What Is Customer Service?
The definition of customer service is evolving. Here’s what every service leader needs to know.
Customer service is the support you offer your customers — both before and after they buy and use your products or services — that helps them have an easy, enjoyable experience with your brand. But customer service is more than solving a customer’s problems and closing tickets. Today, customer service means delivering proactive and immediate support to customers anytime on the channel of their choice — phone, email, text, chat, and more.
Customer service is so important that it is now considered a strategic function for organizations across industries. Three-quarters of agents say their company views them as customer advocates and brand ambassadors.
Why is customer service important?
In one word: retention. Happier customers are more likely to continue doing business with you. This helps your bottom line. It’s less expensive to keep current customers than to attract new ones.
Customer service is also a differentiator that sets your brand apart from competitors that offer similar products or services. Service teams not only answer questions; they make each experience personalized to the customer. In fact, 80% of customers say that the experience a company provides is as important as its products or services.
Meanwhile, frustrating customer experiences contribute to churn. Eighty percent of shoppers will abandon a retailer after three bad experiences, for example. Great customer service is important for your brand reputation, too. After all, customers are quick to share negative experiences with the masses online.
Why is customer service important?
The seven pillars of great customer service
Connect customer service to the broader organization
Seventy-six percent of customers expect consistent interactions across departments. It doesn’t matter whether the customer is on self-service channels or chatting with a sales rep. Customers want continuity — not redirects to a different team or having to repeat information.
The key is to connect service to your customer relationship management (CRM) system. This will give you a complete view of a customer’s interactions with your company. When a customer reaches out, the agent has all relevant data on a single screen — demographics, order history, preferences, and more — so they know how to help. And they will know who to pull in from another department to help resolve the issue, if need be.
Offer support on every channel
Strike the perfect balance between quality and speed
Sixty-three percent of agents say it’s difficult to balance speed and quality. Omni-channel routing directs cases to the right agent and gives managers a bird’s eye view of contact center activity. This ensures that agents are on the right cases based on their skills and availability.
Another way to help agents meet expectations for fast support is through automation. Automated workflows guide agents through the steps to complete an action. You can repurpose these workflows on your self-service channels to help customers complete a process on their own, too. For example, you can walk a customer through the steps to initiate a return.
Train agents on soft and hard skills
Agents today must actively listen, exhibit empathy, showcase product knowledge, and deliver a personalized experience to every customer, all while resolving cases quickly. As a result, 55% of agents say they need better training to do their jobs well.
It’s important to provide ongoing training to support agents in their more complex roles. Focus on development of both hard and soft skills including:
- Interpersonal skills: At the end of the day it’s how you make people feel that matters the most. Teach agents the basics of communication, including listening, positive language, persuasion, and empathy. Express the importance of putting yourself in the customer’s shoes.
- Product knowledge: Update all employees on any new releases or updates. Encourage agents to study company protocols, products, and services. Provide opportunities to shadow and collaborate with experts to improve their product knowledge.
- Technical expertise: Ensure your technology is intuitive for agents. Train them on the latest features and functions. Ask agents for their feedback so that you can improve the experience for every employee.
Act as one team
Although agents often work one-on-one with customers, they still need a sense of professional support and camaraderie. Maintain open lines of communication and collaboration. This is especially important with a remote workforce. Daily standups are an easy way to keep everyone connected and united.
Encourage collaboration to solve complex cases by adopting case swarming. This approach brings agents and skilled experts together to work through complex cases. Teams log the steps to solve the case for the next time it comes up. As a bonus, junior employees and new hires gain new skills they otherwise would not have been exposed to.
Turn customer service into a revenue driver
Once the agent solves the issue at hand, they can take the relationship further by upselling and cross-selling. AI can help: It analyzes the customer’s data — such as past orders and likelihood to buy — to recommend relevant products or services to the customer.
Beyond adding incremental revenue, customer service can support your business strategy. Agents glean customer insights and feedback every day. Consider inviting your service team to present customer feedback at company meetings. These insights can yield great product innovations or improvements.
Change up how you measure success
Handle time is an important metric, but it doesn’t tell you the whole story. Analyze a range of metrics to better understand the customer and their relationship with your company overall.
Here are some best practices to keep in mind based on the five most important service metrics today:
- Customer satisfaction: High customer satisfaction (CSAT) is still the holy grail for service teams. To gauge CSAT, send out quick surveys to get a sense of how happy customers are following their interaction with your service team.
- Revenue: Review your contact center analytics to determine if quality customer service is contributing to a higher number of transactions or greater sales per customer.
- Customer retention: Pay attention to what happens after the customer disconnects. Has a frustrating customer service experience contributed to churn?
- Customer effort: Are you putting too much onus on the customer? Determine ways to reduce customer effort. For example, you may create an easy-to-find knowledge article, optimized for search, to help customers resolve an issue fast.
- SLA performance: Most companies have service-level agreements (SLAs) for the contact center, including items such as the most amount of time customers should wait on hold, for example. Compare your SLAs against actual performance according to your contact center analytics. This will help you to identify improvements to meet SLAs.