In today’s competitive markets, enterprises of all sizes are making great customer service and technical support a top priority to set them apart from the crowd. Recent research has shown that U.S. businesses lose $62 billion each year because of poor customer service.
As customer service becomes more sophisticated, customers are consistently switching business providers because of bad service. Customers will leave a business, for example, if they are passed around to too many agents, can’t speak to a service agent if needed, are kept on hold for too long, or are subjected to rude personnel. Moreover, customers are expecting more timely results. When sending a service request online, for example, a recent survey notes that 22% of today’s customers expect a service response within an hour, and 19% expect an immediate response.
Even as customers demand better and faster service, however, businesses are rising to meet those demands. Companies are making an effort to improve customer support, training has become more sophisticated, and new technologies are making customer service faster, more efficient, and a more pleasant experience. Today, customers are expecting more because they can, in fact, get better service, on more devices and with less of a hassle. Today’s customer service and technical support teams are improving service with better training and more effective data analysis.
To create a top tier customer support team, companies should deliberately plan their support strategies, from a department’s initial creation through investment, continued support, and service analysis. Businesses should develop a current hiring strategy, invest in training and technology, monitor and analyze service, and create the space for feedback and dialogue.
Specifically, here are some important things to keep in mind when developing a customer support team:
Hire the right people: Companies should look for the right customer service agents for their industry, field, size, and style of service. For example, if most of a business’s customer service and support is conducted over the phone, agents should have excellent oral communication skills. If a company’s service is primarily over email or IM, its agents should have stronger writing skills. Moreover, service agents should be able to understand the company’s brand and work through that brand’s image. Some companies (and customers) want a hip, friendly demeanor, while others expect a more formal tone.
In either case, companies should hire agents that are motivated to deal with people day in and day out. Customer service is a challenging field, and businesses need empathetic, proactive personalities that can put themselves in customers’ places and understand their needs. If agents can get behind a company’s core values, they are much more likely to be successful.
Invest in training: Even if companies hire great employees, they will nonetheless benefit from thorough training and learning to work together as a cohesive team. Company training helps agents understand a business’s unique values and service commitments. More broadly, training helps agents familiarize themselves with all of the different ways to create customer contacts and helps them gain more skills. Far from turning employees into matching automatons, great training gives agents the power to be themselves. Agents who understand their own authority can handle more calls themselves without having to pass customers around from agent to agent. Good training likewise helps agents be the best versions of themselves. On the phone, customers want to talk to human beings, not robots. Agents can be trained to listen to customers’ concerns and help them get satisfying answers to their concerns. By empathizing with buyers and valuing their insights, agents can create real, lasting relationships between customers and companies. In addition, great training helps customer service agents become a workable team. While customers prefer to speak to only one agent, agents should be able to work with each other effectively.
Create an appropriate technological infrastructure: Great people need the right infrastructure to optimize service. With the right technology platforms and apps, customer service agents can know their customers better and more quickly address their concerns. The right customer relations management (CRM) software can strengthen customer service. With CRM service software, agents can have an interactive interface that gives them customer portfolios, automatically route calls, and logs call information for data analysis.
While agents need up-to-date, mobile customer service technology, businesses should also invest in customer service touchpoints. For instance, customers want mobile apps that can connect them to service representatives from any location. With IMs and mobile chats, customers can access help from any location and several different kinds of devices. Companies can also use several social media platforms to give customers more access. Contemporary customers, especially younger customers, expect companies to be available on at least three different sites. By providing choice, businesses are recognizing shifts in the industry and raising expectations for ease of access.
Finally, customer service departments should also use technology to plan for expansion. Businesses that expect growth should plan for the technology to encourage that expansion. If an SME expects to have extensive growth in the new future, they may want to switch to cloud-based programs, in which employees access platforms through the web. On the other hand, if an enterprise expects to have more agents working from the field, it may need a stronger investment in mobile devices.
Consider automation and self-service: On the surface, it seems a bit odd to invest in great customer service but also focus on automation and self-service. However, automation and service actually give customers more choices. While traditionally clients call customer service or technical support, younger customers would rather connect through IM or social media. With self-service, customers who want to engage online can seek their own answers. Automation also helps service agents connect with those that need an active agent while letting other customers seek basic answers automatically. In fact, chatbots are getting better, and can also understand if customers are confused and redirect them to customer service agents. By directing customers to automatic answers, automatic leaves more time for agents to give personalized service for those who need it, allowing all concerned to be addressed faster.
Analyze service and give regular, real feedback: Companies should analyze customer satisfaction to create better customer service and support. Importantly, businesses should use the metrics that are right for them instead of some kind of generic metric. Agents and managers should understand what a successful customer experience for their customers and create metrics accordingly. Additionally, agents should get both hard and soft skill feedback. Of course, agents should be able to answer technical questions or accurate whatever their customers’ specific concerns are. However, soft skills are increasingly important; the service experience is almost as important as the actual support information and response.
And, customer support management should acknowledge and reward excellent customer service. Employees both need to feel appreciated and value constructive criticism. Often, just a quick comment or connection goes a long way to keeping the lines of communication open between manager and agent. Customer service asks that agents work to value customer needs; in return, managers need to value the work that makes customers feel respected. Rewards and the opportunity for job progression help agents stay enthusiastic and motivated and also motivate agents to keep their skills up-to-date.
Customers value time and experience as much as—or perhaps even more than— price. In today’s market, small-and-medium enterprises are competing against large companies, often successfully, in part because they can give their customers personal, effective, and fast service. Because clients value their own time and energy, they are looking for businesses that care about quality service. With great service, customers can spend more time on their own goals and projects, and less time dealing technological problems.
Companies of all sizes can provide that great customer service by adequately developing their customer service and maintaining good support systems. Businesses should strategize their support service by developing a great group of empathetic agents that work together as a customer support team and giving them the infrastructural support that optimizes their skills. More than ever, fantastic customer service is possible from all sizes of companies; current tech, data, and support structures are helping SMEs have top-notch customer service and technical support.
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