Posts Tagged ‘Tuesday Tip’


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Spring Clean Your Customer Service

spring cleaningIs your customer service all that it should be? As a long winter slowly ends, the economy (knock on wood) continues its upward trend and consumers feel the itch to spend, now is the perfect time to do some “spring cleaning” on your customer service. Here are X areas that might need a going-over.

  1. Staffing. Do you have enough customer service employees to handle any seasonal increases in business? Conversely, if your business slows down in the summer, plan how you’ll either staff down temporarily or use your customer service employees productively on other tasks. Also consider using downtime to provide additional training or introduce new technology.
  2. Technology. Speaking of technology, there are so many solutions that can help a small business provide big-company customer service affordably and efficiently, there’s no excuse for outdated systems. Spend some time examining what’s out there and how it could help your business provide better service. Also investigate whether it’s time to take the products you’re currently using to the next level.
  3. Website. Does your business website help customers help themselves by providing up-to-date customer service information, such as toll-free numbers at the top of every page so customers can quickly talk to a live person when needed? Popup online chat options and detailed FAQs help, too. If you have an ecommerce site, detailed information about tax, shipping and returns eliminates lots of customer service calls.
  4. Policies. Are your customer service policies keeping pace with those of competitors? Today, customers have higher expectations and more options than ever before. If your employees are still adhering to “That’s not our policy” attitudes, while competitors are bending over backwards to keep customers happy, you’re going to lose business. Empower your employees to be more flexible. Set limits, then clearly explain and role-play how they might handle difficult situations.
  5. Image. How are your customer service actions (and staff) perceived by your customers and prospects? Don’t just talk on social media—listen, too. By listening to what people say about your business on social networks and in online reviews, you’ll have the information you need to make the changes they want to see—or to keep doing more of what they love.

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Are You Really Satisfying Your Customers?

3-24 Customer Satisfaction smallWhile consumers’ expectations of customer service are rising, very few brands are keeping pace, a new study by Accenture reveals. Mobile, social and digital are converging with traditional channels of doing business, and customers are eager to take advantage of this omnichannel world. But only 11 percent think companies are doing a good job of melding digital, mobile, social and traditional channels, Accenture’s latest Global Consumer Pulse Research found.

Instead, customers are still suffering from the same customer service issues they’ve been reporting for the past several years of the survey. For instance, customer satisfaction with companies’ ability to resolve problems quickly has remained flat for the past six years. Dissatisfaction with resolution time is the number-one reason customers switch from one business to another.

Specifically, 86 percent of customers are frustrated by companies that can’t resolve a problem in the first customer service interaction; 85 percent are frustrated by lengthy hold times and 84 percent get annoyed when customer service representatives can’t answer their questions.

Although online customer service channels have been around for quite a while now, customer satisfaction with these channels has also remained relatively flat, suggesting that businesses are holding steady but not improving in these areas. Still, traditional customer service is falling behind: Just 51 percent are satisfied with the customer service they get from traditional call centers, while 57 percent are satisfied with online chat customer service.

Companies’ “coasting” in customer service terms may be why only 28 percent of respondents in the survey say they are “very loyal” toward companies they patronize.

How can your business beat those odds?

  • Integrate all your customer service channels. Customers may expect to start a customer service interaction in chat or email format, then move to a phone conversation without having to provide all of the same information to each representative. It’s important for the experience to be simple and seamless.
  • Educate customer service teams. Your customer service reps need access to the latest knowledge about your products, services and policies so they can quickly respond to questions without having to find a supervisor. Ongoing training programs and updated, online “knowledge bases” can help.
  • Help customers help themselves. Provide as much information as possible to help customers find their own solutions. FAQs, community forums, product guides or even how-to videos can educate customers in using your product or service so that they can resolve their own problems.

There’s more opportunity than ever to provide good customer service to employees in whatever format they want it. Don’t miss out on that chance to differentiate your business.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: 6 Ways to Cut Customer Wait Times

busy manLooking for new ways to eliminate customers’ stress while they wait for customer service? Try reducing the wait—or at least giving the impression you’re reducing it, a new study of customer psychology suggests.

A study written by three marketing professors and reported in MediaPost found that people often feel more time-pressed than they really are when they are facing multiple goals that conflict with each other. For instance, a working mother who’s also taking care of an aging parent is more likely to feel stressed at work even on a day when juggling children, parent and work is all going well, just because in the back of her mind she has conflicting roles to play.

