How, exactly, do you provide excellent customer service? This is a question asked by many businesses when looking to improve their interaction with customers. Customer service can be defined as every interaction you have with your customer, before, during and after purchasing a product or service from you. Customer service has been regarded as a key skill that businesses should champion, in order to increase customer loyalty and the likeliness of more frequent/ higher spending purchases. As specialists within this field, we have collated key customer service tips to help improve your business’s customer service.
Set metrics to measure performance
Amongst different customer service teams, it is highly important to measure the level of success. There are a number of metrics available to measure this, including the following key performance indicators (KPIs):
Customer retention rate (CRR)
This metric involves analysing the activities and actions that a company partakes in to calculate the number of customers retained over a certain period. Usually the higher the number the better due the direct impact to revenue. As well as this, studies suggest that loyal customers to your organisation are more likely to spend more per order and to have a larger overall customer lifetime value. With this formula, a 1% customer retention rate increase equals a 5% increase in revenue.
The formula to measure your customer retention rate uses the following elements:
- ((E-N)/S)*100 = retention rate for a specified period
- Number of new customers in a period (N)
- Number of customers at the start of the period (S)
- Number of customers at the end of the period (E)
Time to resolution (TTR)
This metric is important for customer service teams as it calculates the average period of time for a team to resolve a case. This can be measured in business days or hours worked. It’s best to aim for the lowest possible resolution time, but still factoring in giving your customers the best possible experience.
The formula is as followed – Average resolution time = total of all TTRs / No. resolved cases
Customer satisfaction surveys
These surveys will give you a real feel whether your customers are satisfied with your brand. This is a perfect opportunity to gain a holistic overview and to detect any improvements that can be made to the company, both internally and externally moving forward. These can be distributed in a number of ways, depending on how you best connect with your customers – whether that be email, post or in store.
First response time
Mentioned earlier, customer satisfaction and brand loyalty are integral to a successful business. As a customer, it is very frustrating waiting for a reply about an issue that you are attempting to solve. This is especially apparent when customers have been waiting a couple of days or a company is unresponsive.
The first response time metric considers the number of minutes, hours or days since the customer contacted the company until the initial response has been made. With many automated systems available with the ability to send a generic response of receiving an enquiry, it is important that the initial response is highly personalised to make the customer feel valued within the business.
This metric can be easily calculated by having the time of first response – time of customer request.
It is recommended to complete this frequently to understand the median level of response times, and how this can be improved.
To ensure your customer service metrics are relevant there are five main points integral to follow:
1 – Purposeful – The metrics selected should be meaningful and provide direction to meet the overarching objectives of an organisation. For example, if the organisation is looking to improve the response time with customers, the response time metric can accurately measured, helping to strategise future activities.
2 – Flexible – The ability to understand when certain metrics are not adding real value to the business. At this point, you should be able to discard them without impacting the company and selecting a more appropriate metric.
3 – Genuine – The data generated from the chosen metrics should be authentic and original. Even if the data displays something negative, it is more useful to compose steps to overcome the issue, as opposed to ignoring or attempting to distort the numbers.
4- Contextualised – No matter what performance metric you’re measuring, a collection of metrics should be analysed to gain context behind an issue or provide reasoning. This contributes towards measurable value for the business and gains a holistic view of the performance of your business.
5 – Consistent – Evaluating a range of metrics over a period of time helps to gain informative insights towards a business. You are able to see the impact for any changes that have been made, and assisting in consistently improving business processes.
Encourage the development of key customer service skills
When interacting with customers, a wide soft skill set is needed to ensure your customer feels valued. These skills range from, but are not limited to:
The ability to really listen to a customer is invaluable. When a customer is in contact with your business, the relationship that is portrayed with them will stay with them, whether that be negative or positive. Active listening is a skill that all customer service handlers should be aware of and practising whenever interacting with customers.
Whether it is face-to-face or over the phone, interacting with the customer by giving them affirmations, such as “Interesting” and “I see”, as opposed to keep saying okay. To display that you’re engaged, a tip could be to recap or paraphrase what they just said to ensure you have understood them correctly.
When you feel appropriate, be sure to ask the customer follow up questions. This will help to gain a full understanding and give context behind the reason for the call if needed. Be careful not to interrupt the caller, as they are likely to be in the flow and you do not want to disrupt their train of thought. Probing questions help to discover any missing information and to make an informed decision.
