Customer service is one of the most underrated functions in the corporate world.
Which is insane because it’s critical.
According to a massive survey by SAP, customers are 50% more likely to break up with a brand because of bad or unresponsive customer service than for making repeated mistakes.
Also, according to a survey by Microsoft, 58% of consumers have broken up with a brand because of a poor customer service experience.
This can have direct financial consequences. First because of the loss of revenue, but also because it’s much easier to get an existing customer to purchase again than it is to acquire new customers.
So in order to maintain the same level of revenue, you’ll have to invest more money in customer acquisition. In fact, reducing customer churn is a great way to increase revenue.
And, obviously, bad customer service also impacts the reputation of a company.
So how do you ensure high-quality customer service?
World-class customer service is a combination of the right people, the right practices, effective prevention, smart use of data, and smart use of technology.
This guide will dive into each aspect and offer actionable advice to improve your customer service operations!
Build (and keep) a dream team
Customer service is all about people. It’s about the customers. And it’s about the people serving them.
Customers expect well-managed service, handled by empathetic, efficient, and creative people.
That’s who you need to hire and give a reason to stay.
Here’s how you do it!
Hire the right people
You can't wing customer service.
It's a real job. Some people are good at it, some are bad, and some are legendary. Customer service best practices are nothing without the right people.
So obviously, the first thing you want to do to improve customer service is to hire the right people.
There are specific qualities you should look for when hiring someone for the job:
A customer service representative is not a technician. They’re your first line of communication in case of an issue. That’s why you need people who can put themselves in the customer’s shoes.
- An analytical mind
Issues can arise for various reasons. And in various ways. You need someone with a structured mind, who works methodically.
A good way to test that skill is to see how they first react to a problem. Do they go right into it emailing a solution to the customer? Or do they first list the possible causes, confirm their hypothesis, and only then get back to the customer?
- Willingness to help
Customer service is not a dirty job. It may even be the most important function at your company, besides your core business.
Hire people with a drive. People who want to help others and find satisfaction in solving their issues.
Even if your product seems boring, get someone willing to do the emotional labor.
- Fast learner/adaptable
The world moves fast. And so should your customer service team. Your product or service will have new features, your company is going to grow, new people are going to enter the team,... You need people who can withstand change. Or better yet, thrive in it.
Some customers will be difficult. Some will act in flat-out bad faith.
You need someone stable enough not to take it personally. Someone who can keep their cool and still focus on making this a positive experience for the customer. However horrible they are. (To an extent, of course.)
- Good communication
An important part of customer service is conveying the right message clearly.
If your agent has a fix for your customer’s problem but they can’t articulate it, it’s not going to work.
When interviewing customer service representatives, make sure to test their oral as well as written communication skills.
Overall, customer service is more about attitude than hard skills. What really matters in a customer service representative is that they’re coachable. If they already have the right soft skills, you’ll be able to turn them into a success machine. And a delight to your customers.
It’s a bit of an effort, but that’s the price of customer satisfaction.
Taking the time to hire the right people is 100% worth it.
Train and empower your staff
You want to make your customer service staff part of the whole team. Of course, you want to improve their customer service skills. But, as first-line responders, they also need to be aligned with your mission, your product, and your culture.
Also, you don’t want your customer service staff to be passive. You want them to take initiative. Preferably in a way that will better the relationship between your brand and your customers.
According to Alexandra Mederrick at Wix Answers, there are several things you can do to create a favorable environment:
- Foster independence
- Use self-directed teams
- Allow failure
- Encourage experimentation
- Establish trust
- Provide feedback
- Be a coach and a mentor
The core of it is that your team should have the freedom to do what they think is best. Even if it means failing from time to time. Talented and resilient people will rebound, learn, and improve. Especially if you set time aside for constructive criticism.
If you give your reps this opportunity to grow and show that you’re available to help, you’ll build a loyal team made of passionate and skilled people.
Frame the job in a meaningful way
As we saw already, customer service is an extremely important function. And it should be valued as such.