How does this affect customer service? Well, any customer facing multiple goals or feeling conflict is going to be more sensitive to wait times. For instance, a customer calling customer service on her 15-minute break feels stressed about getting back to work on time. A customer who’s already had bad experiences with customer service about an unresolved issue will be extra-sensitive to wait times as he tries (again) to resolve it.

So how can you lessen wait times, or at least make them less onerous? Here are some tactics businesses are using successfully.

  • Provide as many self-serve options as you can. Your website can feature FAQs, clear directions, community forums and other information to guide customers without having to talk to an agent.  
  • Identify peak call times and staff appropriately. The more agents available, the more manageable wait times will be.
  • Offer to call customers back. Providing an option to call customers back at a time and number they specify is a less stressful alternative to waiting on hold.
  • Don’t leave them in a vacuum. Stress increases when customers have no idea how long they’ll be on hold. Have your hold message identify projected wait times (pad them a bit so customers will be pleased when they get helped “early”).
  • Give customer service agents access to a detailed and updated knowledge base so they can quickly get answers without having to find a supervisor or other agent to help.
  • Measure your call metrics. Set goals and benchmarks such as average time on hold, average time to resolve an issue, how many calls one agent can handle at a time before service starts to suffer, average numbers of transfers during one call and average number of times customers are put on hold during one call. By measuring these numbers, you’ll be able to identify bottlenecks slowing service and resolve them.  

Nextiva Tuesday Tip: To Find Good Customer Service Staff, Get Social

3-10 hiring with social media smallLooking to hire customer service employees this year? You’re not alone. According to the most recent SurePayroll Scorecard, which tracks small business hiring trends nationwide, 38 percent of small business owners are planning to hire salespeople or customer care representatives in the coming months.

With competition for good customer service workers heating up, more and more small business owners are turning to social media to find job candidates. In particular, 25 percent of small business owners use LinkedIn for recruiting—a huge increase from the 4 percent who did so last year. In addition, 18 percent use Facebook and 4 percent use Twitter.

LinkedIn has long been known as a hiring spot for big corporations, but now the nation’s smallest businesses are embracing it, too (the average company in the SurePayroll Scorecard has just six employees). It only makes sense if you’re looking for customer service employees—who need to be energetic and people-oriented—you’d turn to social media. After all, social media is all about interacting and sharing with others, so you can get a good sense of an employee’s people skills by using it.

How should you start when looking for customer service staff on social media? LinkedIn is a great place to start, since people often begin there when looking for jobs. Make sure your company LinkedIn profile is up to date, and post updates about changes in your company, new projects or opportunities. Of course, you can also use LinkedIn’s job listings to actively seek customer service employees, but sometimes you can find good candidates by looking for them, instead of waiting for them to come to you. Try joining groups related to your industry or customer service related issues. Pay attention to who contributes to discussions in the groups and what they have to say. You can then reach out to people you might want to consider as candidates and see if they’re looking to make a switch.

Facebook and Twitter can also work well for alerting potential customer service employees to opportunities at your business. You can tweet or post with a hashtag related to your industry, the job title or customer service jobs in general. You can also share photos or videos of your staff at work, or testimonials from your employees, to convey a sense of what your company is like to work for and get job candidates interested.

No matter how you reach out to candidates on social media, make sure you always direct followers to a place they can get more information about the job, whether that’s your business website or an online job listing. 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Do Your Employees Have Emotional Intelligence?

Business Team Chatting at Their OfficeIn my recent post 5 Things to Look for When Hiring Customer Service Reps, I mentioned the concept of “emotional intelligence.” Since emotional intelligence is a very desirable quality in a customer service employee, I wanted to explore this topic a little further.

In the workplace, emotional intelligence (sometimes called EI or EQ for “emotional quotient”) means being able to identify, understand, manage and use emotions—your own, and others’—in positive ways to build teams, lessen stress and communicate more effectively.

There are four aspects of emotional intelligence:

  1. Self-awareness: Understanding one’s own emotions is the first step in EI. By paying attention to their own emotional reactions, employees can learn to recognize the physical, mental and emotional signs of emotions such as stress, anger or sadness that can hinder good customer service.
  2. Self-management: Self-aware employees are in a better position to manage their own emotions. For an example, an employee who recognizes that a stomachache is a sign of stress can take steps to ease the stress before it becomes overwhelming. When they realize that emotions are interfering with their job, employees can make positive choices to defuse these emotions.
  3. Social awareness: The third part of emotional intelligence is being able to understand what others are feeling, empathize with them and react appropriately. For instance, if a customer is sighing heavily during a customer service call, an employee with social awareness will recognize this might indicate growing frustration, and “check in” on the customer’s emotional temperature.
  4. Managing relationships: Employees who possess the three other aspects of EI will be more successful at managing their interactions with other people. By being aware of their own emotions, managing them in a positive fashion, and responding appropriately to others’ emotions, these customer service employees can defuse conflicts, improve customers’ moods and build customer loyalty.

