Posts Tagged ‘Tuesday Tip’

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: What’s the State of Service Today?

11-17 Customer Service top performers smallHow well does your company’s customer service measure up? recently released a survey of nearly 2,000 global companies that are leaders in customer service. The study looked at common service benchmarks, service trends for the year ahead, and the factors that define high-performing customer service teams. Here’s what the survey uncovered about top-performing customer service organizations, and the lessons for your business.

Top-performing customer service companies…

  • Have three priorities: “always-on” service, personalized service and faster service. For a small business, outsourcing customer service can offer your customers 24/7 assistance, CRM tools can help you maintain records enabling more personalized service, and setting goals and monitoring results can improve response speed.
  • Value efficiency. Speed is still the number-one metric top performers use to measure their customer service reps’ success. When asked to name their top three metrics, 47 percent choose average handle time, 38 percent say the number of cases handled and 32 percent name customer satisfaction.
  • Empower customer service employees to do whatever is needed to make customers happy. Top-performing companies are more than three times more likely than poor performers to have empowered employees.
  • Are more likely to be heavy users of technology. For example, high performers are more likely to be providing service via mobile apps or to be exploring video streaming as a customer service tool.
  • Excel at predicting what customers need. You can use CRM tools as well as social listening tools to assist in these predictions.
  • Use analytics and dashboards to learn and improve. You can use these tools to measure your customer service team’s key performance indicators, as well as to collect and analyze customer feedback.
  • Tap into the power of self-service and community portals to enable customers to find their own solutions to problems. (That’s a smart move, because the same study shows Millennial consumers overwhelmingly use self-service options first before initiating any type of interaction with a customer service representative.) Creating self-service options can be simple, like putting up a list of FAQs or more complex, such as a searchable database of solutions.

Is your small business on track to be a top customer service performer—or are you already there?

Get Your Ecommerce Customer Service Holiday-Ready

10-13 Holiday e-commerce smallThe holiday shopping season is coming up quickly. If you have an e-commerce business, this time of year probably accounts for a huge proportion of your profits—so now is the time to make sure your website is prepared to deliver standout customer service for the holidays.

  • Start by reviewing your e-commerce website from the point of view of someone who isn’t familiar with it. You may want to enlist friends or family members to take some time shopping the site and see what they think. What do they have questions about? What do they need help with? Is there anything that's confusing? Take the time to fix any problems so that your site is easy to use and intuitive even for new visitors.
  • Make sure customers can find what they want—including customer service assistance—by including your company's phone number prominently at the top of every page (not just the homepage). In case customers are shopping from their mobile devices, ensure that your number displays on mobile as a click-to-call button so they can contact you with one tap.
  • Online chat is a useful option for an e-commerce site, allowing instant contact with your customer service for customers who may not want to talk on the phone (perhaps they’re shopping while at work or otherwise multitasking). You can have the chat window pop up right away, or if you think customers will find that annoying, wait until a certain amount of time elapses or other signs appear indicating customers need help.
  • One of the best ways to ensure customers are satisfied with your service is to be proactive. Before the holidays hit, make sure your FAQ pages are updated with current answers to questions. Provide as much information as possible about common problems customers might encounter, or questions they may have. The more “self-service” activities customers can do by themselves, the better. This extends to providing detailed information about shipping costs, taxes and shipping times. Especially at the holidays, time is of the essence, and knowing when to expect delivery may make the difference in a customer’s purchasing from you or not.
  • Last but not least, make sure you have adequate customer service staff on hand to handle your expected volume of calls, chats and other contacts. Don't give your competitors the chance to grab your business by failing to answer customers’ questions in a timely fashion.

Manage it right, and you'll find the customer service is the gift that keeps on giving, delivering loyal customers not only at the holidays, but long after.

The “New Reality” of Customer Service

Do employees at your customer service call center feel like they’re dealing with more frustrated customers than ever before? New research from Mattersight offers some insights into why this might be. According to Mattersight, more than two-thirds of customers who speak to call center reps feel frustrated before they even place a call. What’s more, 75 percent are still frustrated after the interaction, even if the representative solves their problems.

With more than 70 percent of customers saying a bad customer service experience could keep them from patronizing a business again, keeping customers happy when they call should be a high priority for your business.

One reason for customer frustration, Mattersight notes, is that there are so many ways for customers to reach out to companies for support these days. When a problem arises, most customers start by using the company’s website, FAQs or other online help tools to try to figure the problem out on their own.

