Customers today have many options to engage with a business and share their experiences with others, giving them greater control over their journey with a brand.
As a result, companies need to be more proactive with their customer service approach to keep their customers satisfied and returning.
Fortunately, you can deliver a consistently top-notch customer experience by adopting some customer service best practices.
In this article, we’ll share ten best practices to maximize the effectiveness of your customer service program.
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- 10 Customer Service Best Practices You Can Implement Today
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10 customer service best practices you can implement today
Here’re the ten best practices to deliver an exceptional customer service experience and build a loyal customer base:
1. Set customer service standards
Setting standards for your customer service program creates a solid foundation for your customer service program.
Companies should have clearly defined and well-documented service standards that their agents should know. For example, you can specify the maximum waiting time for a customer in a queue or set a limit on the minutes spent per issue.
These benchmarks will guide your customer service team by setting achievable and measurable targets.
It’ll also ensure that your customers receive a certain level of service every time they reach out to you. Over time, your customers will come to expect this service quality that distinguishes you from your competitors, boosting brand loyalty.
2. Take note of customer expectations
Businesses often set their service standards by considering what their competitors are offering.
But in doing so, they miss an essential factor in delivering great customer service — what your customers need and expect from you.
By designing your customer support program around customer expectations, you’ll be able to deliver effective services and retain your customers over long periods.
According to a Deloitte report, customers who have a positive experience with a brand are likely to spend 140% more than those with negative experiences.
You must also remember that customer expectations keep changing with time, and so should a company’s service method to accommodate these changes. A Microsoft study found that 54% of customers (aged 35-54) have higher expectations for customer service today than one year ago.
Here are a few practical tips on how you can stay abreast of the evolving customer expectation and deliver on them:
- Identify and define your target customers.
- Facilitate customer focus groups and events to engage with them directly.
- Take regular customer feedback post interactions to gauge their satisfaction level. You can do this via customer surveys and questionnaires.
- Measure and track customer experience metrics.
- Analyze your customer feedback to understand their needs and take the necessary steps to address their grievances.
3. Measure customer experience KPIs
Once you clearly understand your customers’ needs and have set the service benchmarks accordingly, it’s time to track your performance against these standards.
How can you measure customer service performance?
Simple! By measuring customer experience KPIs (key performance indicators) and metrics, such as:
- Customer Satisfaction (CSAT).
- Net Promoter Score (NPS).
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
- Customer Effort Score (CES).
- Customer Churn Rate.
- Customer Retention Rate, etc.
You can also compare your KPI values to industry benchmarks to see how your company fares against competitors.
Moreover, measuring these KPIs will help you see faulty patterns in your customer service program and take timely measures to correct them.
For example, you may notice a CES score higher than the set benchmark, resulting in more negative feedback. It means that a customer needs to put in more effort to resolve their issues. It could be due to many reasons, such as the delay in response time from your team or multiple callbacks.
Once you pinpoint the root cause, you can look for corrective measures – like upgrading to new routing systems or developing a customer self-service portal.
4. Focus on customer retention
Retaining your existing customers is much cheaper than acquiring new ones.
A Harvard Business Review study estimates that acquiring new customers can be five to 25 times more expensive than keeping an existing one.
Customer service plays a crucial role in retaining a customer and could help improve the bottom line for the company. As per a 2017 study, loyal customers spend 67% more than occasional or new customers.
So service teams must look beyond customer satisfaction and aim for customer retention.
Here are a few pointers to help you boost your retention rates:
- Develop a proactive customer service approach to take anticipatory measures to resolve potential issues that prompt a customer to disengage.
- Customer loyalty stems from trust. You should focus on building trust and fostering a meaningful relationship with your customers.
- Manage customer expectations and only promise what you can deliver.
- Use social media platforms like LinkedIn, Facebook, etc., to connect with your customers and encourage them to share their experiences with your brand.
- Create a robust system for quick and effective resolution of customer complaints.
- Acknowledge your customers through meaningful gestures. For example, go the extra mile to accommodate a special request or send personalized gift cards on birthdays.
5. Make an excellent first impression
Businesses may overlook the importance of making a positive first impression in the customer journey.
Whether on a phone call, live chat, or through email, making a good first impression could go a long way in forging lasting associations with your customers.
Here are some smart tips for creating a solid impression when a customer reaches out to you for the first time:
- To begin with, minimize the time it takes for a customer to reach your customer service agents.
- Adopt a welcoming tone and use the customer’s name in your greetings. It’s also a good practice to develop a greeting script for consistent communication.
- Train your customer service representatives to actively hear out a customer query and be empathetic towards an angry customer.
- Collect basic customer info through IVR (Interactive Voice Response) so that agents can provide a quick and customized service experience.
- Analyze negative feedback from a new customer to identify potential concerns.
- Maximize the efficiency of your customer service reps by consolidating all incoming interactions in one place by using a software for customer support.
6. Create a customer data repository
If you offer omnichannel contact center services, you may be engaging customers through different channels such as:
- Live and recorded phone calls, emails, and instant messages.
- Social media feeds.
- Chatbot and IVR interactions.
- Surveys and questionnaires.
And your customer service software gathers a ton of valuable data through these channels.
However, you can leverage this data only if your service team members can access it at the right time.
This is where a centralized customer database could be a game-changer. It can help you boost your customer service efforts by making them more targeted and effective.
