Modern businesses can’t afford for customer service to be an afterthought.
Why? Because bad customer service is bad for your reputation.
Happy customers are less likely to talk about their experiences, while unhappy customers are more likely to vent to a wider group of people. A study by American Express found that satisfied customers tell around 8 people about their positive experience, while unsatisfied customers complain to 21 different people.
Not only that, but consumers don’t always stick around to give a business a second chance after one bad experience. In fact, 86% of consumers have stopped buying from a company after a negative experience.
If you haven’t put much thought into your customer service strategy yet, this is your cue to do so.
Not sure where to get started? These tactics can help you come up with a cohesive, effective, and actionable customer service strategy of your own.
While it’s not necessary to follow each of these steps perfectly, our framework will provide a solid basis for honing your strategy and implementing any changes smoothly and successfully.
The idea of putting your customers first isn’t just something your customer-facing employees need to think about. It should stem from management and flow down to every role in your organization. Otherwise, company policies, training, and quotas will be created to serve to the company, rather than its customers.
If there’s too much emphasis on increasing profits or upselling products that customers don’t necessarily want or need, the company is valuing itself over its customer base. Of course, looking for ways to expand your margins is important, but it should not be done at the expense of your customers.
"Satisfied customers tell around 8 people about their positive experience, while unsatisfied customers complain to 21 different people."
Your customers’ needs, wants, and concerns should inform your company policy, offerings, and how you provide support.
Once management and team leaders understand the newly-defined customer service vision, it’s time to communicate it to the rest of the team. The best way to do this is by setting attainable goals that reflect your vision.
You might start by outlining your goals and plan for how to prioritize customer support. Then, consider how individual employees can contribute to achieving these goals.
Create guidelines to ensure all team members provide the same level of thoughtful, reliable customer service. Introduce these guidelines when onboarding new employees and ensure current employees have an opportunity to ask clarifying questions.
To make sure your customer service strategy is implemented effectively, you need to find the right type of people to join your team. Even if someone looks great on paper and has the technical skills you’re looking for, they might not be the right candidate for an open position if they clash with your company culture or ideals.
Every candidate should be tested for cultural fit during the interview process – involve HR in coming up relevant questions or benchmarks. Then, once you decide on who to hire, provide them with the right training to bring out their full potential. This should include helping them understand how their role intersects with your big-picture focus on customer service.
Make it clear that everyone is working to support the same set of values. Put every new team member, regardless of title or rank, through the same customer service training program to ensure you provide a consistent experience.
Another way to encourage your team to actively improve customer experiences is to reward any employee behavior you want others to model. Your reward doesn’t need to be monetary; in fact, it can be just about anything that reinforces the type of behavior you want to see more of.
For example, if a customer sends an email praising a support agent by name, forward it to the entire team with a congratulatory message. If your team uses Slack to communicate, use the ‘Hey Taco!’ plugin to send fun taco-themed rewards to show employee appreciation.
You could also give out a monthly or quarterly award for anyone who provides exceptional customer service. Maybe even allow employees to nominate their peers to inspire comradery and a healthy sense of competition.
The more difficult it is for your employees to go out on a limb to make a customer happy, the more frustrating the situation is for everyone involved.
Unfortunately, there are a number of ways businesses prevent their customer service agents from providing the best service possible. Whether it’s a complex approval process, an inability to offer discounts, or a general lack of authority, if a policy hinders employee performance in any way, it likely needs to be revisited.
In many cases, the solution is to institute a more flexible policy or revise the existing one to support your customer-oriented goals.
Above all, aim to empower your support agents. Create policies that enable them to solve issues creatively so they’re capable of rising to meet the unique needs of every customer.
It can take years to build a strong brand for your business, but it only takes one broken promise to shatter a customer’s perception of it.
As a general rule, try to under-promise and over-deliver. This means no one on your team should make impossible promises, like telling a customer that they’ll never experience a software bug again.
Encourage your customer service agents to be honest when something is beyond their control or when an issue is taking longer than predicted to resolve. Honesty builds trust, and trust builds customer loyalty.
Done right, publicly responding to a negative review or customer complaint is one of the best things a business can do for its reputation. Not only does it allow you to defuse a potential PR disaster on social media or a review site, but it also allows you to address the concerns of the individual customer.
That said, you should still try to respond to all customer comments – or at least as many as possible. Even if it’s someone congratulating you on a new launch or a positive review of your latest product, it important to engage with your customers in both positive and negative contexts.
Regardless of the specifics of your customer service strategy, the only way to know if it’s providing the type of support your customers want is to quantify your success. There are a few ways you can approach this, including tracking these common customer service metrics.
By developing a well-defined customer service strategy, you can propel your business towards success and cultivate more satisfied, profitable, long-term customer relationships. Keep tracking, measuring, and optimize your strategy to find out what works best for your customers.
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