Present your customer service staff as an important part of the organization. Take their feedback into account. Help them have an impact on the direction of the company and show them that impact.
You can (and should) also share the results of your customer service team with the rest of the company.
If you value the function, your employees will too.
If you don’t, they won’t. That’s on you.
Align customer service with your global communication
As far as customers are concerned, your company is one entity.
It doesn’t matter who they talk to, everyone represents the brand.
As such, it’s important to align your customer service with the rest of your brand.
When it comes to customer service, it’s mostly a matter of tone and voice.
An easy and scalable way to ensure that alignment is to build a content style guide.
That way, everyone at your company will know how to express themselves in a way that reflects the brand you’re building.
It does take a bit of work but Mailchimp chose to open source their style guide. And it’s amazing. Just go and steal it!
Reward a job well done
Just like for any other function, reward a job well done. And celebrate success.
EASI, our parent company, gives out awards for customer spirit every year. These are not just brownie points. They’re real company-wide sought-after marks of recognition. And people take pride in providing a seamless experience for customers.
During the rest of the year, there are quite a few things you can do to thank your staff:
- Share positive feedback on internal channels
- Offer perks
- Take the team on team-building adventures
- Give company freebies if that’s something that could be valuable to them
- You can even have the customers suggest the reward
- Give your team an end-of-year bonus based on performance
Valuing the job will push your team to high performance.
Attaching rewards to it will pull it to high performance.
Protect your people
Your team should go above and beyond for the customer.
But it doesn’t mean that they have to accept everything.
There’s a difference between a customer being disagreeable and a customer being abusive.
Your team should feel safe at work. And as such, you need to build clear rules with boundaries as to what they’re expected to deal with and what’s unacceptable.
Your customer service representatives need to be able to come to you when something is not okay. And it’s your job to step in when a customer is out of line. Frustration doesn’t excuse harassment, sexism, racism, or any kind of discrimination.
Some people are more resilient than others. But you need to make it clear to your team that they don’t have to take anything beyond a certain point.
The mental health of your customer service team is as important as the safety of the data they handle.
Provide opportunities for growth
57% of employees surveyed in a study conducted by Randstad said that lack of growth was the reason they were seeking another job.
In light of that, you’ll want to make sure your customer service talent wants to stay around.
There are several paths your representatives can explore to grow their career:
Customer Support Engineer
A customer support engineer is a support professional with technical engineering experience. They can provide technical help to customers and troubleshoot technological issues.
Training your representatives to handle those issues might offer them new perspectives within your company.
Multilingual Customer Support Specialist
They have the same responsibilities as other representatives, except that they handle support in several languages. As such, they work with a wider variety of companies globally.
Offering language classes to your team might encourage them to grow within your company.
Customer Service Manager
Customer service managers are in charge of a team of representatives. They’re responsible for setting goals and improving performance.
Management positions are scarce, but training and promoting internally is a great way to build a loyal team.
Customer service representatives are constantly in touch with customers. As such, they’re in a privileged position to learn sales. Either by convincing customers not to leave or by upselling them.
Providing sales training and transitioning support representatives to sales can be a good way to provide them with career opportunities.
So as you can see, there are several ways service representatives can grow within the company.
Make it everyone’s responsibility
Some people in the company talk to customers daily, but everyone is responsible for keeping customers satisfied.
Customers need to be at the center of every action anyone in the company takes.
Developers build a product that will bring the most value possible. Marketing crafts content with huge educational value. Sales learn as much as possible about the customer to tailor the best solution possible. HR keeps everyone in the best spirit possible to make customers happy. Customer support works hard to... okay, you get the idea.
That being said, everyone in your company should be trained in customer service. This will make everyone aware of the importance of the function. It will also promote a sense of inclusion for the customer service team.
But the bottom line is:
Everyone in the company works in customer service, just in a different way.
Once you’ve got the team, you need to implement best practices.
There’s a wide range of things you can do to improve customer service.
Let’s look at the most important of them!
Treat customers as humans, not tickets
The chaos of business life can make us lose track of what actually matters: customers.
