Great customer service is one of the best, most important ways to differentiate your business, and fortunately, there are lots of best practices you can adopt to build up this important competency.
When your employees are trained to troubleshoot, support, and delight your customers, your business can grow, your brand reputation can strengthen, and your customers’ likelihood of repurchasing your product can skyrocket. In this article, we’ll share the steps you can take to make these benefits a reality for your business.
What are some customer service best practices?
Many say that the way to be great at customer service is to avoid creating problems for them in the first place. Certainly, there are business process management solutions that can help you minimize problems, including instances of lateness, delivery errors, and inaccuracy in fulfillment. You might look into these solutions for cost and efficiency purposes and for improving the customer experience.
If you don’t already have a business process management solution in place, you might consider these popular picks:
But going a step further, you'll need to design processes and tweak them over time to continue meeting your customers’ needs. We’ll show you how.
How do I design customer service processes?
With your team, ask and try to identify answers to the following question:
What do our customers want now and in the future from our business?
Depending on your business, your answers could include any of the following points:
- Follow up
The attributes that matter most should be designed into your processes. Here's how you can get started:
- Appoint team members to focus solely on customer service needs.
- Develop a customer service training program.
- Create phone, email, and social media scripts that are friendly and personalized rather than formal and forced.
- Create guidelines for extending support after the initial touchpoint.
Let’s explore these key points.
How do I appoint team members to my customer service team?
If you decide to assign customer service responsibilities to one of your current team members, make a thoughtful selection. The person you choose should demonstrate some essential qualities, such as patience, careful listening, helpfulness, an eagerness to make others happy, and a thorough knowledge of the processes your business follows to produce, package, and distribute products. Technical knowledge is also important because you will likely introduce technical tools to improve workflows.
Instead, you could choose to hire one or more new employees to take on the task. Our guide, Before the Handshake: How to Vet Your Job Candidates, can help you through some of the essential steps of hiring your candidates. Your selection process here should be similar: Find future team members who are patient, good listeners, helpful, eager learners, and skilled at technical tools.
How should I develop (or improve upon) a customer service training program?
Start by mapping out the process you’d like your team to follow when dealing with a range of common scenarios. Your process should include the greeting you want your team to offer, having your team refer to a list of answers to common questions, and guidance on how and when to escalate calls to you or a team lead when answers are unknown or difficult to address.
Greetings can be quite simple. You might ask your representative to provide the businesses name, their name, and an offer to provide help:
“Thanks for calling Owner Actions. This is Meg. How can I help you today?”
The more tedious step is developing a list of frequently asked questions and providing complete answers to them. However, when prepared with care, this list can be a tremendous time-saver for your team, reduce the odds that they provide incorrect information, and create the consistency you can use to measure your success.
Your list should represent your most common calls. These might include:
- How can I place an order?
- When will an item be back in stock?
- What is the status of my order?
- Has my order gone missing?
- How do I pay my bill online?
- How do I navigate your website?
- What's the process for making a return?
- How can I request a refund?
- How do I file a complaint?
- Where can I find your store/site?
Consider creating this document and storing it on your network or intranet to make the questions searchable for teams that need on-the-spot answers.
Next, consider scripting out practice phone calls, emails, or chat messages your team that mirror the ones your team will be expected to respond to. You can create your own or use a service like The Call Center School to train through expertly crafted scenarios. As your team works through the scenarios, provide them with coaching and feedback to ensure their responses meet the standards you have in mind for your business.
Finally, create training sessions to help your team learn the technologies and tools they’ll use in their daily work. These tools will likely include a customer relationship management (CRM) system, which will help them quickly get up to speed on a customer’s background and ongoing concerns. Tools may also include chatbots, email systems, warehouse tools, order fulfillment tools, and other systems that are essential for them to determine the status of an item, order, or delivery. You may also want to implement and provide training for solutions like Team Support, Talkdesk, or Zendesk, which will help you and your team manage the entire customer support process.
What does it mean to extend support after the initial touchpoint?
Great customer service doesn’t always end at the close of a call or chat. Sometimes, it requires the representative to dive deeply into a problem, find the source, and create a plan for resolution.
You and your customer service team should have a process for problem escalation, investigation, and follow up to ensure your customer issues are handled quickly, effectively, and thoroughly every time. Work with your team to plan the best course of action.
How should I present this information to my team?
One of the best practices you can take on is setting policies to guide your team’s efforts and compiling them in a customer service manual. In this document, you should cover strategies, common issues, do’s and don’ts, and other training tips.
If you’d like to start with an easy-to-use template, consider this one from Lessonly.
How do I know if the policies we set are driving the right outcomes?
Sometimes, policies require some experimenting. However, you can measure your success by setting metrics to work toward and tracking your progress along the way. Your metrics may include:
- The average length of phone calls
- The average time from initial contact to issue resolution
- The number of customer service tickets that are resolved
- The percentage of open tasks
- Customer feedback scores
- The number of customer service complaints received
Choose metrics that are meaningful to your business and will encourage the right behaviors and responses from your team members.
Anything else to keep in mind?
There are a few more strategies that can help you improve your customer service:
- Consider round-the-clock staffing. Use your own team members to provide coverage, or consider outsourcing this task to a firm like Ruby.
- Automate your phone system. Make sure your system is easy to navigate, and if possible, include extension options that provide answers to commonly asked questions (such as your hours of operation and business location).
- Develop auto-responses to your customer service email inbox. This step will assure your customers that you’ve received their messages and set expectations on when they might receive a reply.
You can also work with a firm that specializes in customer service consulting to find specific solutions for your business. Ledgeview Partners, Prophet, and The DiJulius Group are three excellent firms with this competency.
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