By the time customers actually dial in to a call center, they’ve usually tried every other way of solving a problem, with no results. So what may seem from the rep’s end like the customers’ first attempt to resolve the issue is, for the customer, the end of a long and frustrating journey.

However, instead of acknowledging this “new reality” of customer service, most call center reps still focus on getting the customer off the phone as quickly as possible to meet their goals for handling X number of calls in X amount of time.

How can your company improve the customer experience and enjoy higher customer satisfaction? Here are some takeaways from the report:

  • Acknowledge the customer’s frustration and the seriousness of their issue. Be extra patient working with the customer. By validating their feelings, you can help them feel more taken care of.
  • Offer personalized assistance. Your call center reps should be able to quickly access all of the data you have available on the customer on the other end of the phone, such as order history, current order status and recent interactions with the company. Showing knowledge of the customer’s past behavior and history with your business will persuade them your rep is in a position to really help.
  • Take time to understand. A long wait time is customers’ number-one frustration with call centers, but number two is dealing with representatives who don’t understand what they need. Make sure your reps really listen, restate the problem to the customer and clarify that they’ve understood all aspects of the situation.
  • Follow up after the solution. After resolving the problem, don’t just rush to get the customer off the phone. Take time to apologize once again for the difficulties the person encountered, thank the customer for his or her patience, and ask if there’s anything else the rep can assist with. Let the customer be the one to end the call.

By taking a few simple steps to get into the right mind-set when dealing with call center customers, your customer service reps can not only solve problems, but also leave customers with a good feeling about your business.

6 Customer Service Trends You Need to Know About

A lot has changed in the business world since 2007, but perhaps what’s changed the most is how rapidly customer service expectations have risen. As customers evolve, your customer service has to keep pace. Just how are customers’ expectations changing? Customer2020, a new study from Accenture, has some insights every business owner should know about.

  1. They want it now. Accenture dubs today’s consumer the “Nonstop Customer”—which should give you a clue as to what type of service they expect. Customers don’t just want rapid resolution and minimal hassle—they expect it. If your business doesn’t deliver, they’ll move on to your competitor. Slightly more than half of consumers polled say they have become more impatient with the buying process since last year; two-thirds say they turn to online channels for customer service because they’re seeking speed and convenience.
  2. They have more options. Not only are consumers today more impatient, but they also have more places to go if they’re not happy with your customer service. Two-thirds report that the number of companies or brands they consider when making a purchase has increased significantly compared to 10 years ago.
  3. They care about what others have to say. Word-of-mouth has always been important to growing a business—but never more so than today. Last year, Accenture reported that 78 percent of consumers used at least one online channel when prospecting. Today, 88 percent do, which means they have many more opportunities to hear good (or bad) things about your customer service. More than half of respondents say they rely “much more” on other people’s experiences or reviews when making a purchase decision than they did 10 years ago. If bad word-of-mouth about your service spreads, either offline or online, you’ve got to turn it around.
  4. They’re itching to switch. Consumer loyalty isn’t quite a thing of the past, but it’s definitely become much harder to come by. Two-thirds of respondents say they have switched providers in at least one industry as a result of poor customer service. Six in 10 say they are more likely to switch providers now than they were 10 years ago.
  5. They want you to fix it the first time. Of those respondents who switched providers because of poor service, over 80 percent say the original company could have kept their business if their issue had been resolved the first time they contacted the company about it. In fact, first-contact resolution has been consumers’ number-one source of frustration for the past five years of the study—which suggests that companies aren’t getting much better at it.
  6. They still like human contact. While some consumers have “gone digital,” seeking to interact with customer service via online channels at every opportunity, many others of all ages still prefer traditional channels for resolving issues. To keep everyone happy (isn’t that the whole point of customer service?), your best bet is to provide a wide variety of ways for customers to resolve service problems.

By incorporating these six trends into your customer service systems, you’ll be able to step ahead of the pack and provide the kind of service today’s customers expect. 

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Provide Proactive Customer Care

How proactive is your small business’s customer service? Even if your customer service reps are ready to respond to phone calls on the first ring, know all the answers and can solve every possible problem a customer may have, they could still be doing more. “Proactive customer care” is one of the top customer service trends identified in WDS’ latest report, 10 Trends In Customer Care 2015.