But how do you create a central data repository?
Just use CRM software!
A customer relationship management (CRM) tool can efficiently store, manage and access all customer information in one place. Your customer support software can then integrate with the CRM and fetch relevant info for the support reps in real-time.
How does it improve customer support quality?
It reduces the processing time for a returning customer as agents will have the essential information at hand, resulting in faster resolution. And with prior knowledge of the customer issue and preferences, your support team can offer a more personalized service experience.
Advanced software can even run powerful speech and text analytics on the database to identify customers with higher chances of making a purchase decision, boosting sales performance.
The tool can either look for customers’ purchase history or scan previous interactions for specific phrases and words like “interested,” “I’m looking for…” etc.
7. Engage your employees
A popular saying in the customer service industry is that “the key to happy customers is happy employees.”
Customer service professionals may feel stressed out and demotivated due to the unpredictable nature of the job and unrealistic expectations from the employer.
A disengaged or underconfident employee may fail to communicate with customers and fulfill their service requests effectively.
As a result, you must prioritize employee engagement to enhance customer satisfaction.
Here’re a few practical tips to keep your team’s morale high:
- Invest in employee training and skill development as a competent employee will be high on confidence and motivation.
- Develop an employee feedback system that prioritizes incremental growth.
- Recognize and reward top-performers in your team.
- Manage employee workload to prevent burnouts. You can use an effective workforce management system to do that.
- Provide career growth opportunities to employees to motivate them to give their best.
- Avoid putting undue pressure on your employees by measuring unnecessary metrics.
- Prioritize employees’ mental and physical well-being through an effective wellness program.
- Organize fun events and outings to build team culture and improve bonding among your customer contact staff.
Following these simple tips will keep your customer support team motivated and reduce turnover, which is usually quite high in the customer service industry.
8. Empower your employees
Employee engagement goes hand in hand with employee empowerment.
Even the best talents will fail to deliver expected results without the proper infrastructure and tools for the job.
To maximize their team’s potential, companies should give them a solid platform to learn and apply customer service skills effectively.
Let’s check out a few simple ways to do that:
- Give your employees comprehensive customer service training to sharpen their domain knowledge and soft skills like active listening, conflict resolution, note-taking, problem-solving, etc.
- Assign experienced agents as mentors to new hires to teach them the ropes of customer service and ways to tackle difficult customers.
- Build an effective and robust infrastructure for efficient customer service operation. For example, an outdated telephonic system can hamper employee workflow and cause delays.
- Invest in a scripting software tool and knowledge base to guide your employees during customer interaction. It’ll also ensure consistency across interactions.
- Create an employee self-service portal for routine functionalities like applying for leaves or requesting schedule changes.
Customer service jobs are time-sensitive, and employees usually work with stiff targets and deadlines. That’s why they must manage their time well to excel at their job.
Fortunately, with reliable productivity tools like Time Doctor, your employees can stay highly productive during work hours.
Time Doctor is a powerful time and performance tracking tool used by large companies like Ericsson as well as a small business like Thrive Market to boost productivity across the board.
Here’s a glimpse into how Time Doctor could help your business:
- Accurately track and analyze the time a customer service agent spends interacting with the customers and performing other work duties.
- Distraction and idle-time alerts can help your employees self-correct unproductive behavior.
- See real-time reports to assess an employee’s productivity.
- Easily create optimized work schedules to maintain optimum staffing levels.
- Quickly pay your team by mapping time data with an integrated payroll management system.
9. Leverage customer journey analytics
Customer journey analytics uses quantitative data to help you identify key obstacles in delivering a great customer experience.
Analytics tools run through customer data across channels to uncover customer preferences and behavior patterns. Businesses can then use these insights to improve the quality of their customer care service.
For example, your customer service software can identify certain trigger words or actions that are likely to result in a poor experience and negative feedback. You can correct your interaction scripts and workflow to eliminate such instances.
Moreover, analytics could also help you optimize your operational budget and improve profits.
Businesses may sometimes go overboard with their customer experience investments and may not derive proportionate value. Analytics gives you crucial financial insight to help you ensure customer satisfaction while optimizing your inputs.
Here’s a useful customer service tip: You can use analytics to develop customer self-service portals.
Analytics can identify some common customer questions. You can then create an FAQ (frequently asked questions) page or use automated chatbots to answer these queries and for basic troubleshooting without engaging a service rep.
This way, you can improve the overall resolution time and boost customer satisfaction.
10. Follow-up with your customers
Companies should make it a point to follow up with customers after their issue has been resolved or the sale is closed. This simple gesture could leave a lasting impression on the customers and promote brand loyalty.
Today, so many businesses miss out on this best practice, giving the customer the impression that the relationship lasted only till sale went through. However, following up with your customers after sales can help you gain a significant competitive edge.
All you need to do is create follow-up touchpoints and engage your customers — thank them, ask if they need more assistance, or request feedback.
Customer service is often considered the new marketing, and businesses that realize its potential have a lot to gain.
Good customer service results in satisfied customers who are more likely to keep doing business with you and spread positive word of mouth about your brand. They’re also more likely to make purchase decisions, adding to your profit margins.
Follow the best practices shared in this article to upgrade your customer service department and deliver excellent customer service.
Andy is a technology & marketing leader who has delivered award-winning and world-first experiences.