Today, customers don't only purchase products and services. More and more often, they buy ideas or experiences. And they demand nothing less than perfection. Though it may take a lot of effort, it is very important to retain clients. Not only because it's cheaper than gaining new ones. Mainly because repeat purchases have a great effect on businesses' bottom line.
According to HubSpot research, only a 5 % increase in customer retention can potentially increase revenue by 25 to 95 %.
So, satisfied and loyal consumers make more purchases. They spend more money, leave reviews, refer to their friends and family. In order to keep them happy, you need an exceptional customer experience. Therefore, exceptional customer service.
We collected customer service strategies that will make your clients your strongest advocates.
Impact of Well-Developed Strategies in Numbers
Before we will move to actual customer service strategies, let's take a quick look at what makes it so important.
Here are few eye-catching statistics:
By Microsoft Dynamics research, overall, 90 % of customers find customer service important while choosing a product. And 91 % of them will not willingly choose your product again after a bad encounter.
Luckily, we have some good news, too.
Even if you started on a rough side, 78 % of consumers are likely to forgive you if you provide exceptional customer service. Salesforce claims this in their State of the Connected Customer e-book with Insights from 15,000+ consumers and business buyers worldwide.
Social Media Today says that if perfectionising your customer service strategies, 77 % of happy clients may recommend your company to their friends.
Further, 86 % of shoppers will spend more money after having a nice experience with your agents.
10 Winning Customer Service Strategies
We should start with a brief definition of customer service strategy. It is basically a well-thought out plan on handling interactions with consumers. It lets you provide a consistent customer experience throughout all your channels.
Yet, it may not always be easy to implement. First, you need to take a step back. Think about what exceptional customer support strategy means for your business.
That's where our 10 tips can help.
#1 Start With Building Your Dream Team
Skills can be trained and knowledge can be gained. But attitude is something that comes with a person. Your team is what the quality of customer service stands on. So, it has to be perfect. A dream group of talented people with the right approach.
Some candidates may look as a great fit on the paper, but it will not be a good match if they don't identify with your company culture and values. Employees will only like their job if it has a deeper meaning for them. And customers may only be satisfied if agents like their job.
We recommend testing how candidates fit to your culture right during an interview process. Create a benchmark of who your dream team should consist of. It will save you a lot of time later on, since this way, you reduce employee turnover.
Involve your HR department and create a set of relevant questions. You can also identify preferred personality traits and skills of employees in various support roles. Divide the traits into categories, such as “must-have” and “good-to-have”. Involve both hard and soft skills, since they are equally important.
Here are few traits you may be looking for when building your team:
- Inner motivation: Does the candidate have a genuine interest in the position beyond the salary? She/he should be more driven by an inner call to support others and less by monetary aspects. Although, those are important, too.
- Positive attitude: To maintain cheerful customers, agents should be cheerful people. They need to have a mindset that tells them everything is solvable.
- Self-awareness: Does the candidate have a sense of constructive self-criticism? This way, she/he will always be able to tame emotions.
- Empathy and social intelligence: Perhaps the most crucial requirement for a customer service agent. No one can effectively help others without understanding how they feel.
- Adaptability: It is important for candidates to show interest in gaining new skills. They also need to be able to work independently and learn fast.
Further, you can select traits based on roles:
Agents directly in contact with customers traits:
- Great listeners
- Skilled negotiators
- Critical thinkers
- Problem solvers
Customer support managers traits:
- Proficient in monitoring
- Good at project management
- Conflict resolution masters
- Love supervising others
- Able to provide sensitive, yet constructive feedback
- Ready to inspire
That much about candidates. In the existing team, monitor if your agents comply with the “always having a customer in mind” approach. You know that you have the right people when they are committed to the highest customer service standards.
Monitor their performance by listening to their calls. Follow their workflow. Do they present an importance of customer care for another team? Do they share knowledge and best practices? Then you won.
#2 Optimize Agents' Training
Let's assume you already built your dream team. Next customer support strategy is taught-through training.
No matter how skilled agents are, they still need to learn. Provide them with the right training that brings out the full potential. Involve all your team, old members as well as new ones, in regular training sessions. Present them with a complex overview of their position, from improving in daily duties to how each of them fit into the bigger picture.
Lessons you can incorporate:
Soft skills and patience: Research shows that 68 % of customers expect companies to interact with a high level of empathy. That makes sense. Who would enjoy speaking to a rude agent?
Prepare your customer service team to treat every situation with patience, since each will vary rapidly. Almost every customer is different. Some will be angry, some confused, some may have a lot of questions. Others are completely lost in a topic. No matter what, your agents need to be understanding and professional.