Being proactive means providing customer service assistance before the customer even asks—and WDS believes it will be an increasingly important differentiator in the coming years. In brick-and-mortar retailing, the proactive “How can I help you?” greeting is ingrained in customer service. But how can this proactive attitude extend to other industries and online-only businesses? Here are some suggestions.

  • Follow up when an order is placed to confirm the order and provide an estimated delivery date. Make the message personalized by using a particular customer service rep’s name and having them take ownership of the customer.
  • Have salespeople contact customers after the purchase is completed to see if they are happy with the product or service, have any questions or would like to learn about complementary products or services. Using CRM, this can easily be done using templates that salespeople personalize and scheduling the outreach ahead of time.
  • Learn from customers’ activity on your website. If a customer is spending a lot of time on a particular page or product, or looking at “Help” and “FAQ” areas, reach out with a popup asking if the customer needs help and offering the option of live chat or a customer service phone number to call. This way, customers can get help in the way they prefer.
  • If your data shows certain customers make recurring or seasonal purchases (such as garden supplies every spring, a thorough housecleaning before Thanksgiving or skincare products every few months), contact them a few weeks ahead of the next time they’re likely to buy, and offer to set them up on an auto-ship or recurring service plan at a discount to lock in the current price.

By reaching out to offer assistance before customers need it, you’ll make their lives easier—and your business more memorable the next time they’re looking for what you sell. 

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How (and Why) to Improve Your Internal Customer Service

6-16 internal customer service smallYou’re all about customer service—but how well does your company handle internal customer service? Internal customers are the employees at your business, all of whom depend on—that is, are “customers” of—other employees to get their jobs done.

Internal customer service is important because if it isn’t up to par, your business will function less efficiently and professionally, and your external customer service will suffer. Here are 4 steps to improving your internal customer service.  

  1. Make sure employees understand the relationships among their roles. As your business grows, employees may become less familiar with what each person does and how their jobs support each other. You can introduce the concept of internal customer service by using an organizational chart and explaining what each department does and how its functions support other departments. For example, your marketing team generates leads that your salespeople pursue to make sales, while your fulfillment department ships the orders. If marketing doesn’t do its job, the salespeople can’t sell. If fulfillment messes up the orders, salespeople’s efforts are in vain.
  2. Cross train employees. Cross training employees to handle each other’s jobs gives them a real sense of how important each job is to internal customer service. It can also open their eyes to the challenges of other jobs, and ways they could be making their teammates’ jobs easier or more difficult.
  3. Improve your systems and processes. Work with your employee to identify sticking points in your existing systems and processes that are preventing good internal customer service. For instance, if salespeople aren't inputting orders in a timely fashion, this slows fulfillment and overloads customer service with angry calls.
  4. Build team spirit. Poor internal customer service often comes from personal rifts or misunderstandings between employees. When employees see each other as comrades and even friends, however, providing great internal customer service comes naturally. Encourage employee bonding by hosting regular events like Friday potluck or pizza lunches, company picnics and other outings. Model the behavior you want to see by being friendly, upbeat and getting to know your employees.

Encouraging employees to see each one another as customers will spark better behavior and greater professionalism. That means a happier team…and happier customers. 

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Are Machines the Future of Customer Service?

6-2 call center smallIn the future, will machines be handling all aspects of customer service? As social media, live chat and texting become part of the fabric of customer service, IBM has begun taking customer service even further into the digital age. The Wall Street Journal reports the tech giant is currently testing new software that uses “emotional analysis” to recognize human emotions when customers type into chat windows, or send emails or tweets.

The software analyzes a variety of data, including how fast someone is typing, what words or emoticons they use, how many times they have contacted the company and whether they use exclamation points or other punctuation, to tell if the person is upset or angry. If so, the computer either modifies its own language or switches the contact to a live customer service rep to handle the customer. In the near future, the Journal reports, IBM will develop a version of the software to handle voice calls.

Will the future of customer service be a software program? Many large companies already use chat or “answer” tools that look like a live person is at the other end, but are really just software. (In my experience, they typically deliver a less than satisfactory customer experience.) Of course, for smaller companies, this type of technology is likely quite a way in the future. Still, it’s a good reminder of the challenges you face from bigger competitors, as well as the ways you can use technology to improve your own customer service. For example, you can…

  • Incorporate CRM into your customer service system so customer service reps can access information about each customer to provide better service.
  • Use a customer service tool that enables you to match the customer’s need or level of urgency with an appropriate customer service rep. For instance, angry customers can be escalated to a specific agent with skill in handling their types of issues.
  • Take advantage of greetings, music and recorded announcements to provide information and assurance to callers as they wait on hold.
  • Choose systems that provide as much detail as possible to customer service reps when they receive a call, such as what queue the caller is coming from and what information they have provided.
  • Look for the option to monitor customer service reps’ busy status and route calls in a variety of ways to get every customer handled as quickly as possible.