Customers are humans. Every single one of them.
Do you know the difference between B2C and B2B?
In B2C you sell to people. In B2B, you also sell to people, except that they work at a company.
They're all people with feelings and emotions. And that's how you should treat them.
This is one of the motivations behind the creation of Rooftop. We wanted a tool to handle customer support efficiently and keep communication personal.
Here are a few things you can do to promote a human feel.
Speak like a human
Even in a B2B context, use a conversational tone when addressing customers. Don’t use overly stiff language nobody can relate to.
Have customer service representatives introduce themselves
Starting an email by a (canned) “My name is X, let’s see how I can help you today!” can make things more personal.
Your customers will feel heard and taken care of by a real person.
Have customer service representatives use a custom signature
A custom signature makes things even more personal. Some customer service platforms allow you to set a signature for your representatives.
Don’t overuse canned responses
Canned responses are great as they save a lot of time. But they tend to make things impersonal. Personalize them either manually or with variables (or both).
This should already take you a long way.
Here’s a great resource with canned responses best practices.
ChatGPT is a tool, not a colleague.
Being able to use ChatGPT or other AI tools to assist you in your job is a blessing. But use them wisely.
The content generated from these tools should always be proofread by a human. After all, you don't want to have to apologize for untrue communication or poorly adapted emails like: "[Your Brand]", or "[customer]".
Instead, you can use them as inspiration when you need to write an email or solve a problem.
A good tip to get the best possible info from ChatGPT or others is to explain your problem to the tool and ask them to ask you a few questions they need to know about your company, brand or way of communicating with customers in order to give you a good answer.
Never say no
You can't have all the answers and solve every problem. But it's your mission to try.
If you don't have a clear-cut solution to a problem, you need to find a workaround.
And if you can't, you need to involve someone who can.
You may not get to a perfect solution, but you might solve that one specific issue that your customer has.
It might even be a temporary wobbly fix but it's infinitely better than nothing!
And either way, they will appreciate the effort.
Train your customer service team to think outside the box and find creative solutions.
When faced with an issue they can’t solve, your team need to ask themselves:
“How can I still bring value to the customer in regards to that issue?”
How do you get your team there? By creating a safe environment for experimentation and occasional failure.
Send real apologies
Most apologies from businesses are bullshit.
After service is down, or losing data, you usually get an apology email. And it usually goes like this: "We apologize for any inconvenience that might have occurred."
That is not an apology. You can't apologize for something that may or may not have happened.
It's disrespectful, and it shows you don't believe in your product.
Because if you believe in the value you're providing, then you believe in the trouble caused by any outage or shortcoming.
In these circumstances, nothing short of a sincere heartfelt apology is acceptable.
Here's a template:
I'm reaching out to apologize about [issue].
At [company], we pride ourselves in reliably providing [product or service]. We dropped the ball yesterday and we're sorry.
We got on it immediately as this does not reflect the value we usually provide customers.
Again, we're very sorry about the trouble this situation caused you. Please feel free to let us know if there's anything we can do to help.
Here’s more on how to write a perfect apology letter.
Customers will appreciate the sincerity. If you try to bullshit them, they will know.
Don’t correct, solve
People can be entitled, rude, or downright disrespectful. And they will sometimes think that they know your job better than you do.
They're going to be wrong on a lot of counts. But unless it's directly relevant to their use of your company, don't correct them. They won't care, and you're going to waste your time.
Solve their issue, that's all it's about.
Use the right channels
Letting your customers get in touch with you through their favourite channels is a great way to improve service.
What the data says
Depending on your audience, this is something you’re going to have to find out by yourselves.
According to Microsoft's 2019 State of Customer Service Report, phone support is the winner, with a preference of 34% globally. Email is second with 17%. Live chat comes next with 15%. Social media and text get a 3% and 4% preference respectively.
The report doesn’t dive into age group repartition for this question but according to Microsoft’s 2018 report, phone service is especially popular among respondents over 55 years old. And among people aged 18-34, social media popularity reaches 10%.
