Illustration of customer service department helping a customer with issue

How to Run an Effective Customer Service Department

We’re sure you’ve heard over and over how important customer service is.

But just how important is it really?

Well, according to the following stats, it’s quite important:

  • 47% of consumers have decided to switch to a competitor after receiving poor customer service
  • The majority of consumers in the US end up not making a purchase due to a poor customer service experience
  • 67% of customer churn can be prevented – organizations just need to make an effort to resolve issues the first time they occur

Now that we see how important customer service is, the question is how to actually provide great service?

Well, it all starts with having a great customer care team. To make sure you have a great service team that aligns with your culture, we’ll provide you with some methods that are sure to guide you to stay on the right track.

Let’s start.

1. Define What Great Customer Service Means to You

Though there is no definite rule for serving your customers, there’s more to providing exceptional customer service than just solving a customer’s problem. It’s about going the extra step to exceed your customers’ expectations so that you distinguish yourself from your competitors. At the end of the day, your products or services can be emulated by others, but your ability to sympathize and pleasantly surprise your customers is much harder to copy.

Here are a few examples of businesses taking that extra step:

  • In December 2013 WestJet surprised all of their 250 passengers of two flights, by accomplishing their Christmas wishes made in front of the WestJet Santa before they checked in for Calgary. The ‘tearful reactions’ of the passengers confirmed how WestJet pioneered the service for customers to a different dimension.
  • In 2012, Taco Bell sent a helicopter carrying a food truck with enough materials to make 10,000 Doritos Tacos treat the citizens of Bethel, Alaska who were upset with the breaking of a hoax of Taco Bell opening in their remote area. Their “Operation Alaska” was out of the track for business rewards. But their efforts earned them 6,000 business evangelists from this ‘Publicity Stunt’.

Don’t get us wrong – you don’t have to make this big of an effort when trying to please your customers. The point though is to do something above the ordinary. One way to make sure you can do that is to target the customers that you’re dealing with. For example, the way of serving B2C customers differs in many ways to serve B2B customers. So, your efficiency in this field rides on your understanding of your niche.

Let’s go through an example:

  • Heyman Mailing Service, of Rockville, Maryland has made their business oath to satisfy their customers by helping them to do the same on their own. Their slogan “Your deadlines are our deadlines.” is not just mere words to their clients. It’s a promise with a belief that “if Heyman blows the deadline, well, they just don’t.

Another one is an example of situation management:

  • Scott Barbour bought a Nest’s product, a self-learning digital thermostat controlled by a phone through Wi-Fi which got in trouble while using. He contacted Nest and the support rep discovered that the issue was with his house wiring. Here, Nest took it as their responsibility to compensate him for paying professional technician and apologize for his hassle. It’s called going beyond expectation.

So, let’s begin with mastering the niche and then pouring creativity into humanizing your customer service.

2. Define the Standard of Quick Response

When Peter Shankman tweeted Morton’s Steakhouse to deliver a porterhouse at Newark airport, he was not actually expecting for them to make the delivery then.

But, Morton’s staff drove for 23 miles to reach the airport in time with a package of a full meal. The unforgettable reaction of Peter was the greatest earning for Morton’s reputation on quick service:

Your efforts define your sincerity to lead customer service beyond records. In today’s world, when the time is the essence of our life, it plays the most crucial role in setting the direction towards the success of your business.

Another example will show you how much negative impact it acquires if you don’t pay attention into it already:
Corbin Smith called the customer support of TigerDirect with a complaint when he was put on hold for 8 hours and then disconnected.

Basically, 60% of people hate to wait longer than a minute or two when they call customer support for help. Again, modern standard for email response has dropped to one hour only. Not only that, 72% of users expect a Twitter complaint to be answered within one hour.

But, people expect more when they get more, right!

The conventional support channels are not enough to match with this ever growing hunger. You need to hold the hands of new technologies to stay one step ahead of your audience. Here, more personalized ways like live chat tools are winning the game because of its quick response time. 79% of live chat users prefer it because they get replied immediately.

Hence, the ever changing standard of quick response demands you to prepare for the marathon race with multitasking ability to manage the surge of people all the time.

3. Encourage and Educate Your Service Department on Using Communication Technologies

Modern communication tools like live chat are presenting a potential solution for customer service future. But, the best tool can alter into the worst nightmare within wrong hands, right! Without proper training and sincere efforts, live chat tools can bring the worst feedback for your business. People press the chat button with a high expectation to talk directly to an agent. But, it’s quite upsetting when there is no one to answer your call or put you on hold for a long time. So, prepare your agents to become an efficient multitasker with vivid knowledge on your product info.

Here, the story of ICICI Prudential Life Insurance will clear my view on how live chat tools integrated with other features can help businesses to regain customer trust.

They were losing their existing customers due to lack of visual instructions for new technologies and long waiting list for customer complaints. Also, new customers were giving up on them after several times of correction issues in lengthy form submissions. Then, they implemented live chat software with their unique features of co-browsing and screen sharing tools. They used live voice and video call sessions to answer their clients in real time. Again, screen sharing and co-browsing technologies helped them to demonstrate their new technologies to their customers by sharing their browsing page temporarily. It also trained their customers to fill their forms on their own without any mistake.

At the end, ICICI earned 65% higher customer satisfaction rate and 62% rise in closed deals than before.

Now, what do you think? Isn’t it worth of a shot for your service?

4. Incentivize Internal Benchmarks to Integrate ‘Over Deliver’ With Customers’ Expectations

“In the early 1980’s I ordered a piece of luggage from Kluge.  The luggage was advertised in a magazine with four to six weeks for delivery.  I remember that the luggage showed up in just three weeks.  Wow, I was impressed.  That was fast.” – Shep Hyken.

This is what matters, earning the ‘wow’ effect on a customer’s face every time when you aim for an ‘over deliver’. It’s called going beyond customer expectation. And what is the importance of internal benchmarking here? To stick to this aim for almost all the time and analyzing your resources to get the job done with a minimum amount of effort. Results?

In Shep’s words, “Even today people recognize that “when it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” people think of Federal Express.  The term “Fed-Ex” has become more than the name of a company.  Today it is a verb that that is used to describe that you want something delivered fast – by tomorrow – even if it is UPS, the United States Post Office, or some other company can also deliver tomorrow.” It’s about building the promise people depends on with closed eyes.

5. Encourage Better Communication Between Sales and Customer Service

Doris Seger, Head of Customer Service at Sunstar Deutschland said: “We have been able to improve the collaboration between Sales and Customer Service significantly with Salesforce.” He claimed again that, “We are therefore even closer to our customers than previously.

This is the reason why you need to encourage communication between sales and support team, to bind your relationship with your customers better than before. Here, Salesforce is just a tool to enable everyone in your team to have access to customer data, but in this process, it helped the sales and support partnerships to work seamlessly, which worked well for GE Aviation too.

Why?  When a salesperson hooks new customers and goes through a process to close deals, they acquire a significant amount of data. Now, when the service reps face the queries of these customers or suggest them with some recommendations, the users expect them to have knowledge acquired by the sales reps in the process. Not only are that, after closing deals, service reps the frontlines to follow up with existing clients.

Again, some issues are solely sales oriented on which service reps need to consult them or to direct them to the customers in the frontline while answering client queries. A slight misalignment within sales and service team impacts negatively in consumer’s mind and increases bounce rate. Hence, data sharing, workload monitoring or consulting on analytical issues are in the most required list for targeting customer happiness.

Lastly, the best methods to run your customer service departments are not purely dedicated to your customer service departments only. Rather, it’s all about finding the right balance between teams.

So, what’s your take?

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