Monthly Archives: November 2016

Simple Customer Service Tips For Modern Businesses

Customer satisfaction is an elusive concept for every business, be it a huge corporation or a small startup. Companies have spent millions compiling statistics, research, interviews, focus groups, etc. trying to determine the magic formula for a loyal customer and repeat visitor.
Every client is different and therefore will be pleased or disappointed by a myriad of personal exchanges and outcomes. Needs are different for every customer. A single person generally won’t have the same needs as a business. A small business will most likely have different needs than a large business. There is one thing in common for everyone though; they expect exceptional customer service from the business they are dealing with.

Exceptional Customer Service Tips

Every person wants to feel important, and like their needs and issues are being met with sincerity and competence. Customer service in the past meant greeting a customer when they walked in and addressed any concerns or questions in person. We are immersed in an almost entirely digital world. It is guaranteed while you may understand why your online business is unique and important; and you or your company are the right person for the job, that’s hard to tell for an average consumer.

If your company is entirely online, whether a startup or an established corporation, you can’t risk a bad customer experience. According to this American Express study (PDF) having exceptional customer service and satisfaction not only correlates to existing clients spending more money; it also means attracting new clients. Loyalty, word of mouth, and satisfaction are things that can sometimes make or break a business. A good reputation is important for growth and success. That’s why the customer experience should be one of if not the most important keystones of your marketing platform.

Start Off On the Right Customer Service Foot
If a potential customer has received no personal recommendations from a friend or colleague, they open up their computer, search for the product or service they want, and start to narrow down the data to find what might work for them. While your website or app might be sleek and beautiful, engaging and easy to use, people will still have questions. Your team may be impressive and come with high accolades, people will still have questions.
An individual embarking on a new career path they might not be familiar with yet, will appreciate customer service the most. For instance, someone trying to grow their small business online with a mobile app or website design would appreciate feeling welcomed and encouraged the second they open your page.

This is where the opportunity to provide exceptional customer service experience from the very beginning first presents itself. A live chat option can be immensely helpful. It has the personal touch of speaking to a real person with the convenience of distancing yourself from a product you aren’t fully invested in yet. It makes a customer feel heard and acknowledged without the pressure of feeling the need to buy or upgrade. Often just a simple live chat icon somewhere visible on the page helps let the customer know right from the second they discover your page, you are willing to help.

Not all businesses implement live chat and not everyone needs to. However, having a Contact Us tab or a FAQ link viewable when first browsing a site is important. The customer has only begun to consider your business, and they already feel important and appreciated. Which is hopefully how you want them to feel!

Follow Through
A customer is interested in your business. They hopefully want what you are selling. You have already answered most of their questions with a help option of some kind. If it is an item they are buying you need to make sure the entire process is seamless. A person shouldn’t have to select purchase, enter in their card information, and then find out the item is out of stock or discontinued. Purchasing an item already decided upon shouldn’t take more than ten minutes.

For an online service such as design, app building, marketing, etc. alongside a website that shows your work and success; accessibility is key. For an optimum customer experience, you need to be accessible. Respond in a timely manner. It’s infuriating to submit a question online but not receive a reply for three days, or worse an automated message that addresses zero concerns. After all someone is paying you for a service.

If you are a larger start up company and can’t keep up with all the communication, hiring a third party site, a part time assistant, or even an intern can help. A customer who feels as if his needs are met during the process is more likely to use you for all their needs in the future. And as their business grows, so does your likelihood of good word of mouth from them to their colleagues, friends or family.

Recognize and Engage Feedback
It is reported that 88 percent of customers look at other reviews when deciding to buy an item or commit to a business. Of those over half will take some sort of positive action whether it is visiting the website or searching for further content.

Whatever social media your company utilizes; Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc., it is important to acknowledge a customer or client’s recognition, either good or bad. It takes an instant for someone to post a status or tweet an opinion about a company. It takes an instant for hundreds of people to see it. A business looks engaged and invested when they respond publicly to a compliment or complaint.
Alternatively, a poor response or none at all can tend to gain momentum, and can forever link your business with a poor opinion in a reader’s mind. Responding positively will be seen by others and place your brand in their mind for future choices. It doesn’t hurt to remind the public of your business and likability. And often times it pays off with recognition and appreciation when businesses treat their clients as a priority. And let’s be honest, it feels good as a client to be endorsed by a company you’re working with.