(As a millennial, I hate picking up the phone.)
But don’t let data alone guide your decision.
What you should be doing
There’s something important to consider here.
You should use the channels through which you are the most effective.
For example, if you’re in the software industry, the phone might not be the best way to handle support. You might need a detailed explanation from your customer, including screenshots, an error report,...
In that situation, using the phone might make it longer to solve the problem. Same thing with a live chat if you don’t actually have the human resources to handle it. If people assume someone is behind the screen, they’ll start a conversation and you’ll have to extract details from them.
On the other hand, using a form in which you guide the user in reporting an issue, you might be able to solve the problem with only one touchpoint. You won’t need to go back and forth.
You need to assess what you can provide, what customers want, and how to be the most effective. And build something based on that.
Ask customers for feedback
Asking customers for feedback is always a great way to improve a product or service.
That also applies to customer service.
Most customers won’t take the time to fill a survey unless they’re either very angry or very satisfied. People are also known not to be the most objective when faced with emotion.
That’s why, depending on your product or service, it’s useful to get in touch with customers and ask for their feedback.
Respond on social media
It’s easy to forget about social media if it’s not a marketing channel you’re using.
But people use social media, and they will probably try to get in touch with you there.
Make sure to keep track of the messages you get on social media and add them to your ticketing system.
If you are active on social media, be sure to respond or react to comments. That’s how a lot of people interact with brands.
Even if the subject is not sensitive, responding to people will make them feel seen and it’ll create rapport between you and them. That way, when they actually have an issue, they’ll get into it with a good impression of the company.
Here’s a specific guide on how to handle customer service on social media.
Use human auto-replies
Customer service departments sometimes need to use auto-replies. If only to let a customer know that their request has been received and will be processed shortly.
Here are a few examples to get you inspired:
Turn setbacks into opportunities
Your customer service team has the privilege of turning setbacks into successes.
A great company is not a company that never fails. (Because it means it’s not trying much of anything.) It’s a company that knows how to make up for its blunders.
Here’s how you do it:
1. Own it
This is critical.
Once you’ve established that something is indeed wrong and the company is responsible for it, the first step is to own it.
It’s no fun and it puts you at a disadvantage initially. But owning the blunder will have two consequences:
- It’ll display your integrity to the customer
- It’ll open the way for compensation. Because if you didn’t do anything wrong, why should you make up for it?
There’s nothing more infuriating as a customer than having a company basically saying “This is not on us but here’s free stuff so you’ll shut up about it.”
If you own up to it, then you can start making up for it.
2. Come up with a plan and implement it
It’s important that you take initiative here.
Once the issue has been determined, you need to go to the customer with a plan to fix the issue. Don’t over-promise to make them feel better. If it has to take three weeks, it’ll take three weeks. Be careful about under-promising as well.
What you should do instead is find a solution to make the situation viable while a solution is being implemented.
While that’s going on, make sure that you or someone you work closely with stays available for the customer.
You need to show the customer that you’re not just fixing the problem. They need to see that you’re taking it seriously and that someone is in charge.
That’s how you make them feel that their business is important. Because it is.
3. Go the extra mile
Now you’ve fixed the issue and delivered on your commitment. That’s when you can offer the customer compensation.
Because at that point it doesn’t come off as a bribe. By doing the work, you’ve already proven that their business matters to you. So now it’s a token of appreciation for sticking with you.
Compensation can come in various forms. The most obvious one is to offer free stuff and/or free service.
But you can go further, get creative, and turn the customer into a partner!
For example, ask the customer if they’d be interested in participating in a case study.
That way you can showcase how you solved the problem they had. You also show how cool they are for sticking with you. And finally, if you have a big audience, you’re giving them exposure, which is nice.
Everybody wins, and by working together, you’ve made a partner out of them.
The customer service team is in a great position to turn setbacks into opportunities.
Quality over speed
A speedy response time is definitely one of the hallmarks of great customer service.
That being said, a robust and well-implemented solution will go a longer way than a quick fix.
