Is your customer service strategy getting a bit old and tired? Enliven it with some inspiration from this, our fourth customer service round-up installment.
1. Is your customer service on the nose?
If so, Fortune has very helpfully offered to give you some pointers on how to fix it, in the guise of Mike Wood, a writer for Allbusiness.com. Wood believes that most customer service today “sucks” (his words) because businesses are still not putting the customer at the center of their considerations (pretty amazing considering all the lip service out there about customer-centric service, but let’s face it … too regrettably true in some cases).
- He has a few suggestions for getting back on track:
- Listening, even if you assume you know the complaint back to front already (and if you do, maybe it’s time to look at fixing it!).
- Telling the truth, even if it hurts.
- Apologizing when you’re in the wrong.
Admittedly, it’s not rocket science, but we could all use some reminders of the basics, even those of us who think we’re already doing a fantastic job.
We say: The basics of customer service relationships are just like the basics of any relationship. And just like any relationship, it’s easy to leave the basics by the wayside when things get crazy busy or start to get a little bit too routine.
It doesn’t hurt to schedule a self-audit now and then (or, to enlist the help of a trusted friend) to make sure your customer service manners are still on point.
2. Customer service is the key to sustainability
Fortune weren’t the only ones trumpeting the importance of customer service this month. Over on the Entrepreneur blog, contributor R.L. Adams recently argued that the only way to succeed in business is to put the customer first; anything else is “sealing your fate in a coffin of corporate greed and advancement at all costs.” Apparently, greed is not good – at least, not anymore.
Adams argues that the key to success is to play the long game: what is most sustainable in the long run is to put customer satisfaction first. In his view, there are many good reasons to do this, not least of which is the fact that it costs much less to retain your existing customers than it does to go to the effort of finding brand new ones.
Other good reasons he advances for prioritizing customer satisfaction include the word-of-mouth factor (go over the top for customers, and you will turn them into raving fans), the extra credibility it gives your brand with both customers and business partners, and the fact that existing customers are more likely to buy from you again.
No argument here!
We say: It is one thing to know you should prioritize customer satisfaction – it can be quite another to know how to go about promoting it within your customer base.
For some good primers (or even if you could just use a refresher), check out The Three C’s of Customer Satisfaction by consulting firm McKinsey, Userlike’s 6 Proven Methods for Measuring Customer Satisfaction or the Huffington Post’s treasure trove of articles relating to customer satisfaction as a first step.
3. Kicking goals … and asses?
Well, it has to be said. The Harvard Business Review has surely outdone itself this time. Always to be relied on for insightful and thought-provoking articles on a range of business topics, the HBR have put together a comprehensive guide on what types of customer service reps best deliver excellent customer service … or “kick-ass customer service,” in their words.
Based on a global survey of over 1,400 reps, CEB, a best practice insight, and technology company, found that there are seven different types of reps: Accommodators, Competitors, Controllers, Empathizers, Hard Workers, Innovators, and Rocks.
Apparently, managers overwhelmingly prefer Empathizers to handle their customer service, for (hopefully) obvious reasons, and they were also most commonly represented among the reps (making up around 32% of reps surveyed).
However, it is worth noting that of all the types, it is Controllers who perform best regarding a range of quality and performance measures, including reducing customer effort. They make up only 15% of all reps, and managers like them the least.
We say: Empathy is a critical dimension in delivering excellent customer service, but it’s not the only one. Arguably, equally important is the ability to take charge of the situation and to ensure that problems are resolved with the least time and effort invested from the customer. Consider mixing up your hiring strategy to allow representation across a range of personality traits, not just one.
4. Customer service … with a bullet
Ever wished you could wave a wand and transform your company into a responsive customer service machine? Micah Solomon, Forbes contributor, is going to help you out with the Six Customer Service Bullets.
His six foundational steps include:
- Enshrining your customer service philosophy into a simple statement hiring the right mix of employees for your customer service team (here you might do well to refer to the 7 types of reps, see above)
- Striving to build a culture of “positive peer pressure” where role models will set the tone for others
- Regularly reinforcing customer service best practices with staff
- Benchmarking best practice across every industry
- Encouraging staff to have input into their work plans
- Implementing customer service systems to support ongoing improvement.
An excellent article to read in depth if you want a complete revamp of your current customer service strategy.
We say: Even though these steps are presented as “bullets,” in reality, each one would take some in-depth consideration and more than a little effort. However, they are well worth the time investment for those who are wanting to do more than just scratch the surface of their customer service strategy.
5. The only way is up
Being wildly successful. It’s a nice problem to have; we can almost hear you thinking. But just stop and think about it for a moment… is it likely that the same strategies, processes, and practices will serve you as well when you are a tiny two-person start-up versus a rapidly growing monster with fifty staff and counting? No, we don’t think so either.
And at that stage of monster growth, how well will your two-employee customer service strategy (you know, where you get on the phone and get up close and personal with every individual customer … because, like – you know them all by name, of course) serve you then?
Enter Mat Patterson, who recently wrote a hugely entertaining HelpScout article on Scaling Customer Service on a Growing Team.
There’s a lot of interest here, and we’re not going to give it all away, as we think it is worthy of an in-depth read – perhaps on a long coffee break. But there are highlights we can mention, like Patterson’s identification of the “trough of mediocrity” – a customer service slump that all companies are in danger of falling into on their path to growth, and of which many customers are sadly all too aware.
We say: Great customer service is sometimes the fuel that can rocket a small start-up into growth at warp speed …. and also sadly the secret weakness that can bring it down. If your customer service strategy doesn’t easily scale, it’s time to think about how you’ll manage when you get bigger … like, a lot bigger … way before it happens. It may seem like a far off dream, but success may well be just around the corner, and you don’t want it to catch you unawares.
Enjoyed this article? Why not check out our related content on customer service:
• Customer Service Round-Up #3
• How Customer Experience Can Build Better Connections With Your Customers