Within customer service positions, the ideal ‘type’ of a communicator is an assertive communicator. This type of person is in between passive and aggressive. Within their role with the customer, they are polite and considerate, but will not compromise on being talked down to.
It is important when dealing with customers to reduce any situations of miscommunication wherever possible. This will help with the overall customer experience and clearly conveying the particular message to the customer.
When communicating with a customer over the phone, communication is much harder as you are not able to detect and assess particular body language. To overcome this, it is advised to continually keep the customer within the loop. For example, when putting the customer on hold, giving them an idea on time limit and to check in with them that they are okay with still being on hold whilst you help resolve any issues/ attempt to find out further information.
Customer service skills are extremely important when attempting to resolve a situation, particularly if any conflict is involved. By ensuring to focus on the customer experience during this strategic period, and staying calm will help the overall experience when settling a consumer query.
By demonstrating patience when listening to your customer, this will help to de-escalate any disagreements and is likely to aid in resolving the issue sooner. Be attentive to your customer to help in the resolution process. Clearly set out a plan to determine how to effectively overcome this situation.
The strategy should include the following steps:
- Realise what the common goal is
- Establish ways both parties can reach the common goal
- Acknowledge the situation and the responsibilities for each party
- Set a time frame for when these actions will aim to be completed by
Structure your team effectively
When sorting out customer service teams, it is important to ensure they are structured in a logical and productive order. First of all, be sure to sort out clear tiered teams that are able to segment their own tasks. These tiers could be split into general, technical and advanced technical queries or into their preferred channels, such as social, phone, email etc. How you split up your customer service team is completely down to the business, but should be effective. This way, a process can be made for the customer query to go to the specialist within the team and can be easily transferred to the correct team if need be.
All customer service employees should be aware of clear referral chains, such as what member of the team should be directed at what point of the conversation would be suitable to transfer them. This is where management comes in. It is important to sign team leaders within a customer service setting that are able to effectively deal with any out of hand customer escalations, answer any employee queries and motivate the team to continue their excellent service.
Further consideration could be addressing a dedicated operations team responsible for any customer service training of the specialists, project management and providing an active Q&A session to clear up any queries.
Understand processes for call escalation and integration with the wider business
How do you handle any call escalations? This question should be able to be effectively answered by each of your team members. Various customer service training ideas should be implemented to empower employees to aim for a higher first-call resolution (FCR) within the company and in turn, impacting customer satisfaction positively for the business.
If the solution cannot be resolved during the initial phone call with the customer, an agreed callback with a supervisor should be arranged within an appropriate time frame that is in an acknowledged time frame to both parties. If needed, the supervisor can escalate to a team or call upon the call centre manager if needed. However, at this point, the employee should weigh up the cost of the request and the lifetime value of that individual customer.
Be prepared for periods of high demand
Getting customer service right can be a difficult task within itself, let alone during peak seasons. Therefore, it is essential to be prepared and equipped for an influx of contact with your customers. Dependant on the business, an increasing amount in activity can occur dependant on the product or service itself. Many businesses see seasonal months as their peak, but again this differentiates between markets.
During peak season for customer service support, briefing your team is vital to enable effective preparation for the influx of contact that will be taking place. During this time, all customer service members should receive as much information as possible to understand their particular area inside and out, if a unique query arises they are able to effectively help the customer. If the influx is large, a consideration that many organisations make is to hire temporary in-house staff. This can help to distribute the increased workload effectively but can be considered costly in both the short-term staff and the time needed to train up these employees.
Dependant on the size of the customer service team and the seasonal impact, temporarily outsourcing hands-on expertise to deal with customer contact efficiently is a popular option for many companies. These experts are likely to be highly trained within handling customers, becoming a seamless extension of your existing team.
Once the busy period has finished, it is important to always review the whole process to detect positive and negative takeaways. As a team, learn from any mistakes that were made and ensure a strategic decision is in place for the next peak season.
Having an effective customer service team helps to understand and communicate customers needs. This, in turn, is likely to increase customer loyalty towards a business. Over-delivering on customer service will always be appreciated by the customer, as you’re truly listening to their needs from the business. High-level customer service goes a long way. Customers are no longer just looking to purchase a product, but expect the service added on with the experience.
If you’re looking to expand your customer service team or would like further information on how to improve customer service, contact the MPL Contact team today.