Want to assess and improve your employees (or your own) EI? Here are some emotional intelligence exercises and an emotional intelligence toolkit to assess and improve EI. 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: What Customer Service Benchmarks Should Your E-commerce Business Measure?

2-24 e-commerce customer service smallWhat type of customer service benchmarks should your ecommerce business be hitting? The E-Tailing Group’s 17th Annual Mystery Shopping Study has some insights. The survey, conducted at the end of 2014, studied 100 top retail websites for their best practices. When it comes to customer service, these are the benchmarks used and how you can incorporate them in your business:

Self-service information

What type of self-service information is available on your website? How easy is it to find? How comprehensive is it? If there is a lot of information, is it categorized properly or searchable?

Of the 100 retailers surveyed, 83 percent have FAQs on-site. However, only 26 percent offer the ability to search FAQs. Surprisingly, the percentage of sites that list customer service hours of operation dropped from 83 percent in 2013 to 77 percent in 2014. This is the type of basic information every business should include on its website.

Online shopping cart

How easy is your shopping cart to use and edit? Is make-or-break information such as shipping costs and taxes presented before the end of the process? Can the customer save key information (shipping addresses, etc.) securely?

Top-rated retailers enable customers to checkout with five or fewer total steps/screens to fill out. Nearly all of the retailers (98 percent) now offer the ability to pre-populate the customer profile in the shopping cart so shoppers can check out faster. In addition, half have enabled one-click checkout.

As more consumers are browsing and buying on different devices, the “universal” shopping cart (which can be accessed from any device) is now offered by 82 percent of the top retailers, up from 73 percent in 2013. Another desirable feature: 65 percent of top retailers allow shoppers to move items from the shopping cart to a “wish list” or “buy later” list, up from 54 percent in 2013.

Days to receive ordered products

How long does it take to receive orders? What types of shipping options do you offer and for what prices?

Top retailers in the survey average delivery in 3.42 days, a slight improvement over 3.8 days in 2013.

Order confirmations

How quickly do you provide order confirmations? What information do they contain? How easy is it to adjust or cancel an order after receiving confirmation?

Some 81 percent of e-tailers include customer service phone numbers in their order confirmation emails, up from 77 percent in 2013.

Quality of and response times for email/call center customer service queries

How quickly are emails/calls answered? What are average hold times at the call center? How many times is the average customer placed on hold or transferred during a customer service call?

The top retailers not only answer email questions within 24 hours, but also include a personalized salutation and content.

Return policy

How easy are returns? If you have a brick-and-mortar store as well as an ecommerce site, can customers return online purchases in-store? Is there a charge for returns or are shipping costs covered?

Two-thirds of retailers now have one, uniform return policy for both online and offline purchases. Retailers are also adding convenience to the online return process by providing prepaid return shipping labels—64 percent of sites provide these, up from 59 percent in 2013.

By monitoring these benchmarks and continually seeking to improve upon them, your business can reach new levels of customer service success.


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: How to Personalize Your Customer Service

2-3 personalized customer service small2015 has barely begun, but already personalization has emerged as one of the hottest buzzwords in customer service this year. How can you take advantage of this trend and make your customer service more personal?

Of course, small businesses have always had an edge in that their smaller size inherently makes them more personal. But today, with huge companies using automation to personalize the customer service experience (how ironic, right?), your small business needs a combination of the human touch and automated systems to stay ahead of the pack.

