Customers may not always know what they’re entitled to when they reach out to a company with a service issue, but they rarely settle for anything less than the best the organization can offer. Call it the implied customer service charter behind every brand promise.
A real customer service charter spells out these areas a lot more clearly and comprehensively. For example, a customer service charter gets more specific than, “We’ll do our best to help you.” That’s the bare minimum in the customer’s mind; in fact, depending on the company and industry sector, there may be a certain threshold customers expect their vendors to meet or even exceed if they don’t want to see a lot of turnover when contracts or subscriptions come up for renewal.
The best customer service charters also go beyond the initial training a team might have gotten before they were sent off to assist with real-world problems. They represent the standard everyone is trying to meet, and become a big part of the culture for every employee.
While customer service charters have been around for years, it’s probably safe to say that most of them were initially drafted when the primary ways for asking a question or making a complaint were restricted to a phone call to a contact centre or walking into a company’s store or office location in person. That’s changed, of course. Marketers now talk frequently about the concept of the “omnichannel,” where customers not only have a range of options with which to reach out -- such as e-mail, chat or social media posts -- but may reach out using a blend of many different channels.
This has meant service teams need to think more holistically about how they handle their customer’s urgent requests. Solutions like Service Cloud provide the best way to successfully manage all the data necessary to optimize processes in an omnichannel era, but maybe it’s time to take a fresh look at the concept of a customer service charter and think of how you might spell out what that kind innovation will bring to their overall experience.
These are some of the most common elements of a customer service charter and where omnichannel elements fit in:
Much like the “About Us” on a web site, a lot of customer service charters recap the company’s vision, values and overall mission. Everything that happens from a customer service standpoint should tie back to these pillars. If you’re an organization that prides itself on being flexible, for instance, being able to deal with service issues regardless of how they’re reported reinforces your credibility.
Don’t just use this section to talk about who you are, though, or who you want to be. Talk about what becoming part of your customer community should look, sound and feel like. Even referencing the fact that you recognize a lot of service interactions may come through a particular channel like social, for instance, will make customers feel they’re dealing with an organization that understands their preferred ways of engagement.
If a customer isn’t satisfied for any reason, how quickly should they expect to hear back from you if a contact on the customer service team member isn’t immediately available? If there’s a dispute, what are the policies for working out any conflicts over costs, repairs and so on? If a service issue arises months or years after a purchase, does anything change?
Some of these questions might have been straightforward years ago, but if there’s a difference in how quickly you’ll deal with a question or complaint by phone vs. text, that needs to be mentioned here. Same for outreach via social media or even e-mail. If a question can’t be answered after hours via a chatbot, when will a human being get back to someone the next morning, and if so, how? The more customers know what’s typical, the more reasonable they’re likely to be.
Who will customers be dealing with when they’re reaching out? In some cases companies have developed deep expertise in their staff, or have ensured members of their team have achieved accreditation or certifications to handle particularly unique kinds of challenges. What kind of training do they receive and in what way are they accountable for the results of a service interaction? If it’s typical to escalate tougher challenges as the need arises, this may boost the customer’s overall confidence in buying from you.
Just as digital technologies have created omnichannel service opportunities, meanwhile, there are a growing number of customers who prefer managing service issues on their own first. If you offer self-service capabilities through a portal or chatbot, your charter can articulate why it’s an important strategy and how the tools are available across various channels.
Even with the best-written customer service charters, things won’t always run smoothly. If that’s the case, customers should not have to use a separate channel -- or one that they’d rather not use -- in order to raise the matter to a higher-level contact. Look at how texts, social media, e-mail and other mechanisms can be used to quickly get in touch with the appropriate party, or even just to convey constructive criticism or suggestions for improvement.
A customer service charter takes a set of processes that might once have seemed as mysterious as a black box and paints a realistic picture of what should happen before, during and after an interaction.
A lot of companies will add something in here about aiming to continuously improve. That may have been a cliche in the past, but with the arrival of tools like Salesforce Einstein, organizations can use artificial intelligence to finally figure out where their biggest customer service gaps are, and begin to proactively close them.
Once you’ve finalized your charter and make it public, revisit it periodically as part of your review process. Have new channels emerged that need to be considered? Has the average time to respond or repair gotten any shorter? Make your customer service charter a living, breathing document -- and watch your customer satisfaction metrics reach heights you never thought possible.