Your last Employee of the Month award went to a customer service rep who spent hours looking through call logs and scribbled notes to reconstruct a case history. Then she stayed late to do Web searches and email colleagues for answers. Finally she was able to cobble together a resolution at the last minute that satisfied a good customer and kept his firm loyal. Exceptional customer service like that is something to celebrate—as long as it’s really, really rare. If it happens regularly, you’ve got a problem.
When your customer service reps have to consistently pull a rabbit out of their hat just to deliver good service, it’s time to take a critical look at your customer care function. Your goal should be to systematize high-quality care and make it something your reps can deliver quickly, consistently, and efficiently—with no heroics required.
Contact centers are all about delivering quality care efficiently—that’s our core competency. So here are some exceptional customer service tips from our world that small businesses can apply to do the same thing.
- Hire the right people—In sports, good coaching can turn a group of average athletes into a decent team, but that same coaching applied to a group of outstanding athletes produces a team on a whole different level. So when you hire people for your customer service team, look for the “best athletes”— the individuals who have the upbeat personality and can-do attitude to make sure that any customer who contacts your company will have a great experience.
- Make training an ongoing activity—You’ve hired the right people, now you’ve got to train them right to make sure they have the soft skills, product knowledge and brand understanding they need to consistently deliver excellent service. But training isn’t a one-and-done thing: Keep updating your training materials, instructors and content so your agents can update their skills and knowledge and stay at the top of the performance curve.
- Adopt technology tailored for the task—CRM, ERP, social media monitoring tools and other infrastructure software may have elements of what your staff needs to deliver service in a multi-channel environment, but getting all the capabilities you need in a single solution is easier and more cost-effective than integrating several systems. The right technology saves a lot of time and effort for your reps and can turn issues that used to require heroics into routine interactions.
- Use templates and scripts—Provide your reps with email templates, phone scripts, pre-built forms and other ready-made tools they can use to gather information and respond to customers quickly with answers that reflect your brand voice. This is an essential step to ensure your reps are building your brand when communicating with customers on the phone or via chat, email or social.
- Emphasize natural interactions—In other words, don’t get carried away with the scripts and templates. Use them, but in a context of personalizing service for each customer. A systematized approach that boosts efficiency and quality is good; one that turns your employees into robots is not.
- Build a knowledgebase—This is especially important for companies providing support for technical products. Once an agent arrives at the best fix for a problem (not just a fix, the best fix), be sure it gets accurately captured and entered into a knowledgebase accessible by all employees. Even if it’s just the answer to a question like “Where did the fabric for this garment come from?”, having the right answer at a rep’s fingertips systematizes the rapid delivery of correct information and boosts customer satisfaction.
- Get serious about QA—Leading call centers evaluate and score every aspect of customer interactions and pinpoint areas for improvement. For instance, clients listen in on recorded calls and score agents on product knowledge, call management, communications skills and much more. Constantly assessing the quality of your service, and improving it, leads to a reputation for great service.
If you systematize your customer care operations, you’ll be able to consistently deliver exceptional customer service with no heroics required. Your customers—and your own reps—will thank you.
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