Can customers get a human being on the phone? Are your service reps rude? Do you require too many steps to resolve issues? Does your support team provide unhelpful solutions? These are just a few examples of top gripes from U.S. consumers.
The reality is these scenarios are symptomatic of root issues, which can be solved with an internal overhaul of your customer service operations. It’s an inside job.
Sponsored Article. This post is brought to you by Visa Business and I receive compensation for my time from Visa for sharing my views in this post, however the views expressed here are solely mine, not Visa’s. Visit http://facebook.com/visasmallbiz to take a look at their reinvented Facebook Page: Well Sourced by Visa Business.
The Page serves as a space where small business owners can access educational resources, read success stories from other business owners, engage with peers, and find tips to help businesses run more efficiently. Every month, the Page will introduce a new theme that will focus on a topic important to a small business owner’s success. For additional tips and advice, and information about Visa’s small business solutions, follow @VisaSmallBiz and visit www.visa.com/business.
Solve Common Customer Service Challenges
Your good customer service intentions can easily become an afterthought as you scale. But when you reinforce a customer’s feeling that your product or service has met their expectations you can compete on a new level – customer experience. So let’s take a closer look at your pre and post purchase path and identify internal customer service challenges and practical solutions.
Challenge #1: How should we manage customer service channels?
How do you decide which customer service channels to activate? From phone handling, in person and email to social media, live chat and help desk software it can be daunting to identify the best means to serve customers. Consider starting with a customer-centric approach; define a process and make it stress-free for customers to get help. Most importantly, gather and consolidate data at each touchpoint to provide a unified customer-facing experience.
Challenge #2: When should we outsource customer service operations?
As your small business scales, customer service needs will grow. Your needs may not require a large call center, but you realize that in-house solutions (i.e. going at it alone or hiring freelancers) is not a feasible long-term solution. Before you outsource customer service identify interaction volume, the complexity of customer’s needs and the time you are currently spending. If the cost outweighs the benefits it is time to outsource your small business customer service needs.
Challenge #3: How can we maintain a consistent and high-quality customer service experience?
“Companies that prioritize the customer experience generate 60% higher profits than their competitors.” (Source: Leading on the Edge of Chaos) Improving the customer experience starts with the definition and unification of interactions. Everyone should have a clear understanding of what great customer service “looks and feels” like.
Once you define your ideal customer experience, develop a simple roadmap of customer service conduct, how to handle customer complaints and manage dispute resolution. Empower your team to become solution-oriented instead of problem-focused.
Challenge #4: How can we proactively address mounting customer expectations?
It’s no secret that in today’s digital age, your customer expects more – especially in channel availability. Managing customer expectations starts with clearly communicating contact points.
Did you know? 41 percent of consumers expect an email response within six hours, yet only 36% of U.S. companies respond that quickly… 14% never respond at all.Internet Retailer
If you offer phone support do customers know how long they should expect to hold? Do you offer easy to use online or social media support? Are email support, online ticketing, and knowledge bases readily available? Don’t assume customers know how to engage your company. Set communication expectations and preclude stress and performance issues while enhancing user experience.
Challenge #5: How can we leverage technology to improve customer service activities?
Technology levels the customer experience playing field. Using customer and help desk support apps Desk, FreshDesk, Zendesk, GetSatisfaction, Loop, UserVoice, Zoho support, Bloomfire, HelpJuice, and open source solutions like osTicket offer user-friendly platforms to take the guesswork out of customer service.
Challenge #6: How can we improve customer service knowledge management (KM)?
Do you find it challenging to respond to customer inquiries, handle dispute resolution and manage the overall flow of inbound requests? Help your customers help themselves by leveraging the rise of big data to empower your KM activities. The key is to thoughtfully and purposefully collect data and then use it to your advantage.
You can proactively gather and record data from online, phone, in person, email, and social media inquiries to develop an online knowledge base and address concerns before they arise. The benefits are happy and empowered customers and decreased operational costs.
Did you know? 91% of customers say they would use an online knowledge base if it were available.Coleman Parkes, Online Survey, 2012
Challenge #7: How can we address dissatisfied customers?
One of the best ways to manage customer dissatisfaction is to preempt it. Consider ways to communicate with customer’s pre, post and during the transaction. Offer transparent product or service information via a standard online FAQ. Send a follow-up email to request a service review. Offer a simple survey for customers to vent, rant or rave after checkout.
Embrace unhappy customers. The reality is this, if a customer is going to complain, you’ll want them to complain to you – not on a customer review site.
Challenge 8: How can we prevent offline and online checkout nightmares?
Are your customers often waiting in long lines with few cashiers? Is it hard to navigate your online checkout pages? Customers will avoid doing business with you for these very reasons. It’s just not worth the hassle. Leverage research and customer feedback to deploy solutions such as indoor mapping apps and design an effective checkout processes.
Challenge #9: What metrics we can use to track customer service performance?
Several customer service metrics that are quick and easy to track include response time, resolution time and quality ratings in the form of customer surveys. You can deploy these metrics by requiring customer-facing teams to log cases using help desk solutions and issue post-purchase online or phone surveys. While your initial focus may be on quality, you can also develop financial and operational metrics to gain deeper insights.
Challenge #10: How can we use customer service data to inform our marketing strategy?
Are you unsure of how to best communicate with potential customers? It’s easy to get caught in a myopic web of “all about us-ism”. The reality is, if you talk to people in a language they understand, not only will they be more responsive, but you’ll spark relevant and authentic conversations.
Customer service data is powerful because it can empower your organization to engage with advocates in a more meaningful way. When customers share praise about your company, what are they saying? When people complain about a customer service issue, how is it framed? Use these insights to develop more precise marketing and sales messages that will actually resonate with your audience.
Compete on Customer Experience and Win
All of these customer service solutions present one underlying theme: make it easier for customers to do business with you. Otherwise, all of your hard earned marketing dollars will go to waste while “89% of consumers start doing business with a competitor following a poor customer experience” with your company. (Source: RightNow Customer Experience Impact Report 2011)
Infographic research and design by Visa Business.
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