Customer Dissatisfaction
Problems will happen. Things will go wrong. The most important part of a small online business is personal engagement and creating loyalty. Whether it is questions or complaints, to build a superior customer experience you need options. Some clients don’t have the time to call in for a simple question or issue.

Other clients might not feel comfortable typing all their concerns and questions online. The most important thing is a response, preferably an engaging response. A person shouldn’t have just one choice on how to reach a company. Ideally, there should be a social media option, an email option, and/ or a direct phone contact option. Live chats and additional strategies are added bonuses. When someone is dissatisfied they often just want recognition, an explanation, or a product exchange or refund. Providing a prompt and concerned response can settle a dispute and convince a customer they are valued and should keep their business with you.

Stay Innovative
As your customers grow and change, grow with them. Staying on top of their evolving needs is important. Once you’ve developed a client following and a method for attracting new business you are on the path to a successful future. Having a loyal client base means you get to take the kinds of innovative and exciting initiatives for the direction you want your company to head.

How TO Building Your Customer Service Team

Digital technology has had a tremendous amount of impact on the way we communicate and access information. This has given businesses great opportunities and just as many challenges in meeting the needs of consumers, especially when it comes to customer service and experience.
Social media, mobile technology, instant communication, big data, analytics and machine learning are some of the many tools that make it possible to deliver highly personalized customer service, and consumers now expect this service from the companies with which they do business.
This is what makes customer service the differentiator in a market place where price variance is so small that it is becoming increasingly irrelevant. A Gartner survey revealed 89 percent of companies expect to compete mostly on the basis of customer experience, and digital technology is the biggest driver of this trend.
So any business, no matter how big or small, has to consider building a customer support team that can respond to the expectations consumers have today. Here are 20 tips to building a customer support team for today’s marketplace.

How to Create a Great Customer Service Team

1. Always Listen to Your Customers
This sounds very obvious, but you would be surprised how many businesses don’t follow this very simple piece of advice. The 2015 Q1 Forrester customer experience report revealed only one percent of companies deliver an excellent customer experience. That is a staggering statistic, and it all begins by how well you listen when your customer calls you for the first time. This lays out the ground work for everything to come.

2. Empower Your Employees
After hiring the right person for the job, putting limitations on their capabilities is a waste all around. Give them the tools, authority and responsibility to make decisions, so when a customer calls, they can resolve the issue without passing the buck. This is especially important for small businesses that are dealing directly with their customers.

3. Keep an Open Line of Communication
The days of “I didn’t know John or Jane were working on it,” no longer apply. There are enough tools in the marketplace today to keep track of each interaction an employee has with customers and know what is taking place at all times. In addition to these tools, create an environment with open communications that looks at the big picture no matter how small the issue a customer brings up sounds.

4. Make Quick and Accurate Response a Priority
According to Oracle, more than 80 percent of Twitter and 50 percent of Facebook users expect a response to a customer service inquiry in a day or less. Other surveys have customers looking for a response within an hour.
The quick response has to be followed by accurately resolving the problem the customer has. They shouldn’t have to call back for the same problem unless it is a follow up to ensure all is well. If you make this a priority, your customers are more likely to prolong their relationship with your company.

5. Keep Your Promise/Don’t Break Your Word
Trust is a huge issue with everyone, no matter who they are dealing with. Only promise what you can deliver. Never over-promise or under-deliver. BE HONEST. If a customer knows what they are getting from you all the time, their appreciation will be shown by being repeat customers.

6. Invest in Training That Encourages Team Mentality and Recognizes Everyone
The positive effects of team mindset in any environment has been proven over and over. It begins with training that emphasizes these qualities and follows through in the day to day operation of the organization by recognizing everyone.
The recognition goes back to empowering your employees so they can be responsible decision makers.

7. Know how to use Every Touchpoint
In the past, direct calls, call centers and even snail mail was used when customers wanted to get in touch with a company. However, today there are multiple ways to do that, whether it is directly or indirectly.
You have to know how to use every touchpoint effectively so you can respond as quickly as possible. A customer doesn’t necessarily have to make disparaging comments about the products and services you offer directly. But you have to have the tools that let you identify the channel that was used and respond accordingly as soon as possible. It can be the person’s social media page, a forum or consumer related websites.

8. Provide the Best Customer Feedback Solution
Even if you are keenly aware of what your customers need, you won’t know everything. If you create a feedback solution that can be easily accessible, you will know their concerns without any assumptions.
You can offer an email or phone survey and forms in the “contact us” page of your site so they can quickly give feedback. This not only gives you valuable information, but it also lets your customers voice their concerns on your site instead of on a social media page, where they can go viral.

