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5 ways to assess and improve your customer service

Is your customer service meeting expectations?

Is your customer service meeting expectations? The answer to that question is often revealed only when things are in a negative place and your customers are unhappy. It pays then, to audit your customer’s satisfaction with their service experience before things reach that point. 

Sometimes, while stuck in traffic or during a particularly busy morning on the road, you might find yourself coming up behind a corporate vehicle with a bumper sticker that reads, “HOW’S MY DRIVING?”.

For organisations that want to ensure their fleets aren’t creating a bad impression of the business, it’s one way of showing they’re continually evaluating their own performance. And asking the question – ‘how are we doing?’ is a good first step to showing you do care about how potential customers think of your business. But it takes more than asking the general public to figure out if the customer service you’re providing is meeting expectations.

Companies usually have a pretty clear indication when their customer service is really poor, of course. When it becomes nearly impossible to keep up with a barrage of criticism on social media, sales start to plummet or they’re increasingly having to offer ‘make-goods’, senior leaders are usually quick to see how they can improve the way questions and complaints are handled. By the time you reach that point, though, it might already be too late to hang on to valuable relationships or prevent your brand’s reputation from permanent damage.

Instead, the most successful companies have learned to stop, take stock and make changes where necessary based on the volume and variety of customer service issues coming through. They take a good, hard look in the rear-view mirror before continuing on, because they might have missed important markers on their journey.

Determining if your customer service is good enough can involve a mixture of formal methods and anecdotal indicators that can be discussed in team meetings. Here are five to consider:

1. Work out what’s ‘good enough’  

There are plenty of customer service metrics to choose from, and a lot of it will come down to what’s common across your industry, the data you can most readily capture and what captures factors that most directly impact business success.

Some of the most popular metrics include Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES). Even once you’ve settled on one or more of these, though, it’s probably not realistic to think your firm will reach 100% on any of them. 

Determine what good looks like and what great looks like, based on factors such as revenue per customer, customer retention and customer churn.

2. Consider a variety of effective feedback loops 

Most companies have used some kind of survey to gauge the quality of their customer service at one point or another. This can work if you have a solid email database or a convenient point in the customer journey where buyers will be willing to complete a questionnaire.

In other cases, though, you’ll want to offer simple online forms on your website to gather feedback on your customer service experience, or a hashtag they can use on social media channels. Also think about dedicated phone lines and email addresses, even a physical mailing address – we’re living in an omni-channel world and 40% of customers won’t do business with a company if they can’t use their preferred channels

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3. Pay attention to organic feedback

Even as you find the right metrics and set up channels to get their opinion, there will be customers who share their experiences of their own accord – good as well as bad. 

It might be a comment to a sales rep the next time they approach a customer about a new product. It might be something said about a company in a public forum, whether on social media or onstage at an industry event. And yes, there are still people in the world who take the time to send email messages or snail mail when they’ve been particularly pleased (or displeased) about the customer service they’ve encountered.

Pay special attention to this unprompted feedback because, much like marketers look at “aided and unaided” awareness of a brand, it shows what’s happening organically and may draw attention to the areas in most need of attention. Or, if the customer service is good enough to attract unprompted feedback, celebration.

4. Test the efficacy of self-service tools

A company might develop a solid owner’s manual for a product, or even create a library of documentation and other content online to help their customers help themselves. If most of that goes unused, however, it’s a pretty obvious commentary on how well those resources have been developed or marketed.

Self-service is simply another customer service channel. Whether as simple as an online community where customers can brainstorm answers with their peers, or as sophisticated as a chatbot, usage will show how well they trust the firm to empower them with do-it-yourself capabilities. If self-service tools don’t meet the ‘good enough’ test, it’s going to put more strain on your other customer service resources as well as annoying the 68% of customers who would rather use self-service channels for simple questions or issues.

5. Make sure you’re capturing referrals

If you’re working in a B2B environment, case studies and testimonials are valuable business development resources. If it’s like pulling teeth to get customers to take part, however, the service experience is probably among the reasons. Take a quick look at the number of times you’ve asked for case studies and testimonials and your acceptance rate versus your rejections, and you’ll be able to measure this effectively.

Those in B2C environments can do something similar with referrals. Much like B2B buyers, a willingness – or even eagerness – to encourage friends and family to use the same company is a healthy sign of strong service. This can be captured through simple enquiries about how new customers first heard about you, or by including a question about whether they’d recommend you following the sale of a product or service.

As a final note, consider how technology will make it even easier to assess the quality of customer service. Now that artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities have come to service tools, for example, organisations are able to be more proactive to give customers the help they need.

Find the latest customer service insights from ANZ and around the world in our latest State of Service report

Salesforce Staff

The 360 Blog from Salesforce teaches readers how to improve work outcomes and professional relationships. Our content explores the mindset shifts, organizational hurdles, and people behind business evolution. We also cover the tactics, ethics, products, and thought leadership that make growth a meaningful and positive experience.

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