain Great Employees
Great communication supports excellent customer service, and your employees play the central role in your ability to engage with customers. A single poor experience with a customer service representative can result in a lost customer forever. One of the best ways to build a capable team is through a robust and well thought out interview process. Asking meaningful interview questions that gauge a candidate's mindset, learning ability, and troubleshooting ability will help you identify the best candidates for customer-facing roles.
Finding great employees is a challenge, and retaining them can be even more difficult. The best employees tend to have employment options available to them. Providing pay and benefits that are competitive should be a given. It is your efforts to make the work environment engaging and comfortable that will make all the difference. By hiring and retaining a great team, you can truly differentiate your customer service and demonstrate your commitment to your customers.
Manage Your Customer Service Standards
Operating a customer service team without a clear set of customer expectations can lead to confusion. What’s more, when expectations aren’t clear, there’s often a misalignment between representatives. That means the customer service experience can be vastly different from one rep to another.
Create a set of customer service standards that are based on your customers’ requirements. These standards become a focal point for everything your company does. Creating and holding regular training sessions to review the standards is a vital part of spreading understanding. Integrate these standards into job descriptions, goals, and performance reviews to promote understanding. Above all, ensure that company leadership and management lead by example.
Personalize the Customer Experience
Most customer service interactions are initiated because the customer has a problem. It’s often a stressful and challenging situation for a customer. The more you can do to keep them engaged with the conversation through a resolution, the better. Use strategies such as using the customer’s name frequently during the conversation and presenting them with options along the way.
Allowing customers to choose how and when to receive a follow up is one example. People's preferences often differ between phone, email, or text messages. Presenting them with options gives them a personalized experience and creates a back and forth dialogue versus simply reading them an obviously scripted response. And, it gives them a sense of control over the situation.
Another way to differentiate your service is to utilize customer portal software. A customer portal provides centralized management of support tickets and gives customers visibility into the status and progress of their requests. Creating a system that is engaging and collaborative puts customers in control of their issues. It also helps streamline the entire customer support process for your organization.
Actively Seek and Use Customer Feedback
Customer service organizations often refer to the “pain points” that customers experience. These points highlight specific needs on which the organization should focus and improve. But understanding what the true pain points are can be challenging. Support teams often treat symptoms while missing the underlying problems. Managing your customers’ needs begins with regular conversations and maintaining an open ear for feedback.
Give your customers multiple forums in which to provide feedback before, during, and after their customer support experiences. Some good examples are phone surveys and feedback forms. Put a process in place to regularly review customer feedback and incorporate learnings into your improvement plans. It’s an ongoing process, but it can lead to significant improvements over time. The process allows you to focus on what matters most: listening to what your customers want and then giving it to them.
There is no doubt that excellent service can help retain customers and create strong relationships. As companies strive to differentiate themselves, improving customer service will remain a focus for years to come. Keep these customer services best practices top of mind, and continuously strive to improve. By making incremental improvements in your customer service team, systems, and policies, you’ll develop stronger customer relationships and retain more business.