Earlier this year, Amy published a post on the I Want it NOW blog about modernizing customer service called “3 Things Your Competitors Can Teach You about Customer Service Skills.”
Having read it, I was inspired to add three more that, in my experience, many organizations overlook. Here they are:
1. Striving for an omni-channel experience
The original article covered responding on new customer service channels (e.g. Twitter), but I would push it one step further and say: striving to integrate your view of each customer across those channels. This is what’s called “omni-channel” customer service. Omni-channel is a customer service model that says no matter what channel your customers use to reach out to your customer service team (e.g. website chat), you will be able to refer to their past interactions with you (e.g. phone call, Twitter conversation, etc.) and assist them in a timely manner on the channel they’re currently using (e.g. website chat, in this example). Omni-channel customer service is still a fairy tale for many, but striving for it shouldn’t be- for any organization that takes customer experience seriously, it’s actually something you can’t ignore any longer.
For instance, if you’re able to associate a Twitter account with a customer, update that customer’s record to include that Twitter account. This will make it easier for reps in future interactions to more quickly identify customers if they contact your customer service team via Twitter for help again.
It will be a hassle at first, but over time, you’ll be able to connect information about your customers across channels, giving your team valuable context the next time those customers send an inquiry your way (regardless of what channel they use to do so!).Using data to improve
2. Using data to improve
It’s important that you not only monitor performance, but monitor the impact of your attempts to improve performance.
If you adjust the phrasing of the scripts your live chat agents use, does satisfaction go up or down? Can you tell what about the script isn’t working? Is it some other element of the process rather than the chat script language itself that might be contributing to that change in satisfaction (e.g. wait time)? Do you have the ability to collect the data that will help you make that determination? How can you get that data?
CSAT and NPS stats are critical for continual evaluation, but they don’t necessarily give you the granularity of data you need to continually improve.
A cautionary note here: you can really drive yourself crazy monitoring and revising and monitoring too much at once. Identify opportunities for “quick win” improvements and start there. Once you and your team get some practice and confidence under your belt responding to data, then move on to tackle bigger and/or slower-moving targets.
3. Onboarding and ongoing training/coaching
As anyone who’s worked in customer service will tell you, your customers may be the most important asset to your company, but exceptional staff are the most important asset to your customer service team. For any number of reasons (poor pay, limited growth opportunities, frustrating interactions with customers and managers, obnoxious coworkers, low team morale, etc.), customer service can be a tough field for companies to attract and retain the quality talent they need. But rather than throw your hands up and resign yourself to that being a fact of life, consider what you can do about it.
Do you have an onboarding process that adequately prepares new hires for the job (or more likely, several jobs) you’re going to expect them to do, and do well?
After they’ve gotten their proverbial feet wet, do you offer ongoing training to keep their skills up to date (especially if you work in software)? What coaching does management provide to ensure that reps feel confident in their abilities, that the work they’re doing (and the quality of that work) matters and is noticed, and that reps are being prepared for the next step in their careers? These priorities are important not only for the quality of your customer service, but for retaining your best staff!
You can get more ideas for how to retain your best staff in this recent post on ICMI’s blog. It puts a humorous twist on customer service job descriptions as a means of calling attention to some common misconceptions between management and applicants/new entry-level employees. For instance:
Is your customer service team adequately trained for the tasks they’re expected to perform? In particular, are they adequately prepared to sound professional in the various conversations they’ll need to have with customers?
This is not a “one and done” set of questions – consider what ongoing training and coaching might be beneficial for your customer service team to receive to stay at their best (and make their “best” even better). Having that kind of employee support and improvement system in place is how you retain the rock stars you have and attract new high quality talent to strengthen your customer service team.