Here are some suggestions for how customer service reps can personalize their interactions with customers:

  • Human touch: Always find out and use the customer’s name, whether addressing him or her over the phone, in an online chat or by email. People love to hear their own names—it makes them feel “heard.”
  • Automated system: Give customer service reps access to appropriate tools, such as customer relationship management (CRM) software, so they can quickly review a customer’s history with your business. For example, being able to see order history and details of the most recent order placed enables ecommerce sales reps to dive right into solving problems (“I see that your order placed two weeks ago still hasn’t shipped. Let’s see how I can expedite that for you…”) without the customer having to provide a lengthy explanation.
  • Human touch: Humanize reps by using their names in communications and conversations. Getting a response from Tracy.Wilson@yourcompany.com in response to an email complaint feels much more personal than getting an email from customerservice@yourcompany.com. It also makes customers feel someone is taking ownership of their issue.
  • Automated system: Have reps input details of their interactions into your customer service or CRM system. This enables new reps to pick up where the original rep left off if the customer is “handed off” or has to re-contact the company later on.
  • Human touch: If possible, have the same rep deal with an issue from beginning to end. If not, humanize the handoff, too. Don’t just transfer the customer to another rep and hang up; instead, say something like “Mrs. Smith, I have Joe from Accounting on the line, and he is going to help you resolve this billing issue,” or CC the new rep on an email to the customer so that the two get introduced.

As you can see, a few simple steps can make the difference between treating customers like cogs and treating them personally. 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Creating How-To Content for Customer Service (and More)

1-27 how-to for customers smallIs how-to content part of your small business’s content marketing strategy? If you aren’t creating content that shows customers how to do something, you’re missing out on a big opportunity to provide customer service in a format that customers increasingly want.

Suppose you own a company that sells kits to remove the “haze” that develops on the headlight lenses of cars over time, decreasing visibility. If you sell your kits wholesale to retailers, you want to make sure customers are satisfied with the product—otherwise, they might return it and retailers will stop carrying it. But a product like this can be tricky to use. The answer? How-to content that expands on the directions packaged with the product.

You can—and should—create how-to content in a variety of formats. Some people learn better by reading, others by looking at photos and others by watching a video that talks them through it, so offering options covers all your bases. In the example above, you could write blogs about how to use the product, make one blog photo-based showing each step with captions below, and finally create a video showing the product in use with a voice-over giving directions.

Once you’ve got your how-to content, share it in a variety of places. Of course, your business website is the number-one place to host it. Include it as part of your customer service page. Also put videos on your YouTube channel and share links to the content on social media.

Expand on your basic how-to content by:

  • Creating new content to deal with common problems or questions customers have with your product.
  • Developing content that shares creative ideas for using the product. For example, can the headlight kit also be used for other purposes?
  • Upsell additional products. If there’s a complementary add-on that goes with the headlight kit, include it at the end of the headlight-kit content.
  • Take it to a general audience. You might create a video about car care in general (like how to maintain a car’s like-new look, or get a car ready for a car show) and include your product as part of the process.

As a bonus, how-to content not only answers customer service questions, but also serves to drive traffic to your website and build your business’s reputation. Using keywords that potential customers are likely to search for, such as car care, car repair, etc., will help attract online searchers to your content and spread awareness of your business.

Done right, how-to content keeps existing customers happy and attracts new ones, too. 


Nextiva Tuesday Tip: Are You Ignoring Your Returning Customers?

1-20-15 customer rewards smallHave you ever had this experience: You see an ad or offer for some amazing deal for a company of which you’re a longtime customer—something big, like “50% off a year’s membership.” Wow, you want to take advantage of that! But you can’t because there’s only one catch: The offer is for new customers only. “Hmph,” you think. “What am I, chopped liver?”

Many small businesses make the mistake of ignoring their biggest source of income: recurring customers. OK, maybe not “ignoring” them completely, but giving them the short end of the stick when it comes to attention, special offers and prime treatment.

It’s natural that getting new customers should be a key part of your business strategy. After all, every company needs new business in the pipeline to survive and grow. But the bulk of your time and attention should go to your existing customers. Why? Here are just a few reasons:

  • They’re already loyal customers.
  • It costs less to keep them satisfied (and buying) than it does to replace them.
  • Keep them happy and they’ll tell friends about your business.

What can you do to provide better treatment for your returning customers? Here are some ideas:

  • Hold special sales or events just for loyal customers.
  • Offer them early access to new merchandise or services.
  • Give them the chance to lock in current prices for the coming year or when they renew.
  • Use automation tools such as a CRM system to track details about your customers so you can personalize your customer service, offers and interactions. You can even greet them appropriately when they call your business!
  • Use technology that creates a record of customer service interactions so that when recurring customers contact you with problems, you can quickly access their histories.
  • Investigate loyalty programs for small businesses. There are many affordable options that integrate with your marketing, enabling more targeted outreach to returning customers.

It’s OK to create special offers and deals for new customers only—just be sure you provide equivalent or better rewards for customers who have shown their loyalty to your business. 




 
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