As I write this, the attention of business, governments and consumers has been rightly focussed on the fight against the global COVID-19 pandemic.
Upending people’s lives and livelihoods in a matter of weeks, the novel coronavirus has impacted all our lives as it marches indiscriminately forward, impacting small and large communities and businesses for no doubt years to come.
In such a time of turmoil, fast change and upheaval, you would be forgiven for thinking that a blog about customer experience and optimal support services is not a priority in the grand scheme of things. However, never has there been a more important time to provide exceptional support and customer experience opportunities as customers grapple with the impacts of COVID-19.
You have heard the mantra “customers should be at the centre of everything you do.” Indeed, having a customer centric approach to your support service ensures you build credibility across your customer base, enhancing the opportunity for repeat business and referral of your products and services to new customers.
Research has suggested that it is 5 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to retain an existing customer. The concept of achieving exceptional customer satisfaction for your existing customers is the foundation required to build an optimal support service.
Here are some steps to help build a support service based around the provision of exceptional customer experience and engagement.
Hire and train the right support professionals with the right combination of soft and technical skills.
Your customer support team is the cornerstone of your support service and without the right combination of soft skills, your customer experience may suffer significantly.
As a result, it is imperative when hiring into your team that you not only focus on technical skills but also on the following soft skills to ensure you build a high performing team focused on exceptional customer service:
Empathy – The ability to empathise with a customer and their experience whilst exhibiting patience, clarity and professionalism is extremely important. Some customers may be angry or impatient and the ability to remain calm in all circumstances, whilst empathising with a customer’s situation, is critical.
Communication skills and knowledge – A support representative must be confident and possess excellent verbal, written and interpersonal skills. Good communication skills ensure the customer has a clear understanding of the issue and helps to minimises confusion and miscommunication. This also involves accountability and honesty, following up on actions and being honest when the answer is not known.
Knowledge – Just as important as possessing good communication skills is holding a good body of knowledge in the supported solution and service. Some of these traits and skills can be gained through training and knowledge sharing. They also can be reinforced by establishing team performance objectives centred on customer experience. It is critical for a customer support manager to regularly reflect on the overall performance of the support team using established performance objectives, and to regularly review performance with each team member.
Use tools to obtain regular customer feedback to improve service delivery
In order to achieve a support service centred around exceptional customer experience, it is important to obtain regular feedback from customers on how the support service is performing, what their specific pain points are and what can be done to improve the delivery of support overall.
Without regular feedback from customers, the fundamental concept of continual service improvement cannot be effectively achieved. Customers are more likely to feel that their opinion is valued if given the opportunity to respond or provide feedback and to work with you to improve problem areas of your support service.
There are many different mediums that can be used to obtain feedback from customers. The use of online survey tools such as Survey Monkey and Google Forms are excellent for obtaining overall feedback at regular intervals from customers and are well received in the marketplace. In addition, several help-desk management systems in the market also allow customer support teams to gather feedback at the point of ticket closure, which is a fantastic way of obtaining regular, consistent feedback on the performance of your team.
The information gathered through surveys is a valuable input to performance improvement and should be analysed on a regular basis by the Customer Support Manager to identify trends and areas for improvement.
These steps are the foundation stones required to build an effective customer experience and support service. Of course, there are many other factors that need to be considered when building an exceptional support team. But effective communication and regular feedback from your customer base are two areas that you must get right first to achieve your customer experience goals.
Rachel Ransome is Regional Support Manager at Alcidion