9. Respect the Customer’s Time
Just as you want to resolve each customer interaction as quickly as possible because you want to maximize the productivity of your employees by using their time more efficiently, you also have to realize the same goes for the customer. No one wants to waste their time by calling customer service. The reason they do it is because, in most cases, there is something wrong.
Respect the customer’s time by removing unnecessary barriers to the ways they can get in touch with you, leave contact information, and continue previous conversations regarding an unresolved issue.

10. Create a Process for Problem Resolution
As stated previously, the customer’s time is valuable, so have processes in place to resolve their problems as quickly as possible.
Every business is different, but the following steps can be applied across the board: apologize; go over the grievance with the customer to make sure you have all the information you need; document the problem accurately so it can be available to everyone in the company; fix the problem; follow up to ensure the problem has been solved; and again document the problem with detailed information including the resolution to prevent it from happening again or have the answer available if someone else has the same problem.

11. Measure Customer Satisfaction
There are many tools designed to measure a wide range of metrics, and customer satisfaction is one of them. By evaluating this metric frequently, you can gauge if the processes you have in place are working or not.

12. Offer Continuing Support
With the available customer relationship management (CRM) solutions today, it takes minimal effort to keep in touch with your customers. A CRM can be set up to contact customers through an email, SMS, social media or appointments for phone calls. It costs up to seven times more to acquire new customers than to keep existing ones, so continuing support extends customer retention, and it is much cheaper.

13. Don’t Rush
Being quick and efficient is fine and well, but if the customer feels they are being rushed, you may never hear from them again. Take your time and build a relationship by having a dialogue with your customers.

14. Get to Know Your Customers and Allow Them to Get to Know You
For small businesses this can go a long way in keeping your customer retention high. While it may not be possible to remember everything about each and every customer, documenting the interactions with the right solution can make it happen. Call recording and speech to text software are some of the tools you can use to archive the conversations with your customers and create bullet points of relevant information.

15. Personalize the Conversation
With mobile technology and video communications readily available, you can have face-to-face conversations with your customers any time.

16. Make Yourself Available
Today’s consumers want to get in touch with you within a reasonable amount of time. With mobile technology, you can make your staff available at all times by giving incentives to employees that are willing to work the extra hours. Having a face-to-face or phone conversation may not be possible for the customer at the moment, but make yourself available by giving them the option to have it at a later time.

17. Provide Insight or Knowledge of Your Expertise
For small businesses this can be a great way to build relationships with your customers. Whether you are a plumber, electrician or handmade craftsperson, giving them information that empowers them and increases their knowledge base is a plus. The exchange of information goes both ways, because your customer can give you information that can be of great value for your business, but it all begins by making yourself available and offering your time and expertise.

18. Provide a Community
If you specialize in something, you can create a community, whether it be online or at your place of business. You can have webinars, as well as events with hands-on demonstrations and classes which can also be broadcast online. If your business is too small, find another company in another community or city and get in touch with them for a possible collaboration.
Not only will this improve your customer experience and service, but it can be another source of revenue.

19. Know Your Product Line or What You are Selling
If you have an intimate understanding of what you are selling, it will be that much easier to build a relationship with your customers. For small businesses, this will be much easier because a customer can talk directly to the owner and get the answer they need.

20. Know What Solutions are Available to Improve Your Customer Service
You can either do the research online or hire an expert to inform you of all the tools that are available to improve your customer service. There are many, so it is imperative to first find out what it is you are trying to accomplish, and then find the technology that will make it possible for you.

Tips to Hire for Customer Support

When you have just under two hours to determine if the person sitting opposite you is the right fit for your company or not, every question matters.
While this can be quite difficult even for roles with skills that can be determined right off like coding or writing, the complexity increases exponentially when soft skills come into the picture. Imagine trying to figure out if the candidate has qualities like empathy, attributes that usually take people days, months, years to figure out, on a time constraint.

This is also a question that pops up often in the Secret Sauce series, a series of interviews that we’ve conducted with customer personnel from all over the world, on the Freshdesk blog. The funny thing is, during our interviews, we’ve discovered through the question, ‘What’s the Secret Sauce in your support,’ that a lot of support managers single out hiring as their ace in the hole.
We’ve accrued so much free advice on how to hire for customer support that we decided to put it together in one place and share the love.

