Whenever you look up a restaurant for a night out with friends and family, the first thing you look at is the customer reviews and ratings. Why? Because popular opinion gives you an idea about the kind of service you will receive. Over the years, customers have become more proactive in making their voices heard. Businesses have become more dependent on these customer reviews because a handful of reviews can make or break your business.
Once that trust is lost, it is very hard to earn back. With the emergence of social media and the Internet of Things, people have more access to platforms that give them a voice. To make sure that your business stays in the customers’ good graces, you need to raise the bar on your ‘customer service operation’.
What Is Customer Service And How Does It Work?
Ideally, the simplest definition comes within the boundaries of giving your customers a wholesome and satisfying experience when they interact with your brand. The more realistic answer is that customer service is meant to deliver that perfect experience through a series of activities. These activities include things such as effective workplace models, well-structured management and proper planning.
Additionally, on the technical side, a business has to have a highly skilled and dedicated customer service team to help deliver those expectations. The only way for that to happen is through a methodical screening and hiring process, followed by an intensive training regimen to make sure your team is giving your customers the best possible service.
Customer service starts with treating customers like people and giving them a wholesome experience with your brand.
For starters, customers want to be treated like people. Yes, a business runs on numbers and data, but it is the people that give it substance. The minute you start treating the customer like another number for your bottom-line, they will know. That said, customers expect the company to know, at the very least, some basic information about what they want and need.
Background information gives you insights on those needs and allows you to give the customer a tailor-made experience that is both enjoyable and memorable. The value of a good reputation in the eyes of the public goes a long way in business.
Why Is Customer Service Important?
Introduces order and structure
Having a well-organised and fully-functioning customer service team helps the business stay on its toes when it comes to addressing issues that customers might have. Introducing protocols, schedules, and a smoother workflow, allow for fast and easy solutions and keep the business moving.
Helps expand the business
As a business grows, so do the needs and grievances of the customers. A rapidly expanding business will need to address these issues to grow parallelly with their customers so that they do not lose the brand value in the process. Customer service helps identify those needs and adapt your expansion strategy as you go.
With the presence of a customer service team, it takes the pressure of the rest of the business and lets it focus on the numbers and data crunching, while the customer support team handles the customers. This divide and conquer approach provides much more productivity. Good service also helps boost performance, as a business that readily addresses the concerns of its customers, stays well ahead of the competition thanks to perceived brand value.
Humanises the brand
When you value people and show them that you are listening to their needs and trying your best to give them what they want, people will respect the brand more for it and relate more as well.
How To Build A Great Customer Service Strategy
Step 1: Establish a purpose for the team
Before you get to work on building your customer service team, you need to consider what its main function will be. Not all customer service departments work to address the same set of issues, every industry and every business is different. For example, if you have a WIFI service, the customer care would centre around connectivity and technical issues the customer might have.
Establish the purpose and function of the customer care strategy so you can have a streamlined approach to the problem-solving process, be it sales issues, financial concerns or technical aid.
Step 2: Choose a channel of communication
Next, you want to choose the method in which the business can communicate with the customer and vice-versa. This could take one or multiple forms – establish whether you want to go the more traditional route and do surveys and questionnaires like the ones they hand out in the grocery store or something a little more modern. A recommendable strategy would be to opt for a combination of an active social media presence and online surveys that can be targeted at a specific demographic.
Be careful to not overload your customer service team with too many channels, which will spread their efforts thin and leave you short-handed.
Step 3: Hire the right people
You need to hire the right people for the job, but what kind of people? Look for individuals who are uniquely motivated with the following interpersonal skills that would make them an ideal candidate for the job:
The Ability to communicate clearly.
Good knowledge of the industry.
Empathy and patience when dealing with frustrated customers.
Able to switch between different roles as no two problems are the same.
Beyond hiring the right person, you also need to make sure that you give them ample training and ensure upskilling before pushing them into the fray.
Step 4: Make a good first impression
Word-of-mouth carries a lot of weight in business and the word of the customer is the one-above-all. Make a good first impression; show them you care and that you understand. Make the customer feel special and customise the interaction for them. Even if there is a huge problem that they are facing, the fact that your team has taken the time and effort to patiently walk them through the process will go a long way.
This is where you need to watch out for poor interpersonal skills from your team, they need to maintain a cool head at all times – training becomes of the utmost importance here.
Understanding the customer's point of view and the issues they face is half the battle.
Step 5: Manage expectations and stepping into their shoes
Every customer reacts differently to an issue or a concern, it is the support team’s job to try and get into their mindset to see where they are coming from. Most often, when you get a frustrated and angry customer is due to their expectations not being met. You need to avoid promising the customers more than you could deliver.
A better strategy would be to tell them exactly what they can expect going forward and then follow up by exceeding those expectations. It is far more preferable than trying to do damage control later down the line and losing faith in the eyes of the public.
Step 6: Collect all the data
The best kind of customer service happens when the support team has the necessary information on the customers. When they interact with the customer, it is a great time to dive into some data collection. The data collection will help you do two things:
Improve your business’s performance.
Allow for a more customised experience down the line.
Look outside your industry to see what other practices on data-collection methods can be adapted to suit your business, while still staying true to your industry-specific requirements.
Step 7: Be active where your customers are
Customers today have become more proactive than ever before; they are active on multiple social media channels and online platforms that give them direct access to you and vice-versa. It is all about finding the right channel to increase the reach of your business by providing effective solutions to your customers.
For that to happen, you need to take your business and support team to where they are. Do your homework and find out where your business-specific customers are most active. For example, a restaurant may find more ease talking to customers on apps like Zomato or Instagram; a tech start-up might address them on their website via a chatbot and so on.
Whichever channel you choose, be it phone calls, text, social media or online forums, choose the one that best suits the brand’s style and where customers are most likely to interact with you. Keep in mind, this entire process should be customer-centric with the focus on delivering value, so the channel that allows you to do that best is the one to go with.
Step 8: Technology is not everything
Automating the process of handling customer complaints like automated surveys or automated email marketing can work wonders for handling a large number of customer grievances, but just that is not enough. While technology is great, it has set-back. If you become too reliant on it the human side of the process suffers.
Make sure to use both technology and a strong operational plan in unison to maximise the efficiency of your customer care services and in turn strengthening your ‘customer loyalty’. At the end of the day, this is all that matters – making sure that your business does its best to meet the needs of the customer while building strong and lasting relationships.