As an entrepreneur, keeping your initial customers delighted is a crucial aspect of long-term growth. But for many customers, reaching out to a brand to address a concern, replace a part, or just ask a question is generally a stressful process.
Poor customer service comes in many forms, but it’s always a bane to customer loyalty and brand representation. Long wait times on the phone or automated responses that don’t offer the options customers need can leave them frustrated with your company and quickly become stumbling blocks in the user experience.
Here’s how you can make customer service work for you and your customers:
Hire a Dedicated Customer Service Staff
When you’re starting out, it’s easy — and often optimal — to deal with customers directly, answering questions and coming up with solutions to their problems. After all, that’s why you’re in this business, isn’t it?
While this model of direct contact and relationships with all your customers is tempting to maintain, it’s simply not scalable. If your business has grown to a point where you can’t effectively service your customer base, then your model is outdated and needs to be replaced.
When Contactually began, our customer service technology was simple: 100 percent email. This worked great while we were only receiving a few requests per day. As we grew, however, we quickly encountered problems. Messages were slipping through the cracks and going unanswered. Our efforts were uncoordinated, and they sometimes exacerbated issues.
We implemented a support ticketing system to manage customer service requests, but there was still one major problem: We didn’t have a dedicated customer service staff to manage it.
Our first customer service representative quickly took the burden off the rest of us and became the focus point for customer inquiries. And narrowing our customer interactions down to a funnel allowed employees to concentrate on what they do best.
Don’t Fall Behind
The world of customer service solutions is evolving as quickly as the technology it’s built on. While your parents might be used to calling 1-800 numbers for all their issues, this is just one of many routes customers can take today.
To provide the best service possible, you have to be able to interact with customers via phone, email, social media, chat, or even SMS. But methods of communication will continue to evolve, so you have to be ready to adapt your processes in order to effectively manage customer inquiries.
A knowledge base (KB) is essential to any customer service infrastructure. If you treat every issue as an isolated case, you’ll never be able to address every issue. Identify common questions your customers have, and prepare answer templates for your agents to use as a quick reference. Pay attention to trends in what customers are asking and which answers are doing the trick.
A customer-accessible KB is one solution that helps both your company and your customers. It may not be immediately apparent, but customers often prefer to self-serve rather than deal with a customer service agent. It can save them time and provide a sense of satisfaction from solving their own problems.
Provide a place for customers to address their own concerns and help one another out. This will form a community around your product while saving your customer service staff valuable time and energy.
Design Your Solution With Customer Needs in Mind
Your customer service team needs to deliver high-quality answers quickly. Social media adds transparency and a public forum to customer interactions, where accountability and sincerity are vital.
When you start considering options for your customer service solutions, the easiest question to answer will be “What will make my customer service representative’s job easier?” But that’s the wrong mentality. Instead, always begin with the question, “What do my customers want?”
Every time you need to make a change to your customer service process, begin with the customer in mind. Newer technology allows us to upgrade from the cloud instead of using physical discs with access keys, enabling more frequent fixes that are easier to implement.
More communication channels also open up new avenues for engaging with customers. But the cutting-edge technology and speed are pointless if you’re not tailoring your solution to your customers’ needs.
Stay on top of your customers’ needs by staying on top of technology. Constantly adapt your technology, processes, policies, and priorities to meet your customers on their level. When the speed and quality of answers can mean the difference between being perceived as a responsive, helpful brand or a cold, emotionless company, keeping your solutions relevant could be the most important thing you do for your company.
Image credit: CC by Marjan Lazarevski