How to Provide Efficient Customer Service?
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How can you provide stellar treatment, and be cost-effective while having efficient customer service? Business owners often hear the advice to improve their customer service but the question is, how? People are busy, and while they might want pleasant interactions, they don’t want to waste time either.
In the Microsoft Dynamics 365 report, researchers found 90% of Americans consider customer service when choosing whether or not to do business with a company. Making sure you’re on top of your game with what you offer is well worth the effort if you want to gain and keep new clients.
You likely already know the basics of good customer service. Train your call center reps, having policies already in place and listen to the user. However, there are many subtle factors involved in creating an amazing customer experience (CX) and gaining a positive brand image.
How Much Does Customer Service Cost?
The amount varies based on how many customers get served in an hour. And then of course, what you pay your employees and the cost of benefits. Experts estimate the cost for a call center, for example, is between $0.79 and $1.18 per minute. Whether you have dedicated specialists or use a third-party center can also impact the rate.
However, the cost of losing a customer may be far greater than the cost of providing a highly trained individual to answer calls. Know how much each of your clients is worth and you’ll see whether you should invest more in your training and hiring processes.
Picture 1. Training your team is more cost-effective then losing a customer
Tips for Having Efficient Customer Service
Providing efficient customer service doesn’t always mean fast contact. There are many levels to an excellent reputation in this area, including the focus on the customer and what people remember when they walk away from the experience. Here are some tips to improve your customer service department.
1. Add Proactive Web Connections
Research shows about 53% of Americans abandon an online purchase if they bump up against a question and can’t find an answer. However, if you have live chat or SMS available to push them through to the next stage of the sales funnel, they are much more likely to convert.
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Proactive web actions (PWAs) allow you to help your customers when they arrive at a point in the buyer’s journey they’d normally bounce away. PWAs let you chat about the specific experience the customer has, answer personalized questions and ensure the experience is a positive one.
2. Know Your Product
You have to understand your product or service inside and out before you can convince someone else it’s the solution to their problems. Then, when they do call customer service with an issue, you should have an immediate solution. When you know your product well, you know how to fix things.
One example of this level of customer service is a company selling ultraviolet light to disinfect household items. They know a lot of people get the wand and don’t realize they have to hold the power button down for a few seconds to turn it on. People call and say the item doesn’t work.
Because they’ve thoroughly tested the product, they know what to tell customers to do. They’ve added videos to their website, can email you instructions or can talk you through how to turn the wand on via the telephone. Know your product so well and test it thoroughly so you can troubleshoot in that exact moment. You’ll know if the item is actually defective or it is user error. Either way, you’ll solve the issue for your customer either by replacing a broken product or helping them learn how to use it.
Whether your customer service is in person or over the phone, train your reps to smile. They will approach the interaction with the consumer from a place of being happy to serve. Your customers are what build your brand and help with word-of-mouth marketing.
A little extra effort to be pleasant doesn’t hurt. It can also make them efficient customer service because the customer will feel they care about their needs. Otherwise, the person might take up five or ten minutes railing against your company before getting to the heart of the problem.
Picture 2. While talking to the customers keep a positive approach
4. Personalize Interactions
Retail Touchpoints reports around 36% of shoppers say they want better personalization. However, many are reluctant to share personal information leading to more accurate targeting. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to create a higher level of engagement.
First, look at the data you have on hand about current customers. Create buyer personas based on age, occupation and other demographics. Dig into the reasons people most likely turn to a brand such as yours. What is the psychology behind what drives them?
Once you have the information about your average customer, create a buyer persona to represent a person. All your customer service interactions should consider the persona and how they’d respond to different solutions. While each person who calls your customer service line has a unique problem and you must listen, you can also make some predictions about how they’ll respond to different answers.
If you want efficient customer service, prepare them for every situation and communicating with different personalities!
5. Efficient Customer Service Respects the Customer
Have you ever called a company and felt the representatives were disrespectful to you? Perhaps they accuse you of lying without coming right out and saying it by making comments such as, “None of our other customers ever had this issue.”
Train your call reps to respect the customer. Each person, no matter how irate they may sound, should be treated with an appreciation for their business. While your employees shouldn’t have to take abuse, such as being cussed at or berated, an angry tone can be dealt with if they stay calm and helpful.
Remember who took your company to where it is today. Your customers are the reason of the success of your brand. Train your staff to appreciate the customers and the rest should fall into place.
Picture 3. Your customers are the driving force for your brand
6. Listen More Than You Talk
Imagine having an issue with a product. You call customer service to find out how to fix it or whether you can get a replacement. You start to tell your problem, but the customer service rep cuts you off time and time again. You grow frustrated with the company, the rep and the situation.
Train your customer service to listen to customers more than they talk. It also saves time and makes for a more efficient interaction. They can’t solve the client’s problem if they don’t take the time to listen to them and figure out what’s going on.
Train reps to go off scripts often creates a scenario where the rep talks over the customer. Instead, teach to first hear the customer out, ask pertinent questions if there are any holes and then move toward problem solving.
7. Be Responsive
Customer service isn’t very good if it isn’t immediately available. In fact, some people won’t even buy from a site that doesn’t have contact information clearly listed. If there’s a problem, how can they get in touch with you? At a minimum, offer a toll-free phone number and one other way to get in touch. Ideally, you’ll have multiple touchpoints, such as a phone number, live chat, SMS texting, email and a knowledge base.
What happens when someone reaches out? Do you have a fully staffed 24/7 hotline? Can people only message you during business hours? Communicate when you’re available and when customers can expect a return call or text to solve their issue.
8. Use Automation
Gartner reports about 25% of businesses use virtual customer assistants. Don’t be afraid to program bots to answer the common things customers ask over and over. However, there is a point where real people must step in to create a personalized experience.
You can become much more efficient with your service when you automate repetitive things. However, don’t give up personalization for speed. Find the balance between the two.
9. Leave Personal Problems Out
Whether you run a solopreneur business or you have customer service reps, make sure personal issues get left behind before dealing with customers. Advice such as smiling first helps remind you to put the focus on the customer.
If you or your sales agents are distracted by traumatic events, you may not give the client your full focus. Make sure you have a work culture that allows for mental health breaks when needed. Call reps may sometimes deal with abuse from customers, too, and need a chance to step away and regroup before dealing with the next problem.
Picture 4. Find the balance between personal and professional
10. Support Staff
If you want an efficient customer service (and positive one) department, you must give your employees the tools to solve difficult problems. Only allowing people to fix customer issues within a narrow set of parameters doesn’t allow for creative problem solving.
Stories abound about companies that went above and beyond what was required of them. Grocery stores delivered to elderly customers during inclement weather even though they didn’t offer a delivery service. Shoe companies sent a mixed-up order via overnight delivery to make sure the shoes got there in time, even though the error was the customer.
Look for ways to stand out from your competitors. Reward employees who gain positive press or a customer who posts all over social media about how great you are because you went beyond what was required. Others will see your efforts and give your brand a try.
Don’t Waste Time
Where is the balance between a friendly interaction and eating up precious time? Efficient customer service agents must learn how to listen to the customer, care about their personal details but move them along toward a resolution. It’s a delicate balance learned with time on the job. Set up mentors for your newer agents and always err on the side of treating the client like a person.
Eleanor Hecks is editor-in-chief at Designerly Magazine. Eleanor was the creative director and occasional blog writer at a prominent digital marketing agency before becoming her own boss in 2018. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and dog, Bear.
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