Communication skills: Agents who are shy and easy to turn down won't sell or help too much. You need to have a confident team of excellent communicators who are sincere, sympathetic, but also persuasive. What's more, none of them should comply to let customers leave the conversation dissatisfied.
Active listening: By Harvard Business Review survey, an average person recalls around 25 % of what someone has said. That is not enough for solving a problem. Your agents need to be listening masters, since customers hate repeating themselves.
In order to solve an issue successfully, your team has to precisely understand it, no matter how complicated it may be. Some advanced customer service software features may be of help here, such as real-time call notes.
To train listening, try to add a short role play to your training. Create pairs and let agents take turns in talking, for about 1 - 2 minutes. The other person then has to reflect on what was communicated and include an empathetic answer to show the level of understanding.
Knowledge: No less important than communication. Knowing their stuff is crucial for each agent. Discuss in detail how your product works and what is the pricing.
One more important customer support strategy - teach your team what to do when they get lost. If there is no other option, it is always better to double check than provide incorrect information. Even though the customers have to wait. Just don't let them wait too long.
#3 Support Employee Satisfaction
You can choose the right people and train them well, but this all goes in vain if agents are not happy. Now, it's time to appreciate their hard work.
Staff retention is high in the customer service industry. That is why each good employee is worth gold, such as each good client. Empowering the spirit of your agents results in more productivity, shorter resolution time and many more advantages. Therefore, show your team respect. Don't micromanage them, let them make their own decisions.
Recognise the high performers and reward them. You can offer incentive programs. These don't have to be only monetary. Gifts like a year-long Netflix subscription or a voucher for a good dinner can motivate the same. Sometimes, even a simple group email with a positive review on a particular agent can serve as a great support.
Another strategy you can choose is supporting a healthy competitiveness. Give out monthly awards for anyone who delivers exceptional performance. Agents can also nominate each other, to build compassion. The good feeling of recognition from co-workers boosts team spirit, too.
Next thing you need to focus on - What is going on with agents that don't do that well? Maybe they need additional training. Maybe they need more motivation and encouragement. And maybe they show signs of burnout because they are working too much. Just make sure you won't give all of your attention to top players and forget those who need help to get there.
#4 Use the Right Tools
Another customer support strategy tip is to always utilize the best tools possible. A great advice - never save money on technologies. A reliable call center software plays a crucial role in the customer service you offer. Digitalization and automation provides effectiveness and a more pleasant experience. A VoIP telephony system is an ideal solution.
Quality call center software offers plenty of features that make everyday tasks easier and customers happier. Call center dashboard allows you to monitor all call center activities in real time. Automatic callback ensures you never miss a call. Skill-based routing offers the best support possible from an agent with the most suitable knowledge base. And there are plenty more.
A key to call center automation is also an integration of your software with the CRM system. This way, all data is centralized in one place, with no need to manually maintain them in both databases. All information is instantly available for each of your agents.
#5 Measure the Right Data
How do you know if what you are measuring actually matters? You need to gain data that provides actionable insights. If they don't, they are not worth measuring. Deciding what matters and what doesn't is a complex process.
Start by asking yourself simple questions:
- Will this information get looked at?
- Will it lead to precise actions?
- Is it, therefore, relevant?
According to an answer, you are a step closer to what to measure. Choose what is relevant for your business and establish KPIs - Key Performance Indicators.
Through those, you will measure your success. By following them, you get an instant overview of how well your customer service is doing.
Here are 3 important KPIs you shouldn't overlook:
- First call resolution - 26 % of customers are transferred from agent to agent without resolving their issue.
- Average time in a queue - 75 % of customers say it takes too long to reach an agent.
- Average abandonment rate - 67 % of customers hang up due to frustration because they couldn't talk to a real person.
Also, make sure you are looking at each side of your KPIs. For example, your average resolution time might be improving. Agents reduced the duration it takes to resolve the issues. But, the overall customer satisfaction lowered, because to cut time, your team started to handle cases with lesser precision.
After evaluating business needs, establishing base KPIs and measuring your results, ensure you are on the right track.
Ask yourself following questions:
- Do your results benchmark with other companies in your industry?
- Are your internal teams cooperating strong enough to maximize your call center potential?
- Do you have all key processes under control?
#6 Personalize the Experience
Maintaining trustworthy customer service means boosting building relationships. That comes with improving customer experience. People are generally more open when they feel that the conversational partner knows them. Therefore, personalization is a big part of a successful customer support strategy.
