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What Makes an Effective Customer Service Program?

If you are providing goods or services to customers or clients, chances are you have performed customer service work. In addition to the support provided to the consumer, true customer service should help advance the strategic goals of the company. Being a customer-centric company helps retain customers and grow your business. So what elements comprise a good customer service program?

Representative training: If you have dedicated customer service representatives, it is important that they be trained well. First, they need to have a thorough understanding of products and services and be able to resolve common issues on their own. Their communication skills should be top notch as they will interact both internally with other departments and externally with customers.

They must also be proficient users of technology. Customer service software helps to streamline customer interactions and representatives need to be able to use it to efficiently resolve customer concerns. In addition, customer service has come a long way from the call center. Your customers are contacting you not only by phone, but by email, live chat, and on social media. Representatives should feel comfortable on all these platforms.

Customer service representatives must be empowered to make the customer happy. They must understand and buy into the company mission, have a certain level of autonomy to make decisions, and have continuous training, mentoring and coaching along the way.

Finding the right model of support: Most customer service departments are built on a model of tiered support or collaborative support. Which works best for your company depends on a few factors such as the size of your company, the number of support requests that are coming in, and the variety and complexity of those requests.

  • Tiered Support: In this model, Tier 1 representatives take care of easy, less time consuming tasks, and Tier 2 representatives handle more complex requests, might work for your business. You may find that you may even need a Tier 3. Quickly growing companies that are developing a sizable customer base and service requests may benefit from tiered support as requests get funneled to the representative best suited to handle the request.

  • Collaborative Support: A collaborative method of support enables the customer to stay in touch with one representative throughout the interaction. It is the representative’s job to consult with others to find answers to any questions. The representative benefits by expanding their knowledge base as they work with others within the company. The customer benefits by not having to repeat themselves to different representatives when looking for a solution to a problem.

Staffing and supervision: To determine staffing levels, you’ll need to analyze you call volume and the times your customers are seeking help. For some businesses, this may require 24/7 customer service. For others, it may mean increasing staff at peak times to keep response times within your goals. Knowing your own service goals, your competitor’s standards, and customer expectations should help guide you as you determine appropriate response times. However, keep in mind that customer expectations are steadily rising in this area. In 2014, an American Express study found the maximum time a person was willing to wait on hold for phone support was 13 minutes. However, in 2017 an Arise survey showed that 2/3 of people said they would wait for 2 minutes or less.

Monitoring the interactions between customers and representatives is important in order to maintain the level of service expected and improve that service level when needed. Monitor phone calls in real time in order to identify skill gaps and provide additional coaching and training when needed. Use software that can utilize speech analytics for phone calls and text analytics for email and chat to identify trends and patterns that need to be addressed. Continuous evaluation of all customer feedback platforms ensures that outgoing communication is consistent and lives up to the company quality standard.

Providing an overall great customer experience will be the main competitive difference between companies in the years ahead. As companies apply a customer-centric approach, the increase in customer satisfaction will help to retain those customers, promote and protect their brands, and set them up for success. In Part 2 of our series on customer service, we’ll talk more about the different platforms customers may be contacting you on, appropriate response times and what metrics you should be looking when evaluating your efforts and the future of customer service.

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