Improving Customer Support Starts with Honest Assessment

Thanks to innovative companies like Zappos, who have focused on truly creating a customer-first culture, the revitalization of customer support is in full swing. Because of these trailblazers, who recognize the revenue implications of superior customer service, there has never been a better time to invest in improving support teams.

Survival in the world of customer support is based on a combination of honest self-analysis and external feedback. Both are necessary tools for identifying the strengths and weaknesses in current support approaches and offerings. Surveying external customers and internal stakeholders are two proven methods that organizations can use to accurately assess the quality of service they are delivering against the kind of service they intend to deliver.

Start with honest self-evaluation

A critical factor in the success of self-evaluation is transparent feedback. It’s much better to clearly know the inadequacies of your customer service than to misguidedly operate under the impression that you’re serving customers well, and a baseline survey of employees is a good place to begin. The end goal of these internal surveys is to find a starting point for designing and implementing a customer-service improvement plan by filling in the following areas:

  • Employee perspectives on customer satisfaction levels, wants, needs, and service requirements
  • Objective, valid data on customer service requirements
  • Benchmarks for measuring customer satisfaction

Once teams have these pieces of information, they can take appropriate steps to improve as needed. If a support team is trying to raise customer satisfaction to 85%, they need to know where they start. The plan of attack will look much different if the current satisfaction level is 80% rather than 30%. For example, raising satisfaction 5% would likely mean extra attention on small details such as  how support reps are writing emails; on the other hand, a 55% gap to target would likely warrant larger changes including new team members, restructured leadership, or much more.

Weave in external feedback

The next step in assessing the current state of any customer support team is getting feedback from customers. If you don’t know what your customers think about your current service levels and performance, there is no way to predict your future customer-service activities. There are many kinds of customer surveys, but typical ones include:

  • Random customer surveys
  • Company-wide attitude surveys
  • Lost account surveys
  • Target account surveys
  • Customer exit surveys

All of these survey types have their merits, but the most common is the random customer survey wherein a company selects a percentage of their customers and surveys them on a set of predetermined questions. These surveys tend to be easy to conduct and measure overall customer satisfaction on a range of levels. However, guard against the temptation, to ask all the customers all the questions, because too much data can be just as bad as none at all.

In an interview with Jeffery Becksted, former global head of customer service at Nokia Siemens Networks, Harvard Business Review highlighted the disadvantages of asking customers too many questions. After seeing a satisfaction survey balloon to over 150 questions, rendering it virtually unusable, Jeffery’s team started over with a new approach,

The company ditched the quantitative approach and asked clients for open-ended evaluations of the most recent service month and desired service actions for the month ahead. The shift changed employees’ focus: Instead of trying to hit a specific satisfaction score, they brainstormed ways to make customers happier.

So instead of spreadsheets full of numbers, the team’s switch to qualitative feedback put the focus back where it needed to be: improving the customer experience. There are plenty of tools—including Lessonly, Formstack, and SurveyMonkey—that help in soliciting this level of feedback, and larger customer surveys may require the expertise of outside consultants or market-research firms. These can be costly, but they can also be money well-spent in the name of improving customer satisfaction.

Build a strong customer support team with Lessonly

Finding the balance between internal evaluation and external feedback is difficult, but they are two sides of the same coin. Too much internal or external feedback, and an business won’t be able to organize a service improvement strategy that caters to the areas that need attention the most. Companies shouldn’t feel intimidating starting small with a few employees and a few customers. The most important step is the first one.

Progressive companies build a customer-centric cultures with Lessonly. Take the first step toward a more enabled support team with a self-guided tour of the Lessonly software. Sign up today.

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