Have you ever experienced really awesome customer service?
You’ll know if you have.
It’s a pretty amazing moment when you get off the phone or you are done with the chat, and you realize someone actually cares. The customer success agent was amazing, friendly, really took the time to understand the problem, and went above and beyond to help.
Most people make calls to customer service centers with a certain hesitation, approaching dread, and the expectation that the person on the other end of the phone won’t be helpful.
Even with web-based messages, like emails or social media, the default expectation is disappointment. As well-meaning and sincere as many customer service teams can seem, most are bound by policies that make solving problems difficult, whereas others simply don’t care. Either way, their efforts benefit the company’s bottom line rather than the customer’s sense of satisfaction.
How Do You Define Good Customer Service?
Service can make all the difference when it comes to a customer’s experience with your company, and this is particularly true in uber-competitive industries that are notorious for their bad service – telecoms and payroll providers, to name a few.
Even in those industries, companies invest hundreds of millions in training, systems, and processes to maintain key performance indicators (KPIs) for service at their contact centers. Most of them will actively measure agents and calls and even incorporate customer feedback using surveys.
As a result, ‘good customer service’ is quantifiable to a certain extent, within any customer-centric industry. Certain questions can help quantify customer service, such as:
- Did the agent understand the customer’s problem sufficiently to offer a resolution?
- Was a resolution provided within an acceptable timescale?
- Was the customer happy with the resolution? Has their problem been solved?
- Have all appropriate follow-up actions been taken?
- Did the agent handle the query in a friendly and efficient manner, displaying empathy when needed?
- Overall, did the agent represent the company and brand values with professionalism, leaving the customer with a good impression of the brand?
While an excellent or awesome rating isn’t possible with every query, if a CS agent handles a challenging query with exceptional skill, your customers are sure to recognize their effort.
Why is ‘Good’ So Hard to Achieve?
Despite hundreds of millions being spent on service and training every year, why do customers still expect to be disappointed? And, why do agents so often meet that expectation, rather than try and overcome it?
- High staff turnover
- The high number of part-time, contract, and temporary workers in the service industry, many of whom will be just ‘killing time’ before moving onto careers or lifestyles they actually care about
- Policies and procedures prevent staff from achieving a satisfactory resolution in every case
- Sales and other targets also force staff to deliver a less than satisfactory service at times
Excellent Customer Service Can Take Your Company to the Next Level
Clearly, the bar you need to cross from average to good isn’t high.
Neither is the leap from good to great.
Achieving consistently good service would give any company an immediate competitive edge, especially in industries dominated by older, larger players.
Brands capable of delivering consistently good service earn a reputation and the fanatic loyalty of their customers–think Virgin, Starbucks, Zappos, Whole Foods, and Southwest Airlines.
For startups and small business, providing consistently great service is a smart and easy way to avoid competing on price against players with much deeper pockets.
There are 7 Steps to Achieve Consistently Good Customer Service:
1. Incorporate Service Into Every Touch Point
Customer service is as much about managing as well as exceeding expectations, which first means establishing the perimeters.
What can you deliver, consistently, with the resources, staff, time, and channels you have? How can you make it easy for your customers to reach you when something goes wrong?
All of this depends on how many customers and the amount of revenue or funding you have, so there’s no right answer.
Whatever you decide–phone number, social media, online form, email, in-app support tickets–make sure you set clear KPIs for response and resolution times.
Because payroll is such a time-sensitive function, speedy response times are well-appreciated. At Wagepoint, 85% of our tickets are resolved within 1-7 hours, and the remaining 15% within 24 hours.
When you appoint or hire a customer service agent, you should set clear procedures for how they achieve a resolution when working with other team members. To begin, keep things simple. As you grow, you can take this a step further, ensuring everyone is empowered and able to deliver great service consistently.
2. Only Hire Passionate Customer Service Agents
And pay them accordingly.
Customer service is full of people watching the clock, planning their next career move, or working on a side hustle. Despite this, there are some talented agents, who go above and beyond and care about customers.
