According to Zendesk, one poor customer experience is enough for over 60% of your customers to switch to one of your competitors. And while some might give you a second chance, 75% of customers will jump ship after a second disappointment.
Other studies echo these findings—and that’s why you can never rest on your laurels when it comes to customer service. In this article, I will show you how to improve customer service in your company so that you can increase customer satisfaction and reap the benefits.
Why excellent customer service is important
Put succinctly, fulfilling customer needs leads to customer loyalty. Companies with good customer service:
- Have a low customer churn rate
- Can grow business with confidence
- Are more eager to test new techniques, ideas, and technologies
- Can weather worse market conditions because customers value them and want to work with them continually
More often than not, in companies with great customer service, team members are happier and feel empowered to develop their skillset.
The importance of a good customer service experience can never be overstated. But the fact is, customer service is not a monolith—with all the different technologies and communication channels, you have to consider many different aspects of customer support, including:
- Overseeing it at the management level
- Managing in-person and telephone customer service
- Taking care of customer relationships in the digital world
- Providing users with self-service options
And that’s what this article is all about. Let’s take it from the top.
5 Tactics for Improving Customer Service at the Leadership Level
Have you ever heard the saying “a fish rots from the head down”? While it conjures a pretty gruesome mental image, it's a simple yet profound truth: Leadership is a major contributing factor when it comes to every big change in an organization. You really can’t achieve good customer service without management participating in the process.
So, what can leadership do to improve customer service? I can think of at least five tactics in that playbook, and it all starts with a good strategy.
Create a customer service strategy
Customer service is something you have to consider holistically. It’s by far one of the most significant functions and areas of your company. Start by creating a tailor-made customer service management strategy. In it, you should include all the questions that matter to your business, like:
- What communication channels do we want to provide customers with?
- How should we structure our customer service department (i.e. by services/products, by issues to be solved)?
- What are the major guidelines we want our frontline consultants to stick to?
- How do we help customers with their problems? (Do we have an express or self-help feature? Will our customer service be available Mon-Fri from 9 am to 5 pm or 24/7?)
- What are our policies concerning typical customer concerns (like product returns, complaints, personal data processing, etc.)? How should we communicate our processes and policies to customers?
Ultimately, it all comes down to building a customer-centric culture.
Map and manage your customer journey
This is an indispensable element of every CS strategy. A customer journey map allows you to describe and depict everything that happens between your company and your customers—every touchpoint in every communication channel, every stage of the purchasing process, and every action your employees take during the whole process. With it, you can pinpoint all the crucial elements and potential weak points in the journey that should be fixed.
Improve customer service skills
I believe good customer service is something that can be taught. But to do so, you need to create and implement an educational-slash-training program for your customer support team. This program should be tailored not just to a company’s profile but also to every individual employee. Make sure your training program helps your employees with the typical challenges they face every day.
Dealing with an upset customer, showing understanding, friendly communication, active listening, and being knowledgeable about the product/service—these are the fundamental service skills that should be included in every CS training program. It’s also a good idea to create individual programs for specific team members, especially if you’re hoping to develop them into future managers and team leaders.
Gather customer feedback and measure the right metrics
You can never improve your customer service if you don’t know where to start. That’s why you ought to begin by collecting and measuring customer feedback. In fact, measuring customer satisfaction and understanding how good your company is at solving pain points is the foundation that will allow you to build exceptional customer service.
Essential customer satisfaction metrics to measure include:
- NPS (net promoter score)
- CES (customer effort score)
- CSAT (customer satisfaction score)
- Customer churn rate
And then, there are customer reviews (mostly on social media but also on internet forums and other discussion groups)—they can tell you a lot about what could be improved in your company. It’s on leadership to set up a social listening strategy and analyze what people are saying about the company.
Having all that in one place will enable you to get a deeper understanding of common customer issues. With the right approach, you’re on a straight course to solving them once and for all (or at least limiting their influence on your customers’ satisfaction).
