The Full Story
American author and newsman Sydney J. Harris once said, “The greatest enemy of progress is not stagnation, but false progress.” This is just as true with customer support as it is in life. After all, what’s possibly worse than going nowhere with your support efforts? Being unaware of your failures, that’s what.
Here are 7 ways to ensure steady improvement within your customer support teams.
Build a Community
Engagement is a hallmark of appreciation. It’s also a way for your customers to connect and help one another. Gaming, automotive, and DIY groups thrive on community—and the best customer support leaders know that their best customers can also be a valuable source of customer support.
How? Customer support reps can monitor branded (and non-branded) forum traffic to provide fast, current support. In this way, support becomes a two-way street.
Encourage Detailed Feedback
Feedback is a key feature of community building, but even without a community, it is important to gather detailed feedback. It’s hard to know what your customers are thinking without hearing those thoughts firsthand. Whether you send out email surveys or launch occasional pop-up windows, these should be data-driven points.
Feedback tells you the WHO, the WHAT, and the WHERE:
- Who your customers are
- What you’re doing right
- Where you need to improve
So not only does feedback help you to improve internal processes and UX, it gives you insight into individual customers.
Identify Service Touchpoints
A touchpoint is every instance of communication or brand contact. And whether or not you’re getting good feedback, you should be meticulous about tracking where customers have problems or questions. Your service touchpoints will depend on the type of business you run and where inquiries pop up in the sales funnel.
Empathy and Active Listening
Customer support horror stories typically stem from a complete lack of empathy. When you aren’t able to relate to your customers, they can feel it. When you aren’t listening, they know it. How do you do exude empathy and listen well?
- Use positive language and tone.
- Make the customer’s problem your problem.
- Use the customer’s first name in conversation.
Customer support can be an exhausting role, but regardless of fatigue, your customers need you. Don’t let them down.
Set Contingencies, but Follow the Script…
What is bad customer service? Unwavering adherence to the corporate script and policy comes to mind. In an effort to combat this, companies have gone waaaay overboard in the other direction.
Overly generous customer service gets social media attention in droves. But is it worth the cost? Many suggest that it isn’t.
Make your default support so stellar that the “wow” contingencies don’t become the default. Allow your reps latitude to make the best decisions for your business, but having a killer support process to begin with will maintain profit margins. The “wow” should be just that—a surprise—not the default.
You Only Know What You Know (And Don’t Know)
“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance”
While customer support reps should have in depth knowledge about their product, systems, and protocols, they shouldn’t fake it. Ever. Simply acknowledging “I don’t have that information, but I can find it and get back to you” sits much better than guessing.
So if you don’t have the facts, admit it. Don’t waste the customer’s time. If it takes time to confirm a detail, that’s okay. But no matter what, give your customer the best, most relevant information possible.
It’s always better for your reps to have encyclopedic knowledge of your company and product, but having honest customer support teams is a good supplement.
Many people confuse clear communication with sparse prose. This is a death-trap in support communication. Remember, what’s clear to you may not be apparent to your customer. Consider these email or live chat scenarios:
“You will be billed bi-weekly.” (Is that every other week or twice a week? Definitions vary.)
“Change your Wi-Fi security to WAP2 Personal.” (Where IS my WiFi? I thought it was invisible. WAP2 sounds like a virus.)
Clear communication means detailing processes after giving the technical jargon. Of course this will vary on a customer-to-customer basis, but do not mistake brevity for clarity. Often the clearest communication is heavily detailed.
The key is to focus on the customer’s understanding, not what is most obvious to you.
There is always room for improvement—especially in customer support processes. So take a moment to self-reflect, pinpoint areas for improvement, and adjust. Don’t wait until you need to overhaul the system. Focus on small, consistent improvements to your support to make excellence the norm.