For consistently great service, your company needs to hire a team of these customer happiness rockstars. Skilled professionals who can deliver great service even on a bad day. Attract them with higher than average salaries, performance-based bonuses, and the opportunity to create a team from scratch.
3. Pick Your Ideal Resolution Time
Should you aim for fast or perfect?
Any customer with a problem should expect both. No one wants to chase down a resolution since that only compounds the original problem.
Unfortunately, there’s no simple answer. It depends on the problem and your product, service, and policies. Ideally you should aim for a resolution on the first touch point, either within a phone call, or a set timescale, e.g. 24 hours.
Keeping a customer updated is the best way to ensure they don’t feel the need to keep chasing you for an answer to their problem. At the same time, be prepared with a clear complaints procedure for those times when you can’t solve a customer’s problem.
4. Phone, Email, Support Ticket, & Social Etiquette
Hiring naturally skilled customer service agents with industry experience means they bring the benefit of contact center training.
Good agents also understand the value of:
- Smiling, even when writing an email
- Picking the right words
- Creative thinking when solving a problem
- Working with other departments and stakeholders to find the best resolution possible
- Handling complaints and difficult customers
All of this should be worked into every call, email, tweet, or support ticket. Consequently, good agents are already skilled in the lexicon and psychology of supporting customers.
From a customer’s perspective, they need to feel–to believe–that the person they are talking to will do everything they can to solve their problem.
It might be an illusion. The person dealing with the query might not care, but so long as customer and agent buy into the shared belief, then great service has been achieved, even if a resolution isn’t always possible.
5. Difficult Customers & Complaints
Another shared illusion is that long-held maxim, “the customer is always right.”
This isn’t always the case.
A customer might be right, but policies can prohibit them getting the resolution they want. As much as possible, ensure nothing–particularly opaque policies and a collective lack of common sense, a mindset that can evolve as companies grow–stands in the way of delivering great service.
Difficult queries can often be avoided when there’s sufficient transparency between a company and its customers. Educating them, with blogs, articles, FAQs, videos, and other useful forms of digital content is a great way of supporting customer service teams.
When all else fails, ensure there’s a clear process for them to air their grievances with a manager or C-suite executive. If necessary, offer compensation.
Most importantly, treat them as a person, not just a ‘customer.’ Some in the industry feel even the term dehumanizes customers, too easily forcing agents and customers into warring camps, rather than people working together to solve a mutual problem.
6. Attract The Right Customers
Do you know what your ideal customer looks like?
In marketing, this is known as creating a customer persona.
Josh Zweig, C0-Founder of LiveCA LLP, Canada’s first online accounting firm, described identifying the right customers using ‘mushy points.’
Make a judgement call on the five or more character traits you’re looking for with an ideal customer. Then rank the customers you have and compare against what you are currently doing to attract the right kind. Aim to keep your ‘mushy point’ score high for every customer, thereby keeping your agents happy and motivated.
7. Can You Have Too Much Customer Service?
Smaller businesses might be tempted to equip everyone with the ability to handle customer queries. After all, if resources are spread thin, why not maximize what you have?
That would be a mistake.
Not everyone is going to be a natural at customer service. Not everyone has the time. Not everyone needs to worry about customers.
Say you have 1,000 customers, mostly in North America and Europe, you don’t need 24/7 service to cover the 30 you have in Dubai, Singapore, and Indonesia. Instead, make sure those customers know you will make their queries a priority, but response times might be slightly longer.
Manage expectations, but leave it to the experts, with other team members supporting agents as necessary. When you don’t scale too fast, you can adjust the size of your support team accordingly.
- Incorporate service into every touch point, but leave it to the experts, your customer service team
- Hire the best and pay accordingly
- Educate customers using your blog, knowledge base, etc., to ensure you are supporting service agents as much as possible
- Manage expectations, ensure customers know how soon you will answer a query and keep them informed throughout
- The customer isn’t always right; sometimes customer relations break down. However, you should still do all you can to keep customers happy.
- Attract and work with the right customers for your company and brand values.
Start sharing these tips with your team here.