Skip to main content
Articles
Soft Skills Are Hard: How To Build A World-Class Customer Service Team

Two bad customer service experiences and you’re out; your customers will take their business elsewhere. According to Gladly.com, over 40% of respondents agree with this two-strike rule. Conversely, 59% of consumers are willing to recommend a brand to a friend if it offers impeccable customer experience.

These two statistics clearly show the significance of a great customer service team, but I won’t lie—it absolutely takes effort to achieve this. Read on to see how to build a customer support team that’s fully equipped to exceed customer expectations and build customer loyalty.

Why every business needs an excellent customer service team

Having just an adequate customer service (CS) team in today’s challenging market conditions is not enough. This way, you’re stuck somewhere in the middle on the customer satisfaction scale. This is the realm where people will say your customer service is just meh.

If you want to really move the needle, you need to provide your customers with excellent customer service that not only fulfills your customers’ expectations but also surpasses them.

The juice is worth the squeeze! If you can pull this off, you can count on getting more customers through word of mouth (almost 60% of surveyees said so) and making more money (according to the cited report, as much as 72% of shoppers are willing to spend more money with a brand if they are amazed by the quality of its CS).

2022 customer expectations report screenshot
Source: Gladly.com 2022 Customer Expectations Report

The benefits don’t end here. Your company as a whole profits, too. Positive customer feedback is a great motivator for the team, and companies known for good customer service are usually more stable and grow even in difficult market conditions. This happens because people don’t give up easily on good service, especially concerning products and services they need or value.

Is my team excellent, or just adequate?

That’s the million-dollar question, as this is where the difference becomes clearly visible. Which option sounds better to you?

AN ADEQUATE CUSTOMER SERVICE TEAM

Uses only a few communication channels (or maybe just one)
Doesn’t care that much about customer retention
Has a long or complicated customer onboarding process
Achieves mediocre response times to customer inquiries
Doesn’t improve its customer service skills

A GREAT CUSTOMER SERVICE TEAM

Uses many communication channels, including messaging channels and a chatbot (the omnichannel model)
Is concentrated on customer satisfaction
Offers a short/easy onboarding process as well as self-service when possible
Provides short response times and solves customer issues as quickly as possible
Provides ongoing training to team members concerning customer interactions, customer service tools, and relevant metrics


To show you this difference in practice, let’s analyze five common scenarios and see how adequate and great customer service teams would handle them.

SCENARIO 1: A QUESTION ABOUT THE PRODUCT

A customer wants to get in touch with your customer service to ask about one of the product’s features. An adequate customer service team replies with the answer after a day or two. They may even send an automatic reply about processing the inquiry. This is not bad, but it could be better.

The great customer service team not only tries to answer the question as quickly as possible but also offers additional support, e.g., access to an extensive knowledgebase. Most likely, there is also a 24/7 chatbot capable of answering the most common questions immediately.

SCENARIO 2: A REQUEST FOR PROPOSAL

In the B2B world, RFPs are very common. An adequate team would simply prepare a proposal for the potential client along with one or two pricing options, and they will likely make some assumptions to speed up the process. And while the desire to get back to the prospect as quickly as possible is commendable, it should never be at the price of a low-quality response.

What would the great team do? They would also try to be quick, but more importantly, they would ask additional questions to understand the given customer’s needs. They would ensure that they send a proposal that ticks all the potential client’s boxes. They might even ask for a few days to get back to the prospect with an offer so that the person on the other side of the screen knows what to expect.

SCENARIO 3: A PROBLEM WITH THE SERVICE

Suppose one of your customers has a technical issue, and they want to troubleshoot it with your customer service. An adequate team will just send or read out a list of three or four possible solutions and ask the customer to try all of them.

We admit it, sometimes you don’t need to do anything else, but a great team will always first check whether everything works correctly on their end. They won’t assume that the problem is typical or that it’s the customer’s fault. A consultant will stay on the line or at the chatbox to ensure the customer has solved their problem and the service is back on again.

SCENARIO 4: VISITING THE WEBSITE

Many customers go to your website first before they get in touch with your company. What can they find on it? Even in 2022, many web pages are still vague or lack crucial content—this can be maddening for customers.

What can you do instead? Create a blog section with helpful and practical posts, provide an extensive knowledgebase/help section with FAQs, and offer several different forms of contact with your company. This preventative approach also reduces the amount of inbound inquiries your CS team has to deal with and sets them up for success.

SCENARIO 5: THE ONBOARDING PROCESS

In B2B, cooperation frequently starts with the onboarding of a new user. An adequate customer service team will just offer one form of this process without the possibility (or willingness) to adjust it for a given company’s specificity or needs. You’ve been there, haven’t you? How many times have you tried to ask for a custom-made solution, and there was no such option?

In an awesome company, things work a bit differently. Of course, some elements are fixed and automated, but customer service agents have the power to make reasonable adjustments if the situation requires it. They follow the true problem-solving, client-centric approach. And if something cannot be done, they offer alternatives or at least a viable explanation.

After reading these five scenarios, ask yourself this one question: is my team offering the best customer service it can?