Yes, machines are becoming more important to customer service. But as the concept of escalating calls to a live person shows, there’s still no replacement for the sensitivity a real person can provide. By incorporating technology with well-trained customer service reps, you’ll be able to offer the best of both worlds. 

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Take a Summer Vacation and Still Provide Great Customer Service

Blue parasolsDo you want to take a summer vacation this year, but fear you can’t without your company’s customer service suffering? Perhaps you’re worried about how to handle employees’ requests for time off this summer and still provide great service.

Your small business doesn’t need to suffer, nor do you and your staff need to sacrifice time off. In fact, the majority of small business owners (59 percent) plan to take at least one full week of vacation this summer, according to the American Express OPEN Spring 2015 Small Business Monitor. Here are 3 steps you can take to ensure service doesn’t shut down while you or some of your staff are gone.

  1. Plan ahead. If you want to enjoy your vacation instead of working through it, let your staff know what is—and isn’t—important enough for them to disturb you. Identify someone who can “triage” work while you’re gone, handling what’s urgent and communicating with customers or clients for you. Select a couple times a day (if possible) when you’ll quickly check voice mail and email for urgent messages; then try to avoid looking at your devices. Otherwise, you’ll never relax and recharge.
  2. Make sure you have the capabilities you need to stay in touch. Look for a business phone system, like Nextiva, with features such as flexible forwarding. This can route your incoming office calls to your cell phone or other numbers you choose. Services such as voicemail-to-email or voicemail-to-text make it easy to get your voice messages no matter where you are. Last, but not least, being able to set up and hold conference calls from your mobile phone, tablet or laptop will ensure that if an urgent situation arises, you can communicate with everyone on your team that you need to consult.
  3. Streamline the service process. Phone system features that lessen the need for live workers make it easier to give employees time off. For instance, an auto-attendant feature ensures customers get a professional greeting and are quickly routed to the person or department they need without having to go through a live receptionist. Look for call center options that make it easy to switch callers from one service representative to another, track time on hold so customers don’t spend too long in the queue, share information about customers so they don’t have to repeat themselves. All of these features ensure customers never know when your team is short staffed because they always get the same great level of service.

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Do Customers Hate Your Business?

5-12 businesses customers hate smallDo your customers hate your business—not because of anything you’ve done, but simply because of what you do? For example, most of us dread going to the dentist, meeting with our accountants to prepare our taxes, or taking our cars in for repair. The best-case scenario is at least an hour of pain and suffering; the worst-case scenario is suffering plus a huge bill at the end.

So how can you turn customers’ thinking around and transform a business people hate into one they look forward to visiting (or at least don’t dread)? Transform the customer experience, that’s how. Here are four tips to do just that:

  1. Speed things up. Do whatever you can to serve customers quickly so they can get in and get out fast. This could include emailing them forms to fill out ahead of time; having them complete forms online; using technology such as tablet computers to gather information instead of written forms; setting (and sticking to) appointment times; and streamlining your processes to eliminate time-wasters and delays.
  2. Calm customers down. Little things like comfortable seating, soothing background music and attractive surroundings can help to boost customers’ moods. I recently had my car serviced at a business with a luxurious waiting room, wide-screen TV, gourmet coffee, free Wi-Fi and even a breakfast buffet available while I waited. I got lots of work done and was so relaxed, I almost didn’t mind when my car needed a major repair.  
  3. Hire and train right. When your business is unpleasant, your staff needs to be extra-nice. At my dentist’s office, for example, everyone from the receptionist to the technicians is unfailingly friendly and greets me by name. No wonder I’ve referred tons of friends there over the years. Look for customer-facing employees who have a great “bedside manner,” never lose their cool and help customers maintain theirs, too.
  4. Build relationships. Reaching out to regular customers with thank-you notes, special offers, reminders when services are due or products are in stock, event invitations and even birthday or anniversary cards help to build connections that create a positive opinion of your business.

By taking these steps, you can gain loyal customers who’ll recommend you to others.

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