In a world where fierce competition is the new baseline state of being, businesses are forced to look for innovative new ways to stand out from their competitors. One such way is through customer support.
Traditionally, customer support or customer service has just been a support function – no less and no more. It’s been a purely reactive function tasked with calming an onslaught of frustrated customers. The phone would ring, an agent would answer, and the cycle would repeat.
Today, the definition of customer support has shifted dramatically. It’s no longer acceptable to just react, instead, you have to be proactive. You have to consider how the customer feels as they move through every aspect of the customer journey and how each interaction will shape their opinion of your company.
Customer opinions don’t exist in a bubble, and especially not in the digital age. Going back 20 years, an upset or dissatisfied customer had much less power than they do today. They might have a negative experience and go home and rant to their family or neighbors, but their harsh words were limited to their social circle. They simply couldn’t impact the opinions of a wider group of people, and as a result, it was very difficult for one customer to impact the reputation of a company.
In the digital age, this has all changed. Today when a customer has a bad experience, they have the whole world at their fingertips. A post on social media can go viral while employees are asleep. Reviews on independent review sites have become a popular way for people to air their frustrations, and these review sites are widely utilized by prospective customers.
Something that is often missed by companies is that customers having more power is actually a great thing. Sometimes customers have bad experiences because companies offer bad experiences. They fail to understand their customers and address their needs. While it’s certainly true that customers in the past had less power, companies had less power too. When a customer had a bad experience, it was much more difficult for the company to capture the details of why this experience was bad. Without online reviews, omnichannel data and voice data, and advanced data analysis, common problems were guaranteed to be missed. Bad experiences were doomed to be repeated.
By contrast, with the expert tools we have available today, companies are empowered to understand their customers in a way that was never possible in the past. They can attract the right customers and deliver tailored experiences to these customers. Customers become happier, and revenues go up.
With this in mind, today we’re going to tell you how to turn your customer support function into a competitive advantage. Let’s take a look.
Over time, companies have become increasingly focused on creating scripts, rules, and guidelines for their customer service agents. It’s easy to see how this evolved. When agents make mistakes, companies want to make sure this doesn’t happen again by adding on a new guideline or rule that agents have to follow.
However, this approach can be severely limiting for several reasons. Having autonomy is a huge part of what makes something fulfilling. When companies limit what representatives do, several things happen:
“Today’s consumers do not buy just products or services — more and more, their purchase decisions revolve around buying into an idea and an experience.” McKinsey
You can’t create a rigid rulebook for the perfect experience for every customer. Customers can differ greatly in their personalities, preferences, and desires. So instead of creating the perfect rulebook, be flexible and encourage the positive traits you want to see in your agents.
This may seem like an obvious one, but there’s just as much art as science when it comes to being friendly. Many companies focus on how to be polite, rather than friendly. It’s still important to be polite of course, but you shouldn’t confuse these two approaches. Here’s how we define the difference:
Politeness – At marked effort towards being inoffensive, meeting social expectations for communication (staying within norms), and being respectful considerate of customers.
Friendliness – Being warm, kind, caring, and putting the customer at ease.
Switching from just being polite to being actively friendly can help create a more memorable impression on customers. A study by American Express found that 68% of customers said a friendly representative was key to their recent positive experience. Here are some tips on improving friendliness:
Developing a company voice helps create your own unique style and way of doing things. When you do this, and if you do it consistently, you will be more memorable to customers. When your company is more memorable, customers will automatically think of you when they need a similar product in the future.
Here are some tips for developing your company voice in the customer support function:
Like we discussed above, customers are a varied group, each with their own preferences. You can’t expect to meet the needs of all of your customers if you only offer things that only appeal to a select group of customers.
For example, if your customer support function can only be accessed by phone, then you’re already failing a big group of customers. Some people prefer to talk via live chat, chatbot, or email.
Streamlining is also an important factor in improving your customer support custom. A study by McKinsey found that 86% of B2B executives prefer using self-service tools for reordering rather than talking to a representative. This statistic applies to sales, but it can also be true for customer service too. Sometimes customers just have a similar request with a straightforward answer. In these situations, they don’t want to wait in a call queue to speak to a representative. It’s simply not an efficient use of time for the customer or the agent.
Here are examples of the kinds of technology you should be utilizing
Having the right tools, technology, and service options is important, but these functions must be user friendly. It’s your customer’s opinion on usability that really counts, not yours. Ask your customers for their opinion on how usable your touchpoints are, and make changes based on what they say. Identify all customer pain points and try to eliminate these as much as possible.
Sometimes a great way to improve your customer service function is to create online communities where your customers can talk. If a customer is having a technical problem with your software or wants to understand how to do something complex, sometimes another customer is the best person to help. Your customers use your products for a variety of reasons, and it can be difficult to turn your agent’s into experts on every approach to the product.
While it’s true that you hired all of your agents according to their skills and competency, it’s also true that people have strengths and weaknesses in different areas. If your goal is to ensure that your customers have the best possible experience, then it’s a good idea to always match agents with customers based on their strengths. Some agents might be incredibly fast when it comes to solving quick problems. Some agents might be great at calming very angry customers with ongoing issues. Some agents might excel at tackling technical and complex problems that other agents find stressful. It’s your job to identify these areas of competency and ensure that customers are always matched with the right agent for their specific issue.
We’re extremely excited to announce that we have changed our company name to CommBox. It’s still the same company with the same awesome people! just a new name, a fresh look, and a brighter future.Read full story