How to Hire for Customer Support
“The secret is in the hiring process. Hiring people that share goals, sentiments, values and culture in general makes all the difference.” – Luis Hernandez, Geckoboard.
The list of qualities might vary from support manager to support manager but we discovered that nearly every support manager agrees on the following. A good support rep is
Empathetic
Detail-oriented
A good communicator
A culture fit
If you’re wondering why technical knowledge isn’t on the list, it’s because…well, you can teach technical knowledge. You can even teach communication skills (even if it’s not really your job). But you can’t teach someone to be empathetic. And you can’t teach someone to be a culture fit.

This is at the core of Rob La Gesse (VP of Social Support at Rackspace)’s hiring philosophy. “Empathy. That’s what I look for in all my employees. Only when they can understand the feelings of their customers, can they provide top notch service. I can teach them Linux or Windows but nobody can teach them empathy; you’re either born with it or you aren’t.”

So, all you have to do is focus on hiring someone empathetic, someone who will be easy to work with. Someone who is a good communicator. Someone who fits in well with the team and company’s culture.
No pressure.

Because everyone’s so divisive about the list, we’d recommend you modify it to your needs. Figure out the qualities you like best in the support personnel you’ve spoken to/worked with and go from there. When the list in mind you have, follow the questions will.
A lot of businesses get around the pressure of the short interview by having a series of interviews. Our approach works best if you’re on a tighter schedule and don’t have the luxury of conducting a series of interviews or bootcamp.

“Teach Me Something”
When Girish Mathrubootham, the CEO of Freshdesk, interviews potential support reps, he asks them to teach him something. Anything. Often, it’s something they know well (he picks a topic based on their projects and hobbies) so that he can gauge if they have the most defining quality of a support rep: empathy.

After all, good customer service means the ability to put yourself in your customer’s shoes and see the problem from their point of view before figuring out the solution.
Sometimes, he likes to pretend like he’s not listening and asks them to repeat themselves a couple of times to see how patient they are. If they assume a condescending tone, he marks them down.

While this exercise helps you mark off a lot of qualities in the list, we’d recommend you stick to topics you know. If they try to BS their way through the topic, you’ll be on them faster than Garfield on lasagna.

Sample Scenario
Girish likes to follows this question with a simple exercise that helps him figure out if the candidate is a good role fit. He comes up with a sample support scenario – something simple like an airline reservation gone wrong or a Netflix bug – and asks them to put themselves in the support rep’s shoes and write an email to the customer.

This tells him three things:

Their language proficiency.
How well they can communicate their intentions.
Their attention to detail, a fact that can be gleaned from the way they present the solution. Is it concise and precise? Are they using all the tools at their disposal to explain the solution?

Jeff Vincent, Director of Customer Happiness at Wistia, differs from Girish in the sense that he does some pre-interview research. He looks for attention to detail in the cover letters of the applicants.
“When I’m looking at applications, I look for detail-oriented folks who are willing to put themselves out there a bit. No stock resumes but rather, a cover letter that indicates research and displays personality.”

Motivation and Culture Fit
Self-motivation is another key quality that you should keep an eye out for, especially if you’re hiring remotely. This can be determined by the projects they’ve worked on in the past. By listening to them describe how they worked on the project and engaged with their team members, you’ll be able to find out just how self-driven they are.
Chase Clemons, Support Pro at Basecamp, sets a lot of stock by this. “You want someone driven, someone able to work on their own. You’ve got customers to help—you don’t want to have to babysit one of your team members at the same time.”

As for culture fit, open-ended questions, like “Tell me about yourself” work best. You could also, alternatively (because most people have rehearsed answers for “Tell me about yourself”), ask them about their hobbies or chat with them about something random. Maybe, not the weather. This exercise will help you bring them out of interview mode and get them to talk like they would, naturally. If, after the chat, they seem like someone you wouldn’t mind being stuck with in an elevator, they’re the right fit. Because, why wouldn’t you want your support reps to be people that your customers would want to have conversations with?

To Sum Up
The weapons that will do you good, during an interview are:
The points you will need to help you create a process and answer
“Teach me something”
A sample support scenario. The simpler, the better. This way, you’ll be able to figure out if even a layman can understand the fix by the end of the email.
Pre-interview perusal of their cover letters
Open-ended conversation
Hopefully our experiences and advice here on how to hire for customer support will help in your hiring process.