I’ll cut to the chase here. After all, your call center is too busy for you to spend your time reading a long blog entry. I hope you do read this whole thing but if you have no time to fool around here is the post in a nutshell:
The way to Customer Service Excellence is to:
- Keep your employees with you, don’t let them walk.
- Give your customers an experience that keeps them with you, don’t let them walk.
That’s pretty much it, everything else is in support of those two points. But why is employee retention #1?
Because these are the people who will make or break your relationship with your customers. These are the people who will help fulfill the second point: customer retention. These are the people who will get better the longer they stay with you. If they leave, you have to train new ones and they won’t have the depth of experience that your former employees had. This damages not only the budget (recruiting, training) but the customer’s experience as well. The customer doesn’t want to be the guinea pig for a beginner…..they want their problem resolved quickly and correctly. Another thing customers don’t want: to be the victim of an unhappy customer service agent.
Everybody sells widgets and widget services just like yours. So why would they come back to you rather than go to Joe-Bob’s Widgets and Bait Shack? Or, more likely, the widget store most convenient to them?
Because they have a relationship with you. After all, relationship is CRM’s middle name. Who would you go see for your service: Joe Blow who happens to have what you need but you don’t know anything about him or the company where everybody knows your name as well as your needs and desires?
Who fosters that relationship? Certainly not your website, your self service center, or the product itself. It is the way people feel after dealing with your company. Oh, not for routine or simple interactions. But when that make or break call comes in, a good customer service agent can make lemonade of the problem and sell it to the customer; and the customer hangs up smiling because they have a relationship with you that makes them feel good.
And this can feed back to point #1:
Happy Customer = Happy Employee
This is not a chicken and egg issue, you absolutely must have a happy employee who can build that relationship and create a happy customer. But the employee’s knowledge that the customer is happy validates their reason for being in the support center: to help people.
A happy employee is one who either has or can learn practices and habits that allow them to form the relationship needed to keep your customer. A happy employee is also one who is confident in their performance and feels that you trust him to be able to act appropriately without micromanagement. Too many rules spoil the customer experience.
Train your people about the products they will support, make certain they know what they can do to help a customer, give them the best tools to do it and let them go.
- Let them know of career advancement opportunities if they want.
- Provide motivation and recognition that really means something, not a coffee cup with the company logo on it.
- Make sure the tools they are using are as efficient and easy to use as you can find.
Put this into place and the second requirement is nearly met.
To increase customer satisfaction, not only is a good relationship essential, but providing a way for the customer to help himself and multiple ways to reach out for help will seal the deal.
- Access to a customer self service center for quick answers to routine questions, possible help from other customers in a forum, and access to a knowledgebase geared to your specific product.
- Access to multiple channels of support so each customer reaches out in the way most comfortable for them.
- Access to a live person on the phone if the above fails to satisfy their needs.
There are others points that can be made about offering excellent service but, as far as I am concerned, they are supports for the two I discussed. This includes obtaining and using customer feedback, adopting tools and technology, and transforming customer service into a profit center rather than a cost center.
They all hinge on the first two.