by Parker Davis, CEO of Answer 1
You hear it everywhere these days. “Best in class customer service.” Seems like everybody’s got it.
In fact, a Google search for that exact term yields almost 250,000 results. That’s a lot of top-notch customer service.
For most companies, this is just marketing speak. Business owners know that great customer service can be a key part of consumers’ decision making process, so they stick this phrase in their marketing packet.
Don’t be one of those companies.
Don’t just pay lip service to the concept of great customer service.
Follow these six steps to devise a real plan that will help you provide best in class customer support, giving you a leg up on the competition.
So, let’s get into it:
1. Determine your customer service vision.
First things first. You need to know what you want out of your customer service team at the end of this exercise. Do you want to provide responsive support over the phone, webchat, email, Twitter and Facebook?
Would you rather foster a proactive, outbound mode of customer support?
Will you be meeting customers in person?
How much contact will your team have with customers? Will you be building different pricing models to allow for tiers of customer support?
All of these answers matter. You can provide great customer experience no matter what your answers to these questions.
However, you have to know where you’re going if you’re ever going to get there.
To go along with the nuts and bolts of your vision, you also need to think about company values. In most cases, your customer service team will serve as the face of your business.
Make sure that the team is set up to align with overall company principles.
Place a list of important company values in a prominent place as you work on your customer service strategy.
Then make sure that every decision you make fits in with these values.
2. Assess customer needs.
This is almost step 1b: you need to find out what your customers expect from your support team.
You can run competitive analyses and ensure you are in line with your industry’s best practices.
But even more helpful is to get actual customer feedback from your paying clients.
There are tons of great ways to get customer feedback today:
You can set up automatic surveys through email or on your website.
You can run focus groups.
If you have a brick and mortar operation, you can create comment cards for customers to fill out.
Or, you can have employees ask one or two quick questions at the point of sale.
Just remember to be succinct in your questions, and respect your customers’ time.
The last thing anyone wants to do is fill out a boring 25-minute survey about their web hosting provider.
Keep your questions short, sweet and relevant, and your customers will tell you how you can make them happy.
3. Secure the proper resources.
This should go without saying, but in the modern world of razor-sharp profit margins, we need to be explicit:
Your company must provide the proper resources to execute your customer service vision.
If you want to offer eight different channels of support 24/7, you must have the time, budget and human resources necessary to make it happen.
Not only do you need to make sure your facilities and salary budgets are aligned, you must also hire people that exhibit the values you want to come across.
Be deliberate and thorough with your hires, especially when first building out the team.
4. Set goals for your customer service team and for each individual.
Once your team is up and running, don’t lose sight of your original goals.
Communicate regularly and clearly with your team about what is expected from each of them.
You must also ensure that your customer service team communicates with the other parts of the company.
If the sales team is selling prospects on the idea of over-the-top customer service, but the CS team is struggling to handle the volume increase, the company leadership needs to address this.
Either commit more resources to the customer service team, re-frame your sales pitch or get creative with the resources you have, by instituting automation or a tiered pricing model.
5. Don’t overburden your customer service team.
A common trap for fast-growing companies is to celebrate growth without doing the hard work of solidifying the customer support base.
Make sure your team isn’t just putting out fires all day long. Your team needs space to breathe and formulate intelligent responses and solutions to problems that come up.
A good customer service team is proactive and can avoid troubles before they begin. But, if all your team members are on the phone or webchat all day, you won’t have the time or ability to adjust your strategy as the business evolves.
6. Focus on motivating your employees.
Let’s face it. Working in customer service can be a real drag sometimes, especially for CS reps who are working on similar problems day after day.
The people who contact customer support are usually upset or frustrated. They never call just to say “hi.”
To help balance team morale, you need to reward and recognize employees when they do good work.
You should also be helping them to achieve their own professional goals, whether they want to be a team leader, or to own a small business in a completely different industry some day.
This type of open and honest professional support (that doesn’t only benefit the company) can be more motivating than a big raise, especially over the long term.
It’s an affordable and effective way to build employee loyalty and get the most out of your team.
Parker Davis is the CEO of Answer 1, a leader in the virtual receptionist and technology enabled answering services industry. He believes that the application of data analytics, investment in technology, and fostering a positive company culture together create highly efficient and scalable growth companies. In 2016, Answer 1 will achieve record revenues while also being awarded the Top Companies to Work For in Arizona award. Parker is also the Managing Partner of Annison Capital Partners, LLC, a private investment partnership.