Customer service is supporting your customers before and after they purchase your products or services. The goal is to assure they have a streamlined, easy, and enjoyable experience.
Amazing customer service can elevate your brands profile and ultimately improve your bottom line. Customer service today extends far beyond a 1-800 help line. It can span email, website, text message, and social media. Your customer service reps are on the front lines and should be well-trained, personable, and proactive.
Here are tips to help you launch and maintain effective customer service.
1. Strengthen skills for managing customer's needs
Don’t just hire and throw your employees to the wolves! Your customer service department should run as a well-oiled machine and a comprehensive training program is key. Training shouldn’t just include a script. Make sure you have consistent strategies to address any issues that might come up. Following are characteristics that should be expected from your employees and included in your training.
- Empathy - Customer service reps should have the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.
- Adaptability - Each customer will have different needs and reactions. Your employees should be able to go “off script” and adjust reactions to requests, complaints, or comments.
- Communication - It’s no surprise that each member of your customer service team should be a good communicator. That means speaking clearly, listening, and responding.
- Work Ethic - Work ethic is a set of values that include discipline and hard work. Check in with your customer service department or their managers to make sure employees are focusing, staying motivated, and finishing projects on time. Some employees naturally have a strong work ethic. Others will need guidance in this area.
- Knowledge - Customer service reps should have in-depth knowledge of your products or services, how they work, the price, shipping options, and more. Customers don’t want to be put on hold while your employees figure things out.
2. Pay attention to key touchpoints
A customer touchpoint is any time a potential or existing customer comes in contact with your brand. This can happen before, during, or after a purchase. Touchpoints include:
- Customer problem that needs to be addressed
- Discovery of your product or business that will solve a problem or simply make them happy
- Making a purchase decision
- Encountering the business post-purchase
Once your team has determined where the customer is in the lifecycle, they can adjust accordingly.
3. Improve customer interactions
You should be tracking all customer communication and resolutions. This helps you gauge the effectiveness of your approach and can let you know if you need to tweak your strategy. It’s almost impossible to run a customer service program flawlessly. Have a mindset that values mistakes and the lessons you can learn from them. Once you’ve identified a mistake or missed opportunity, get out in front of it.
4. Review organizational strategy
Once your team has the skills to handle the various customer service scenarios, look at the processes you have in place. Strive for customer happiness before they have a problem.
- Get “real” - In other words, work with customers on a personal level. There’s nothing more frustrating than being unable to get in touch with a real person. Bots and FAQs should address the most common questions but also provide a way for customers to reach a trained customer service professional. Social media is a great way to show the personality of your company and directly interact online. Respond to comments and questions in a timely manner, showing customers that you care.
- Be available - Clearly outline when customers or clients can connect with you and be sure to be available during those times.
5. Improve employee engagement
Getting feedback from your employees is just as important as customer feedback. Employ an “open door” policy, provide a suggestion box, and schedule one-on-one, face-to-face meetings. Talking to those in the trenches can help you shape your training program to put new strategies in place.
6. Respond quickly
Don’t “set it and forget it”. A recent study showed that a whopping 87% of shoppers now begin product searches online. Have a system in place to respond to questions on social media or review sites as soon as possible.
7. Collect customer feedback
Encourage feedback, pay attention to customer comments, and be responsive to information you’ve learned. This insight can help identify steps to take to improve customer service and even expand your business. Research from Verint Systems Inc. revealed that the more feedback customers share — both positive and negative — the more companies gain. Our article has great ways to get and interpret feedback: The Best Ways Small Businesses Can Gather Customer Feedback.
8. Be proactive
Don’t let your customer service reps just be reactive. Train them to be proactive. Here are some ways to reach that goal.
- Reward customer loyalty with special discounts or offers
- Ask for feedback
- Acknowledge mistakes before customers complain
- Include a live chat on your website
- Create content that answers the most frequently asked customer questions
9. Create referrals
There are many ways to generate leads, but few are more effective than customer referrals. People trust recommendations more than ever and 84% of consumers say they either completely or somewhat trust recommendations from family, colleagues, and friend about products and services. Read strategies to get more referrals on the SmartBiz Small Business Blog: 10 Ideas to Get More Customer Referrals.
10. Leverage multi-channel servicing
Multi-channel marketing is reaching customers using a variety of channels including websites, brick-and-mortar stores, direct mail, email, mobile apps, social media platforms, and more. Be sure to have appropriate customer service responses in place for each channel.
Your customer service team is the face of your company and you want that face to be happy.
Happy employees are more likely to be engaged in their job and committed to the success of your company. The SmartBiz blog has many articles to help you manage employees and reduce costly turnover. Review these articles for employee management ideas:
- 12 Proven Employee Retention Ideas
- 15 Original Employee Recognition Ideas
- From Hire to Fire: How Small Businesses Should Deal with Difficult Employees