Take the necessary time to investigate the issue. Not just to please the customer, but also to identify if it has ramifications that could cause further problems. Or to discover that it ties to an issue that other customers have encountered.
Also, getting back to the customer with a half-baked fix or without helpful information is going to waste their time.
Go in depth and come back to your customer with a solution they can work with and that they'll be grateful for.
Be lenient with refunds
This one heavily depends on your industry.
But if you’re a startup or a tech company, you might want to be lenient with refunds.
And unless you have a money-back guarantee, customers won’t ask for refunds often.
It’ll mostly happen if you have a recurring subscription-based system and they forgot about it.
Depending on how long it’s been going on, you shouldn’t automatically give them a full refund. But in most cases they’ll realize the next time their credit card gets charged.
If your business runs on a recurring revenue model, refunding a customer shouldn’t have a big impact on revenue.
Being lenient with refunds will keep you in the customer’s good graces. So instead of leaving a nasty review about you taking their money for something they have no use for, they might come back at a later time.
Offer a robust guarantee
You’ll have less friction with customers if you have a clear and generous guarantee.
For example, as a startup, if you don’t have a free trial or a free plan, you might want to offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.
Your customers will know exactly what they’re in for. And it’ll avoid arguments with customer service representatives if they’re not satisfied with their purchase.
Mitigate the workload
According to Bill Price and David Jaffe’s book, the best service is no service at all.
How do you achieve that? There are several paths.
Build a great product
The best way to avoid having to deal with complaints is to make sure they don’t exist in the first place.
The first thing to do is to make a list of the most common requests your customer service team receives.
Based on that, there might be 2 big reasons these issues are raised.
1. Your product/service isn’t working as intended
If your customers are experiencing bugs and general issues, your support team will have a lot on their plate.
If you’re having a lot of product-related issues, you should stop and reevaluate your priorities. Whatever business you’re in, this applies.
If you’re in SaaS, this means you need to stop developing new features. And you need to focus on having a functioning product.
If you have an ecommerce business and orders get lost, you need to stop shipping until you have reliable partners.
And so on.
2. Your product isn’t clear enough
Another reason customer service might be blowing up is because your product isn’t clear enough.
If your customers are confused about your product, you don’t need to reinforce your support team.
You need to reevaluate your UX/UI and product design.
Your product should explain itself so that’s where your focus should be.
Conduct interviews with your customers and observe their behavior with the product.
You’re definitely going to get some interesting insight.
Here are a few things that can help if you have an app, a SaaS, or a website:
- An onboarding process
One of the best ways to make sure customers understand your product is to walk them through it. And not just walk them through it, get them to take action.
Our customers go through a series of exercises when they sign up for a Rooftop free trial.
Tooltips are graphical elements in an interface that usually appear when hovering with the mouse over an element in the app. They usually consist of a textbox containing a hint or information about that specific element.
Now, even a clear product can be complex and, from a certain point, there’s nothing you can do about it.
At least from a product perspective.
But you can make sure customers help themselves.
Build a knowledge base/documentation center
Even the best products sometimes need additional explanation.
And to avoid having your customer service team flooded, you need to build a knowledge base. Depending on your business, an FAQ might be enough.
Qualify prospects better
There’s another reason you might have a lot of customer service requests. You might be attracting the wrong customers. If you attract the wrong people to your business, they might believe at first that it’s a fit for what they’re looking for. When in fact, it’s not.
What can you do to qualify your prospects better?
Narrow your targeting
In a lot of cases, the root of the issue is the initial targeting.
Make sure that the audience you’re targeting is the one that’ll get the most value out of your product.
It means less leads and potentially less customers. But the cost of doing support for mismatched customers isn’t worth it.
Provide sufficient information
The more information you provide upfront, the better. That way, your prospects will be able to determine whether your product is a good fit for them.
Here are a couple of things you can do to properly inform your prospects.
Have a specific Unique Selling Proposition
You need to state your USP in simple terms. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be specific.