Iterate on your omnichannel model
Many market studies and real-life experiences show that customers simply expect your company to provide multiple communication channels and integrate them to create one seamless experience. That’s what omnichannel is all about. However, omnichannel isn't a one-and-done deal—new channels are emerging all the time, and it's an ongoing process to stay up-to-date with consumer trends and the digital experience tools that enable us to get ahead of them.
As a customer, I want to see the same offer both on the website and in the mobile app and through the brand's social media presence. I want to be able to buy (and return) the same products in the company’s online store and brick-and-mortar stores. I want to be able to order products online and have them delivered to a nearby store for free. I want to talk to a human consultant or to a chatbot, both via the website and social media profiles (depending on what I want to accomplish). These are simple things from the customer's perspective, but as we both know, getting the implementation right requires a bit of finesse.
If you are a leader in your company, what can you do to implement or improve the omnichannel model in your business?
Now, let’s have a look at how you can improve in-person and telephone CS.
5 Ways to Improve In-Person and Telephone Customer Service
That’s customer service 101. Today, people don’t have a lot of time. Everyone’s in a rush, and they want every encounter with a brand to be achievable in a few minutes, if not seconds. I’m not saying that you should be abrupt or that you should deal with every customer as quickly as possible; no. Some issues require time to be solved properly, but most customers don't look forward to interacting with service departments and want the interaction to be as brief as possible.
That’s especially important when it comes to all call centers. People certainly DON’T want to wait endlessly listening to a disembodied voice saying their call is important.
If your company struggles with long waiting times, you have at least three options to eliminate this problem:
- Hire more consultants
- Implement a smart customer assistant (a voicebot or a chatbot)
- Outsource your call center operations to an external company
PS. Of course, there are some exceptions. For instance, if your company provides services for elderly people, being too fast is definitely not the way to go. These customers will value that your reps patiently explain everything and answer their questions.
Your customer service reps should always acknowledge the state or emotions the person on the other side is feeling. Don’t diminish the problem, don’t be rude, and don’t laugh at the customer - this should be obvious to everyone working with customers. If you need to put them on hold, tell them that you’re going to do so and why. If you listen to their complaints or problems they can’t solve, show that you understand their frustration and offer them your assistance. That’s how you get loyal customers— by building a bond based on understanding and willingness to help.
Again, there is a balance to be found—you shouldn’t attack every customer with your presence. After all, many of them are just browsing or need more time to think about the purchase. But if you spot a person clearly looking for some assistance (such customers usually are looking around to find someone who can help them), don’t hesitate to show your proactiveness.
Offer 24/7 customer support
I understand it’s a big investment and, truthfully, it’s not always necessary. But if you run an international business, 24/7 customer service is something your customers will surely appreciate. It all depends on the scale of your company. If you get a lot of calls every day, from the first minute to the last moment, it’s a clear indication you should extend your CS working hours.
Not sure how to set up 24/7 customer service operations? There are plenty of customer service outsourcing companies that can help out with this. You can fully outsource your customer service operations, create a hybrid arrangement, or keep it in-house if that's a better fit for your business.
Personalization is a big thing in both sales and marketing. It shows that you know your customers and value them. People usually respond more actively to personalized messages, too. How can you personalize communication? For one thing, you can address callers by their names. That’s where a good CRM tool comes into play. Your customer service agents should have access to all the essential details about each caller, including:
- Who are they?
- What kind of product/service have they purchased?
- What is the history of their communication with the company?
This way, you can use this knowledge to personalize communication, save a lot of time, and make customer service interactions more meaningful.
Let’s move on. In 2024, the majority of communication between customers and brands is taking place in the digital world. What can you do here?
5 Ideas for Boosting Digital Customer Service Touchpoints
Offer self-service features
Here, you have two major options—a customer portal and an intelligent customer assistant. Both are useful, and they are not mutually exclusive. If you want, you can easily do both. The point of offering self-service options lies in the opportunity to automate at least some of the queries and problems people might have. Giving them the opportunity, e.g., to change their plan on their own or input new payment details, will save your reps a lot of time! As a result, you can focus on more complex matters and questions that require direct assistance.