To showcase an example, you should know the past interactions with clients. Due to a customer history feature, agents have an instant, up-to-date overview of all clients' interactions.
Further, put an effort into treating your customers as real people. Empower your team to call them by their name. Occasionally send specialized offers or birthday wishes. You can also use a preferred agent tool, where clients can interact with the same person as they did previously.
#7 Make Data-driven Decisions
Feedback is a base of improvement for each business, therefore another very important customer support strategy.
Utilize advanced call statistics to observe your progress over time. Companies that use analytics reports see a 58 % improvement in employee performance. They are also more likely to map buyers' journeys and successfully identify which channels best contribute to results.
Besides statistics, it's important to regularly follow opinions on your customer service. A Microsoft report shows that 89 % of customers actually want to provide feedback after interacting with agents.
Create your own reliable feedback loop system, so you can constantly improve.
There are two sources your feedback strategy should monitor:
- Inputs from customers towards your agents: you can gain it through social media, reviews, surveys or tools like emotion analytics.
- Inputs from agents: Hear out their experience with customer interactions and other observations. Organize 1on1 or group meetings.
By listening to both sides, you learn a lot on what works well and what needs to be modified. Maybe your customers get sufficient support, but feel like they miss a written recap. Such as follow-up emails.
On the flip side, your support team can give you an insight into what are the most common issues. Maybe even where they have knowledge gaps. This way, you will know exactly what to incorporate into future training.
#8 Welcome Complaints
Enjoying to see complaints may look like a weird customer support strategy. Yet it's a needed one. Welcoming negativity doesn't mean seeking it. It means acknowledging it. Around 45 % of people say that they are swayed to visit businesses that respond well to negative reviews.
If you do it right, public response to a bad evaluation or complaint makes wonders for your reputation. First, in times of opinions going viral on the internet, you can avoid a potential PR disaster. Secondly, you have a chance to publicly address concerns of your customers and gain free market research data.
Further, make your brand transparent and fair by offering to make tangible changes. Acknowledge your own failures by offering compensation to reduce churn. Don't hesitate to show that you, too, can fall sometimes. Instead of hiding and ignoring criticism, be brave enough to face it. But always make sure you actually make what you promised.
Here are four easy steps how to use complaints to your advantage:
- Make sure you didn't miss any negative feedback
- Resolve all of them fast and effectively
- Make steps to stop these issues from repeating
- Pass the knowledge on your employees
After you start to owe your complaints, it might seem like they are increasing, yet that isn't true. They were always there. You just didn't see them.
#9 Recognise the Importance of Customer Loyalty
Retaining customers is cheaper than gaining new ones. That is a well-known fact for everyone who ever had anything to do with marketing or business. But this basic piece of information shines a light to another aspect. Importance of customer loyalty that exceptional customer service should be striving to build.
Loyal customers are advocates of your company. They promote you, make bigger profits and show interest in helping you improve products. They are also a lot more forgiving towards your mistakes.
Yet, don't confuse customer loyalty with customer relationships. These are two different things. Customers that are loyal to you don't necessarily want a relationship with your brand. Still, they will continue to regularly purchase from you if your service meets their expectations.
#10 Use Multiple Channels
Waiting until people find you is the worst customer support strategy. Most of them will not bother if it's overly difficult to get in touch with your service. Focus on providing support on channels that customers use and where they can easily reach you. It is worth it. An online portal Forrester shows that 69 % of adults in the US prefer to buy from brands with consistent customer service across multiple platforms.
Even though you should allow customers to switch between multiple channels, the more the better doesn't necessarily apply here. Don't overwhelm your support and don't waste resources on irrelevant platforms. For example, if most of your customers are on Twitter, focus on building a strong support there.
Here are the main channels we recommend to utilize:
- E-mail: Although it may not be the most popular channel for communication nowadays, it's still a handy platform where to keep in touch.
- Live chat: Provide fast service by chatting with your customers directly from your website. Live chat increases in popularity. Also, it is constantly on customers' sight. That makes it easy to access and effective.
- Self-Service: Many people like to fix their own problems instead of contacting an agent. Give them an opportunity to do so. Incorporate a knowledge base on your website. You can also use tools like advanced IVR, with an option to hear pre-recorded information on easy inquiries.
- Social Media: Around 40 % of people want to communicate with brands on social media. Further, 29 % of social media users utilize them for researching or buying products. That is what makes it such a valuable asset for your customer support and brand awareness strategy.
- Phone service: Calling is still a highly requested form of customer service. Many people prefer speaking to a person before chatting, emailing or searching in databases.
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