For example, if you sell your solution as “The fastest and simplest emailing tool”, it doesn’t mean much. It could be an email marketing solution, an email client, or a shared inbox tool.
All of these serve very different purposes.
People might be looking for an “emailing tool”. But that’s because they have their own situation in mind. Not the variety of meanings the term can have.
It’s your job to make sure prospects understand what you’re selling.
Otherwise you’re going to end up with a lot of unqualified free trials. And you’ll be spending resources on people who won’t end up paying for your product.
You need to take people’s intent into account.
Present use cases
Don’t just show what your product can technically do. Show how it can be used.
Prospect’s don’t think in terms of features. Features are just a means to an end. Prospects think in terms of what they need to accomplish.
Clear use cases help the right prospects know your product is a good fit. And they help weed out the wrong ones.
Add qualifying steps to your signup process
The more complex the signup process, the lower the conversion rate. That’s a given.
But it’s not always a bad thing. Some friction can help you get rid of bad matches.
Here are a few ways you can do this:
Ask for a professional email address
If you’re in B2B, requiring a professional email address helps weed out non-B2B prospects. It’ll ensure you only get serious requests.
This is rather easy to implement. Set up your form not to accept gmail.com, yahoo.com, outlook.com,... addresses.
Ask for relevant information
Asking for specific information can also help weed out bad matches.
If your product is only intended for large teams, ask for your prospect’s team size.
If your product only works on certain equipment, ask what kind of equipment they have.
You can also ask for their location, revenue, industry,... Anything that’s relevant.
These are just examples. You need to find what filters are relevant to your situation.
The best teams are data-driven, in every sense. Here’s how to use it to your advantage.
Keep track of customer information
The more you know about your customers, the better you can serve them.
According, once again, to Microsoft's 2019 State of Customer Service Report, 75% of respondents expect the agent to know who they are and know their purchase history. Sadly, only 31% of customer service representatives have that information more than half the time.
The good thing is that making sure your representatives have access to that information will give you a competitive edge.
Get organized in a way to keep information flowing and easily accessible within your organization.
So long as you’re respecting GDPR and other privacy laws.
One surefire way to improve customer service performance is to track KPIs. And take action.
If you can track how time is being spent and by whom, you can make informed decisions.
Here’s what you should be keeping an eye on.
First response time
This is probably the most important. Response time plays a crucial role in retaining customers. Especially for small businesses.
According to a report by Forrester, 73% of respondents say that valuing their time is the most important thing companies can do to provide them with good customer service. CMO council found fast response times to be the most important attribute of a good customer experience.
According to research by SuperOffice, the average response time to customer service requests is 12 hours and 10 minutes.
According to a survey also conducted by SuperOffice with over 3200 consumers, 88% of them expect a response from a business within 60 minutes.
Where are you on that scale?
Once you’ve tracked your response time. How do you efficiently improve it?
Set up autoresponders
They don’t really count as a response. But they’re a good way to mitigate the waiting time as they allow you to:
- Thank and acknowledge - Give your customer acknowledgement that you received their request
- Set expectations - Let them know when they can expect a response
- Reassure - Assure them that you’re taking their issue seriously
- Send documentation - Link to useful resources like FAQs and knowledge bases
They will feel respected for reaching out. And they might even solve the issue themselves thanks to the resources you sent. Sometimes they just don’t know where to look.
Expand the scope of your canned responses
Canned responses should be used responsibly. But it doesn’t mean you can’t apply them to a wide range of situations.
Some requests tend to come back often. Prepare canned responses for them. Just make sure they sound human and they can be personalized easily.
Here’s how to do this properly:
- Share - Ask your support team to share the most common requests they get
- List - List them from most to least common
- Prevent - Look for ways to improve your app and documentation to prevent the issue in the first place
- Write - Prepare a thoughtful and specific template to address that request
Before jumping in, make sure the request can’t be prevented by improving the product or its documentation.
Categorize and prioritize
When it comes to customer service, First in, First out might not be the best policy.
Requests don’t have the same level of emergency. So treating them all as absolute priority has no advantage.
