Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tips For Exceptional Customer Support: Creating a Customer Service Culture

With so much competition out there, it’s important for companies to stand out by providing superior customer service. After all, if you have been shopping with a company for years and they constantly show customer appreciation, quickly resolve issues, and make purchasing easy, why would you go anywhere else? People want to feel appreciated by the brands and companies they frequent. It’s not enough to have a customer support staff and expect them to handle all issues. It is important to make customer service the heart of the company. This means you have to develop a customer service culture where even management appreciates the importance of great customer support, develops metrics, empowers their employees, and makes plans for providing superior customer service.

1. Metrics
One of the first things you can do to help develop a strong customer service culture is to measure customer satisfaction. This type of metric will help you see issues that are undermining your company’s success. Whether it’s call times that are driving your customers away or maybe a person in your company is presenting a negative image with every single person they encounter. Gathering feedback from customers is the only way to learn about this. It can also result in really great ideas as sometimes a person from outside your organization can see flaws that are hard to see from within. When you survey a customer about their experience with customer support you are letting them know they matter and you care about their experience.

2. Set Your Expectations, Make a Plan
Don’t forget that employees are only as good as the expectations you put on them. If you don’t make customer service a priority, your employees won’t either. You need to develop a support plan including the type of customer support you expect. Over and over I hear about one company and how they encourage customers to call them about anything. This attitude is reflected in the fact that they don’t require their support staff to work with scripts, quotas, or time limits. Not measuring call times is relatively unheard of in customer service as it is one of the main statistics companies use to determine success. Yet, it works for this company because they not only set high expectations for their customer service team, but they also enable them to do what it takes to make the customer happy instead of punishing them for taking the time to solve the problem.

3. Empower Your Employees
Whether you set up a system for employee feedback and ideas, or create a regular meeting where you ask employees how they would improve things or what changes they advise, this one area can impact employee happiness and success. Not only will it make your employees feel valued, but it will also put them in the mindset of coming up with solutions to problems as they arise and bringing the solutions to you.

Empowering your employees also means giving them the authority to make decisions to keep the customer happy. If a customer contacts you with a problem, they don’t want to be told the person on the line can’t help them. They want an immediate, positive solution, and if your employees can’t give it to them, they will go elsewhere with their business. Sometimes the easiest solution is a small incentive. It doesn’t have to be big, maybe a free month of service, or a shipping upgrade. Yet, these small incentives can make a big difference in customer satisfaction.

4. Admit Your Mistakes
Don’t forget to allow customer support to admit when mistakes are made. Think about how a company who’s customer service staff refused to admit wrongdoing during a service issue would make you feel. Not so good, right? Sometimes just admitting you are wrong is the best thing you can do to retain an unhappy customer. It’s validation that they did have a negative experience and you not only recognize it but you are prepared to deal with it.

5. Hire People Who Fit Your Culture and Train Them on Your Culture
Don’t forget your culture when bringing aboard new people. It only takes one person to sink a ship, and from hiring to training, you have a chance to shape the future of your company. Take the time to think if a person is going to fit with your company culture. Then, once hired, train them not only on how to do their job, but also on your company’s history, core values, and customer service culture. This keeps everyone focused on the same goals, allows you to set expectations, and helps new employees decide if the job is a fit or not. The last thing anyone wants is an unhappy employee. It’s truly a disaster waiting to happen.

Take a look at your company culture and think about what you can do to make it more customer service focused. It might not be much more than meeting with support staff to discuss issues and possible solutions, but even these small steps can have a large impact on keeping customers happy and, in the end, more loyal to your company.

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