The fact is, more often than not, every team can be improved. But if you’re seeing a lot of room for improvement, that’s good! It means you want to grow and pave the way for more happy customers. And the first step on that path? It all starts with the people.

Hiring the right people: interview questions you should be asking

If you are a customer service manager, you are likely responsible for recruiting the best candidates for your contact center. Of course, anyone can apply to work as a CS consultant, so you need to dig deeper. Your objective is to find candidates that are willing to learn new skills and up their CS game.

There are two main sources of information about each and every candidate - their resumes and their answers and statements during the job interview. Let’s start with the latter.

Questions to ask potential customer service reps during the interview

  1. What’s the best customer service you’ve ever received? Why?
  2. Have you ever dealt with an unreasonable customer? How did you handle it at the time, and how would you handle it today?
  3. Have you ever received negative feedback from a customer? What did you do with that feedback?
  4. How can you help a customer who has worked with several agents before you and hasn’t reached a resolution?
  5. Have you ever bent the rules when assisting a customer? In what situation? What was the outcome?

Answers to these questions will give you better insight into a given candidate’s approach and experience.

Resume red flags

When analyzing resumes, you will come across things that will make you wonder about the given person’s commitment, performance, or reliability. The best time for these red flags to come up is during the screening process. Otherwise, you can end up hiring a person who will drag the whole CS team down and decrease its morale.

Take a look at some typical red flags you need to pay attention to:

  • Lengthy unemployment gaps (potential problems with landing a job? Why?)
  • Unusual employment history (multiple shifts in career can indicate that the candidate still doesn’t have a plan for themselves)
  • Job hopping (multiple jobs over a short period—it’s rarely a good sign if the candidate has trouble staying put for more than a few months)
  • Errors of all kinds (they suggest a lack of attention to detail, which is crucial in working with customers)
  • Demotion (if the candidate was a CS manager and ended up as a consultant, there must have been a reason)

These red flags are not conclusive, but they show you what to consider and ask about during the interview. The more red flags you see, the riskier the candidate.

Strategies for developing your customer service team

Once you’ve built a customer service team, you should continually work on developing and upgrading each consultant’s skills. Your main focus is to engage and develop your CS team to deliver better experiences.

How can you do that? Concentrate on five essential elements.

Ask for customer feedback

It all starts with what your customers really think about communicating with your company. You should conduct at least one customer survey (see how to measure customer experience and track CS metrics) and thoroughly analyze the received feedback. Pinpoint all the problems and shortcomings that your customers noticed; it’s a good starting point. Needless to say, these surveys ought to be conducted regularly.

Analyze touchpoints and the customer journey

The more complicated the customer journey, the more difficult it is to provide impeccable customer service (see how to optimize customer journeys in B2B). Analyze your current customer journey and see if any elements could be shortened and streamlined. Everything that stands in your customer’s way must be chopped down without hesitation.

  • Forcing customers to select one of fifteen options before they can connect with a rep? Chop.
  • Mandating that customers create an account before placing the order with your online store? Chop.
  • Requiring signed paper documents before starting services? Chop.
  • Asking customers to log in repeatedly through multiple portals in order to achieve a single goal? Chop.

Grow your consultants’ skills

In customer service, soft skills and communication skills are essential, and you, as a manager, have to invest in them.

Create a skill development program for each consultant in your company and enable them to expand their knowledge on how to work with customers and assist them in solving their problems. Of course, such a program should take a given person’s needs into account. When working on it, pay attention to these five steps:

  1. Conduct a TNA (training needs analysis) of every consultant
  2. Identify crucial focus areas and goals
  3. Select optimal learning solutions (e-learning, workshops, access to online resources, etc.)
  4. Involve consultants in their skill development programs, showcase possible options along with expected benefits
  5. Track and measure progress; implement corrective measures when necessary

Moreover, think about creating a mentorship program and offer your consultants a way to grow within the company’s structure (think promotions and financial benefits). This will make them feel more motivated.

A friendly working atmosphere

Create a friendly atmosphere of trust and understanding. Your employees should feel like they can talk to you about their challenges, problems, and ideas. No one wants to be treated like a walking number. Show your reps that you care about them and want to help them do the best job they are capable of. Motivate your team, acknowledge their hard work, and reward them for their efforts; you will soon see them operating at their highest potential!

Clear expectations

Customer support agents should never wonder what they are expected to do or how to communicate with customers. Provide them with clear, reasonable (that’s a keyword; forget about unrealistic KPIs and requirements) expectations that are easily accessible and verifiable. When people know what they are expected to do, they are more engaged in their role and feel psychological comfort, which is key to unlocking any person’s best work. People don’t operate well when they feel like they’re always on the chopping block. Your team members can only make customers feel at-ease if they feel that way themselves.

Happy people make people happy.

Employees are the essence of your organization. Treat them this way and show that you appreciate their work. Help them in developing their skills and expanding their knowledge, and undoubtedly, they will feel encouraged to assist customers in the best way they can.

What’s been a game-changing tactic for developing your customer service team? Share your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter!

By Hannah Clark

Hannah Clark is the Editor of The CX Lead. Her goal is to bring together a community of CX professionals to learn, interact, and voice their own opinions on this ever-evolving industry.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.