Customer satisfaction is crucial to business success, but many companies are falling short of consumer expectations. Half of consumers say they don’t feel companies make it easy to contact them, the Northridge Group’s State of Customer Service Experience 2017 report says. Seven out of 10 say they have trouble navigating automated phone systems to reach live agents. Nearly six in 10 frequently can’t find the answers they need on company websites. And one in four say they never receive a response when contacting companies through social media.
Numbers like this can hurt your customer satisfaction and cost you business. Improve your customer service performance by implementing some strategic management and training tactics. Here are three strategies you can use to enhance your team’s customer service performance.
1. Choosing Effective Technology
Several of the common customer service complaints identified by Northridge Group revolve around ineffective use of technology. When many of your customers are seeking service over their smartphones, choosing the right technology and using it effectively is fundamental to delivering satisfying customer service.
The foundation for an effective service technology infrastructure is a cloud contact center. A complete contact center solution should integrate three key functions of your service infrastructure:
- Provide a centralized omnichannel platform for your representatives to handle tickets from all service channels, allowing a seamless customer experience no matter which channel your customer uses to interact with your organization.
- Integrate effectively with your business phone and unified communications solutions.
- Make it easy for your team’s supervisors to manage contact center resources, automating tickets that can be handled routinely while using smart routing to direct tickets that require human assistance.
To effectively balance automated expediency with a human touch, a couple of key technology tools can greatly enhance your contact center infrastructure. For online customers, chatbots allow you to automate handling of routine live chat inquiries, while rapidly routing conversations that need human help to available agents.
Interactive voice response (IVR) systems can similarly help you assist phone customers with automated options for routine inquiries and efficient routing for human assistance. To avoid frustrating customers with long, irrelevant menu options, choose an IVR solution with the artificial intelligence capability to process natural language.
2. Training Listening Skills
To be effective, customer service technology must be supported by highly-trained human representatives. Developing your team’s listening skills is a key component of superior service training. The best way to hone your team’s listening skills is to implement a training program that focuses on cultivating this specific skill set.
One company that does this extremely well is Apple. Apple Stores deliver top customer service by training employees to follow specific procedures mapped out in the company’s training manual. Apple’s training approach uses the company’s name as an acronym representing six foundations of delivering satisfying service. These are approaching customers with a warm personal welcome; probing politely to understand customer needs; presenting a solution customers can take away from their in-store experience; listening for and resolving any issues and concerns; and ending conversations with a fond farewell and invitation to return.
Codifying this type of standard procedure into a training manual will provide your team with a reference resource for learning and practicing effective listening skills. You can train your team to follow your standard procedures through regular training sessions that involve role-playing to practice listening skills and other key customer service skills. Organizations that offer customer service training seminars can help you develop programs to teach your workers listening skills.
3. Setting Customer Expectations
Delivering satisfying customer service also depends on your customers and their expectations. When your customers have unrealistic expectations, delivering satisfying service can be impossible. This makes managing customer expectations a critical part of effective customer service.
To manage customer expectations, TeamSupport recommends that each customer-facing employee should be equipped with multiple possible alternatives to suggest when a customer demands something unreasonable. It also advises being transparent by communicating your service policies on your site and giving customers specific estimates of how long they should expect to wait for a reply. To implement this, you should track your customers’ average wait time for both getting a response from your representatives and getting a resolution to their problems. Finally, TeamSupport emphasizes the importance of following up with your customers to get their feedback on your service so you can measure your performance and make adjustments and improvements.