The best way to make an informed decision on how to go about this is to categorize. And then set priorities. You need to take into account service level agreements, the gravity of the issue, how urgent it is, how complex it is to fix, and previous interactions you’ve had with that customer.
For example, if a specific customer has had a lot of issues recently, you might want to process their request first. That way you’ll show you really want to keep them as a customer. Even if the issue isn’t terribly urgent.
Or maybe one of your customers is faced with a massive bug that’ll take days to investigate and fix. It’s pretty bad but shifting all your resources to that might not be a good idea. A better solution might be to address other issues while building a plan to address the big one in an efficient way.
Prioritizing is part of the job of a customer service manager.
Obviously, if you have a Service Level Agreement or a VIP deal with certains customers, these should come first.
Ideally you’d need dedicated people. If you don’t, you’ll have to take representatives off other tasks to take care of VIP customers. The risk is that you’ll end up with a few satisfied VIP customers and a bunch of unfinished tasks.
Here’s more on how to handle prioritization based on customer status.
Time spent on a specific task/customer
This has an impact on both your response time and the cost of your customer service team.
Sometimes, a single customer monopolizes the time of a customer service representative. This means that the representative won’t be able to spend time helping other customers.
This will affect the speed of the service. And it’ll be very expensive to maintain, unless you’re in a model of dedicated service. Because you’d have to hire a new representative.
If you don’t keep track of this, one customer might be costing you more money than they generate.
It goes without saying that you need to measure how happy customers are with the service.
Here we’re talking about the quality of the customer service department specifically. In those circumstances, you want to ask for a post-service rating.
As the name suggests, it’s a rating that you’re going to ask right after the service is delivered.
It doesn’t need to be overly complicated. You just need to know whether customers are happy with the performance or not.
This is usually what it looks like:
Number of requests processed
The point here is not to pressure representatives to process more requests. (Although important disparities between representatives can be informative.)
It’s to provide them with the right tools to help them do so. Because the more requests they process, the more customers they can take care of. Without sacrificing quality, that is.
When it comes to improving the performance of your customer service team, technology is your #1 ally.
But technology is only a way to speed up a working process. If you don’t have a process, you’re going to be accelerating something that doesn’t work.
Also, every shiny new tool isn’t necessarily good for your business.
Use the right tools
There are a lot of different types of tools out there to improve your customer service operations. Let’s go through the most important ones and how to use them!
Customer service management tools
This is the most obvious and important one.
You need a platform that’s going to do the heavy lifting. That is, receive the requests and present them in a manageable way. Platforms like Rooftop, Zendesk, Intercom, and many others allow you to easily manage your customer service operations.
A regular mailbox will fall apart as soon as a lot of requests start coming in. Or if you need to collaborate on those requests.
These tools give you an overview of the requests and allow you to assign them to representatives. They then allow representatives to collaborate on them or get the input of a supervisor. They also allow you to track KPIs in order to improve performance.
None of which can efficiently be done with a basic mailbox.
Knowledge base tools
As you already know, the more your customers can help themselves, the less your customer service team will be flooded with requests.
The fastest way to set up a knowledge base is to use a dedicated tool. You won’t have to code anything. You can start creating your categories and articles right away.
You can also use any CMS tool or collection tool. For example, Rooftop’s knowledge base was built with Webflow.
If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a thousand times that.
It can sometimes be difficult to explain a solution to a customer. And very often, that results in a prolonged exchange of emails.
By simply showing the customer how to solve their issue or how to use a certain feature, you’re making your explanation crystal clear.
You’ll be saving time because it’s faster to make a short video than write an email. And since the customer will understand right away, no need for a prolonged exchange. And since the issue will be resolved faster, your customer will be happier.
Tools like Loom or Vidyard can be installed as extensions in your browser and allow you to create and send a video in less than a minute. They also allow you to know if and when someone views the video. Oh, and they both have free plans that already allow you to do quite a lot.
Some issues demand that a customer service representative set up a call with a customer.
