Customer communication is very often underrated as an improvement area.
This is too bad, since implementing just a few customer service best practices can have a tremendous impact in how your customers perceive you.
Everybody seems focused on providing a fast response above all. It is important, no question about that. But neglecting your team and your customer's feelings can have a dramatic impact on your company.
Here's what you should pay attention to.
1. Interact with 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.
Even those who work in big corporate structures. They're all people with feelings and emotions. And that's how you should be treating them.
This is actually one of the motivations behind the creation of Rooftop. We wanted a tool to handle customer care efficiently and keep communication personal.
2. Beware of chat bots
Chat bots and AI have been all the rage for the past few years. And for sure, they can be useful. But they're not a band-aid you apply on an unfinished product.
If something is unclear to your users, fix it in your product or include in your knowledge base.
There is no reason to have a chat bot if you can solve an issue through better UX and documentation. Or if it requires actual human input.
Chatbots are only relevant when requests are complex but don't require human intervention.
Of course, bots could at some point — and probably already can —replace some human interaction. But forcing yourself to renounce them forces you to build the best possible product.
3. Beware of chat widgets
It's always cool to have a chat messaging module on your homepage. It shows you're ready to interact and get down to business.
But only do so if you can live up to the expectations that it sets. Because visitors will expect you to be available.
Make sure that your "opening hours" for customer care are clearly stated. And make sure that someone is available to respond quickly during those hours.
Otherwise, it's always better to stick to an email-based communication system.
4. 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.
The 3 main qualities you look for in a customer service agent are empathy, an analytical mind and a serious obsession for solving problems.
You want someone you can trust to put themselves in the customer's shoes while knowing your product or service from inside and out. You want them to be laser-focused on details while also being great communicators.
Taking the time to hire the right people is 100% worth it.
5. Train and empower your staff
You want to make your customer service staff part of the team. As first line responders, they 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 initiatives. Preferably initiatives that will better the relationships between your brand and your customers.
Empower your staff to find ideas of new content that will help customers do their job. It could be setting up webinars with power users or active customers who can share their best tips. Or it could be getting themselves educated about technical aspects product development. Possibilities are endless.
6. “No” isn’t acceptable
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.
7. The best support is no support
We probably shouldn't be saying that but the best support... is no support.
The clearer your app is and the better your knowledge base is, the less customer service will be necessary.
Of course, even if you take care of that, you will need a customer care staff. But now, they can focus on providing real value and solving real issues.
Staff doesn't replace good UX and useful doc.
They are product experts who provide specific advice to customers and find creative solutions to challenging issues.
They also use their personal skills to be ambassadors of your brand and gather feedback.
8. Apologize for real
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.
9. 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 count. 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.
10. Foster communication within your team
There are several reasons to make communication as clear and easy as possible.
1. It develops transparency and builds trust within the team
2. It helps keep everyone aware of everything that's happening
3. Teams can discover unexpected collaboration opportunities that can bring tremendous value to customers
Open communication ensures that you'll have a strong team that will operate together to please the company's customers.
11. Align your customer communication with the rest of your culture
Customer service is not an annex, it's an essential part of your company.
It's also an important means of communication for your brand. And all communication channels need to be aligned.
Your customer service needs to reflect your values and your company as a whole. You should apply to it the same tone you use on your website and in your content.
It'll help your customers feel like they're dealing with a unique brand that knows where it's going.
12. 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.
Go in depth and come back to your customer with a solution they can work with and that they'll be grateful for.
13. Harness technology
Rooftop is just 1 of dozens of tools that can help you manage customer communication.
There are various verticals you can work on and there are platforms for each of them.
- Direct communication: Rooftop, Intercom, Freshdesk...
- Customer data/feedback collection: Fullstory, Totango, Natero...
- Internal communication/collaboration: Rooftop, Slack, Microsoft Teams
14. Customer care is everyone’s responsibility
This is one of the most crucial customer service best practices. But the notion isn't as popular as it should.
Some people in the company talk to customers on a daily basis, but everyone is responsible in keeping customers satisfied.
Customer needs 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.
Everyone in the company works in customer service, just in a different way.
We just covered a lot of ways you can improve your customer communication.
It makes no sense to tackle it all at once, so where are you choosing to start?