In today’s dynamic, competitive markets, a great product isn’t always sufficient to retain your existing customers and attract new ones. You’ll always face an uphill battle if you allow your customer service standards to slip. With more product choices and services available than ever before, it’s easy for a customer to leave you and post a complaint or negative review online

But on the flip side, our digital world also opens the door to wonderful new opportunities to connect with customers, too. Instead of being the reactionary function of the past, customer service has become a means of competitive differentiation — a way to proactively enhance customers’ experiences. The pressure is on for companies to deliver on sky-high expectations, and by being on the frontlines, customer service teams can pave the way for companies by building long-lasting relationships with customers. So it’s time to review your current customer service standards and see where your service team can improve and make a deeper impact to the customer experience.

 

What are Customer Service Standards?

Customer service standards refer to the interactions between a business and customer, and the resulting customer expectations. Response time, empathy, resolution, and efficiency can go a long way towards building deeper customer relationships.

Many companies already have customer service standards they’re adhering to, but often, they’re the minimum standards to operate in, or the minimum businesses can do to keep customers from complaining. If businesses are going to ask for a customer’s time, attention, and money, they have to raise their service standards — it’s essential to compete. According to the State of the Connected Customer report, sixty-six percent of consumers say they are likely to switch brands if they are treated like a number instead of an individual. So here are some tips to get you started on raising your service standards.

 

1. Connect customer data for a single, unified view

In pre-digital times, when companies dealt with physical paperwork, it benefited the business to keep all papers and files related to the individual or account in one place to easily find information. Fast-forward to our digital world, and nothing has changed, except that keeping customer data together has become trickier. Different lines of business — like Sales, Service, and Marketing — usually use multiple tools and systems to keep track of and store customer information. This leads to disconnected customer experiences, as there is no single source of truth for your employees to refer to. Not to mention the amount of time it takes for an employee to access all of that information when they sometimes only have seconds to respond to your customers. Customers don’t care how your infrastructure is setup, or whether service teams use different systems than sales and marketing. All that matters to them is a seamless, cohesive, pain-free experience. Consolidating and connecting disparate sets of data is crucial to provide context for better experiences and higher satisfaction.

 

2. Deliver a true omni-channel experience

Customers are always connected and always on, sometimes with multiple devices and wearables. That’s an exciting new opportunity for businesses to connect with customers in new ways that will serve them best. Because a customer’s journey is rarely linear or limited to a single department today, it’s important to provide an experience that is consistent and feels the same across every touchpoint. If a customer texts you one day for support and emails you the next, does the agent know that this customer has just texted you the day before and was this issue resolved satisfactorily? And is this a related or different issue? Is this customer now emailing you because they couldn’t find the answer for themselves in your public knowledge base or help center? Start thinking about your customers’ experience holistically, then determine whether what they want aligns with your business objectives. If not, maybe you need to adjust your business objectives, or think about how creating a new experience for your customers both delivers on their expectations and meets your business objectives.

 

3. Use intelligent automation technologies to deliver faster service

Companies have to work faster to deliver better service experiences. Not only are your competitors moving faster and delivering innovative customer journeys, but your business misses out on valuable cross-sell and upsell opportunities the longer customers are waiting. Thanks to the various artificial intelligence (AI) technologies that are available today, customer service organizations can deliver scale to their organizations and agents can drastically improve productivity without sacrificing quality. Intelligent, AI-driven technologies can do the heavy-lifting — such as using CRM-connected chatbots to automatically resolve routine issues or collect and qualify information— all speeding resolve rates, driving customer satisfaction, and raising your customer service standards.

 

4. Empower service teams with artificial intelligence

AI is also making agents smarter and thereby raising customer service standards for customers. For example, CRM-connected chatbots are able to handle routine questions and tasks, providing customers with instant resolution and always-on support, while freeing up agent capacity to work on more complex issues. Machine learning make predictions on case fields to auto-prioritize and auto-triage cases to accelerate case resolution. AI-powered image classification technology can improve accuracy and resolve rates for field technicians onsite that need to replace or repair machine parts. And AI-powered analytics can help service managers predict key service KPIs--like CSAT or attrition risk--in order to take proactive action to ensure optimal business outcomes and delighted customers.

 

5. Boost investment in agent success

Engaged and empowered agents are the cornerstone of top service teams. In order to reach the agents’ full potential, top service teams empower with three things: right training, right tools, and the decision-making power they need to quickly and satisfactorily resolve customer issues. The combination of these three elements results in agents feeling more invested in their customers’ success, and working proactively instead of reactively. In addition, this also increases agent satisfaction, productivity and retention. Long-tenured agents also perform significantly better than new agents, as 63% of service professionals agree according to the latest State of Service report.

 

6. Ensure your field service is fully connected

Service teams need to stay connected wherever they go. That’s certainly true for service technicians in the field, or any other mobile worker that travels to your customer — like a home health nurse or wealth advisor — and engages with them face-to-face. Successful service in the field depends on the collaboration of a lot of parties — customers, agents, dispatchers, and technicians — but at the end of the day, you’re measured on the quality of the individual service you provide to each and every customer. By ensuring that agents, dispatchers, and mobile employees all connected

on one platform, operations can be streamlined across the entire service chain, resulting in a super service and customer experience.

 

7. Help customers help themselves with self-service

Today’s customers want instant resolution, and self-service is a faster and more convenient than contacting customer support. In fact, 81% of customers attempt self-service before contacting a company, according to Harvard Business Review. More companies are realizing the benefits of self-service and are: 1) giving customers more control over their own accounts, and 2) giving customers the information they need to answer their questions. Self-service outlets like customer portals, communities, and public help centers powered by a knowledge base — of which help customers find answers quickly on their own terms and frees up agents to tackle more complex issues — are seeing rapid growth as customers become more empowered to solve problems and find answers, unaided.

 

8. Pivot KPIs towards customer success

Not too long ago, customer service teams cared primarily about closing the highest number of cases in the least amount of time possible. Now, for forward-thinking businesses, service is transitioning from cost center to revenue generator. Reflective of this customer-centric mindset, key performance indicators (KPIs) are also changing. Overall, 70% of service teams say their strategic vision over the past 12–18 months has become more focused on creating deeper customer relationships. Additionally, 66% of service teams have implemented more customer-oriented KPIs (such as net promoter score and customer satisfaction) to measure performance, according to the State of Service report.

Customer service standards are rising all the time for your customers. In order to keep pace with your competitors, and deliver on customer expectations, you need to review your current standards and see where you can raise your game. When you can consistently get it right time and again, customers will notice and reward you will lasting loyalty and referrals.