Think back to someone starting a job in customer service 15 years ago. What would you have given them? Probably a phone, but maybe not a headset unless you were running a sizable contact centre. A set of product manuals, perhaps, though you’d often ask them to rely on scripts you’d printed out to speed up the process of fielding calls. Oh, and coffee, of course — lots and lots of coffee.
Customer service employees may still want to have a fresh pot brewing nearby as they do their daily work, but there’s a lot more in their toolbelt as they answer questions and deal with troubleshooting issues in 2019. Staff not only need to be well-trained in the products, services and company policies, but fluent in the use of a variety of technologies that will help them to help people more quickly and more efficiently than ever before.
Part of this can be attributed to the overall impact of technology itself. Customers are often researching and buying products through a variety of digital channels, and they expect to be supported in a similar fashion. Many products and services that aren’t classified as “tech” are also somehow connected to digital experiences such as websites and apps, which makes troubleshooting more complicated than in the past. Most of all, customer expectations have risen to a point where they aren’t content when they’re treated as just another member of the herd and kept on hold (or left wondering why their email, text or social post didn’t generate a timely response).
Fortunately, technology has not only been a great levelling force in society but within organizations as well. In other words, the tools that empower a modern customer service team today are well within reach of small and medium-sized businesses as well as large ones. You may not need all of them right away, but you should begin thinking about the right time to introduce them:
1. The dashboard
If you’ve ever been a customer calling in with an issue, you’ll recognize that moment when the agent goes silent for what feels like forever. They’re no longer flipping through manuals and support documents, but they’re probably typing, and you can almost see them moving frantically from one system to another. That’s not a great experience for the customer, or the employee. Instead, customer service teams need what’s often dubbed a “single source of truth” where they can easily pull up current information about the customer, cross-reference material about the products they’ve purchased and even a way to identify who might be better able to help — and to route them immediately.
2. The social connection
What happens on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be as unpredictable as the weather. People start off talking about their lunch and then suddenly publish a panicked or frustrated post directed at a company. Whereas customer service used to be an area where you waited to see what questions or problems would come your way, the most successful companies proactively monitor these channels and are able to weave issues that pop up into the regular ebb and flow of the calls, emails and other forms of traditional outreach they receive.
3. The live chat
Not everyone wants to reach out by the phone, or spend time composing a detailed email with their questions or problem. Instead, they might prefer to log onto the company’s website and see a window where they can quickly send a one or two-line message and get a response. Agents don’t always need to be the ones responding, now that chatbots can deal with some of the more repeatable issues, but they can be brought in as needed to deal with more complicated issues or to add a more human touch.
4. The SMS option
People text back and forth to their friends and family constantly throughout the day. Why should they have to do something else when they’re trying to communicate with a company? Like live chat and chatbots, much of the customer service you offer via SMS could be automated, and it could reduce the volume of requests or inquiries you get through other channels.
5. The self-service portal
“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” Remember that old adage? It actually applies to customer service. Employees may help customers with something urgent, but when they can point them to a site that lets them try to solve future issues on their own, the engagement ends on an empowering note.
6. The customer community
A good customer service team member not only makes sure a customer doesn’t feel foolish or slow-witted, but that they’re not alone in having a question or a problem about a product. This approach is only magnified when you offer customers a way to connect with each other directly online. Whether it’s using discussion boards, a sort of collective blog or other means, customers can share ideas, offer each other advice and provide helpful feedback to the company.
7. The mobile app
Working in customer service used to mean being metaphorically chained to your desk. Today that’s not very feasible, particularly in smaller organizations where people wear many hats. Mobile apps let customer service team members do everything they could do with a full-sized desktop and monitor, but offers them the flexibility and peace of mind that will make them more satisfied in their roles.
8. The customer survey
A lot can happen in the moment when you’re troubleshooting products and services. It makes sense to take a step back and look at how the organization is meeting expectations overall, or if there are any commonalities and trends that need to be acted upon. A tool to help conduct primary research will aid companies in boosting customer satisfaction scores and inform training of future team members.
With these customer service tools, your team will be ready for anything — and they’ll be able to accomplish everything your customers expect, and more.