Chatbots come in handy, too! They are brilliant when it comes to booking appointments, answering frequently asked questions, and providing straightforward information (e.g., current order status).
Add the FAQ section on your website
Just like self-service features, such a section can help you save a lot of time. A well-designed section with questions that your customers might have makes them feel well taken care of, as a result, more trustworthy toward your company.
How can you create an FAQ section? You can use three sources of knowledge:
- Your personal experience: Surely you can think of some questions people might have concerning your company or your services—write them down, that’s your base.
- Your company’s experience: Analyze customer queries and contact forms; if there are some repetitive questions, add them to your list.
- Keyword research: Keyword research tools provide you with specific queries, and many of them are in the form of a question; also, tools like AnswerThePublic can help you get a more in-depth view of what people ask about concerning your niche or industry.
Add onboarding into the mix
If you run a SaaS company, the onboarding process is essential as it enables you to:
- Show your customers around
- Gather more details about them
- Show that customer success is not just a slogan in your business
It doesn’t have to be anything too complicated; it all depends on the complexity of your service. You should sit down and plan the major elements of a well-designed onboarding process. What kind of information do you want to convey? What do you want to find out about your new customer? How can you help them get the hang of your service?
You can include some must-have elements/steps and then some additional ones that aren’t necessary if the customer doesn’t ask for them. This way, you can assist both customers who want to be on their own and ones that appreciate all the support they can get.
Once the onboarding is done, you can provide every new customer with contact details for their personal consultant, who will be able to assist them if they have more questions in the future.
Offer a straightforward contact form
Putting an email address on your website is usually not enough. You should also include a simple contact form your customers/users can use to send a complaint or ask about something. If you deem it reasonable, you can add additional fields such as customer number or the name of the product a given customer wants to ask about. This way, you will be able to respond to every form you receive without the need to ask additional questions. Again, it’s all about making life easier and saving time, both for you and your customers.
Ask for feedback
Once the issue is solved, you can (and should) ask every caller for feedback. To do so, you can send a short NPS survey via SMS or email and ask them to send it back. It will give you additional information about your customer service, and the customer will feel that their voice is important to your company.
4 Upgrades to Make to Your Self-Service Portal
Add a chatbot
It will help your users use the portal comfortably and get all they need to solve their issues. It’s a good practice to add a small chatbot icon in the lower-right corner so that everyone who wants to talk to such an assistant can easily activate a chatbot. It’s important to keep this form of help visible and readily available. Don’t ask your customers to click through many subpages to reach a chatbot; it should always be easy to find and use.
Empower customers to make account changes
A customer portal that doesn’t really enable your customers to change anything but the color scheme is pointless and frustrating. Don’t be afraid to allow customers to change all the key elements of their profile, including their contact and billing details or their pricing plan.
Maybe you're afraid that people will implement these changes accidentally. In that case, you can give a 24-hour period for every change to apply and send a text message or an email confirming the changes, and if it was in error, they should reach customer service for assistance.
Add short onboarding for new customers
A quick tutorial or instructions showing what to expect from each section of the self-service portal is great to have. Don’t overdo it, though. You don’t have to explain every single element, just the most important/complex ones. A help section integrated with the portal is also something to consider, especially if there are many features and options within your portal.
Make logging in easy
Don’t ask your customers to input all the details before they can log into your system. A simple login and password should be enough. Of course, if your service is money-related, you can add 2FA (two-factor authentication) to make sure your customers’ identity and sensitive data is safe, but asking them to input their customer number, credit card number, or mother’s maiden name every time they want to use your portal is too much.
Make every interaction count!
In this post, I’ve shown you 19 ways to make your customer service better. Use this knowledge to tweak CS in your company, and don’t forget that every interaction with every customer is important for the sake of your company’s profitability and stability.
Never rest on your laurels; train your team and implement new solutions and technologies that make communication with your company faster and more effective. Customer care is an ongoing process that never really ends, especially now, in a world where new services emerge on a daily basis.
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