As you know, working around everyone’s schedule can be a pain.
An easy way to do that is to use an appointment-setting tool. Representatives can set up a profile, fill in their availability and the appropriate duration for time slots. Customers can then pick a time. The tool automatically sends reminders to the customer and allows them to easily reschedule if necessary.
Calendly is the market leader but SavvyCal and others can do the job as well.
Chat widgets are great… if someone’s there to answer.
If you’re operating in the software industry, with tech-savvy people, it won’t be too much of a problem. They know how it is.
But when dealing with other types of customers, having a chat widget will set expectations of an immediate answer. If you can’t live up to these expectations, your customers will be dissatisfied.
It’ll also create another problem. That is, customers will engage in a conversation instead of describing their issue in detail. Which, paradoxically, will lead to longer resolution times.
This is what it’ll look like:
Customer: Hi, is someone here?
Representative: Hi, how can I help you?
Customer: I have a problem with my order.
Representative: Can you give me your order number and describe the issue?
It will take 4 messages before the customer starts giving you relevant information.
If you have someone interacting in real time, that’s fine. If you don’t, a chat widget will do more harm than good.
But if you have the staff for it, then why not?
Chatbots are a double-edged sword.
If they’re set up right, they can be an amazing way to filter requests and direct customers to the right information.
If they aren’t set up right, they’re going to be a source of massive frustration for customers.
Chatbots are not—yet—a miracle solution, but they can alleviate the workload by weeding out the requests customers can solve themselves. They can also be a good way to troubleshoot issues. But you need to be aware of their limitations.
And again, if you receive a lot of requests for issues that customers should be able to solve, then the real issue is in the product.
Good chatbot tools include ArtiBot AI, Botsify, and Pandorabots.
Community forum tools
A good way to improve customer service—depending on your situation—is to involve the community of users.
By allowing your users to exchange information, you’re making space for creative solutions. And you’re alleviating the workload that usually falls on your customer service team.
This practice has proven to be hugely successful for Wordpress, Webflow, and Duolingo.
And, of course, there are tools that allow you to easily set up a community forum.
Some of them are Wordpress themselves, Vanilla Forums, and Discourse.
Session analysis tools
If you’re in the software industry, the description of the issue is often the toughest part of customer service.
Sometimes, there isn’t even an issue, the customer is simply using the product wrong. Either because they’re not tech-savvy or because the software isn’t clear enough.
In those cases, it’s sometimes best to see how the customer is actually using the product.
There are tools that allow you to keep track of user sessions and watch them later on.
Among them are Fullstory, Smartlook, and Pendo.
Don’t rely too much on technology
As we’ve seen, technology can provide much needed help to optimize your customer service operations.
But it shouldn’t be-all and end-all. Your customers are human beings and they should be treated as such.
When in doubt, put humans first.
It’s a mix
Great customer service is a mix of several elements. So if you want to improve customer service, you need to look at several factors.
A great team
Customer service is an extremely important function. You don’t want to let just anyone handle it.
This means that you need to hire a team of competent people, train them, and empower them to take initiative. To succeed at the last part, give them space to fail, protect them, and most of all, value the job.
If, on top of that, you give them growth perspectives, you’ll get a loyal and dedicated customer service team.
Customer service is all about people, and solving their issues. This is why you need to be as human as possible in your communication.
You also need to get in the perspective that your customers’ problems are your problems. As such, you need to go above and beyond, and if you can’t find a great solution, anything is better than nothing.
The best way to improve customer service is to make sure people don’t need it. Build a great product that not only works but is also easy to use. Add the right documentation, and you’ll significantly reduce the workload.
Use of data
Knowledge + action = power. The more you know about your customers and their history with your company, the better you’ll be able to serve them. And the more you know about your team’s performance, the better you’ll be able to make the right decisions to improve it.
Use of technology
Once you have a process in place, technology will be an indispensable ally. It’ll allow you to do everything, but better and faster. But be careful to use the right tools. And don’t put everything in the hands of technology.
So what are you starting with?