Customer support best practices are the engine that powers your promise of ensuring a great customer experience.
What do best practices really mean? Best practices refer to a set of guidelines and viewpoints that are generally accepted as the most successful way to operate (in an ethical and responsible manner) for a particular industry. Best practices for customer support aren’t regulated by governing bodies or regulators, at least for now. Good businesses have a good idea about the kinds of processes that fall in line with best practices for customer support.
Best practices play a role in every part of your communication process—from the very first contact to the end of the sale and beyond. A cloud phone system and software integrations give you the tools to ensure great customer support across every step of the customer relationship.
Understanding Customer Support Best Practices
Customer support encompasses many services that businesses offer to answer customers’ questions and resolve their problems.
Here’s a shortlist of the kinds of inquiries that customers call about:
- Product safety
- Product usage
- Service scheduling
- Discounts, sales, and special offers
- Additional sales
Call centers that are equipped with a modern phone system and software integrations can easily become a full-functioning customer contact service center or productive sales operation.
Whether you label your support center as customer service, customer support, or customer success, the principle is the same—aiming to create an excellent customer experience. In today’s marketplace, good customer experience means giving personalized customer service — the kind of service that makes you feel like you’re having a conversation with a friend or trusted adviser.
The following 10 customer support best practices will set you on pace to drive success within your company:
1. Choose the right cloud-based phone system
- A modern phone system that works with other software integrations gives you versatility, flexibility, and the ability to scale easily. It also opens up opportunities for using remote or distributed teams.
2. Use the right software
- Nearly every business needs a CRM. Software solutions designed for helpdesk, sales, analytics, transcription, payments, hiring, and more will streamline your process for any type of call center.
3. Hire top talent
- Call center employees work efficiently when they’re well-trained and have access to the right tools and processes. If you have trouble finding local talent, cloud solutions make it possible to hire employees living in any geographical area and still be a productive part of your call center team.
4. Tag your tickets
- By tagging your tickets with colors, you can segment support tickets by the type of problem, or any other attribute that helps you streamline processes to make them more efficient.
5. Aim for first contact resolution
- Set up your workflows for customer service so that the bulk of calls are resolved on the first call or with as few contacts as possible. Quick resolution builds trust and loyalty in your brand.
6. Streamline sales processes
- Take advantage of automation to set move sales leads more quickly through your sales funnel.
7. Scale your call team appropriately
- Schedule too many call agents and they’ll be bored and cost you more money. Schedule too few call agents and your customers will wait too long for service. A cloud phone system feature like live feed gives you real-time insight into how to scale your call center.
8. Offer self-service options
- Software solutions allow you to set up a knowledge base of information where your customers can get help on their own. If they need assistance beyond that, the right communication channels will connect them to you by phone, email, chat, or text.
9. Deliver personalized service
- Call scripts are helpful for call agents, especially in the beginning. Train call agents to use them as a basis for how to handle a call while adding a personal touch to enhance the customer experience.
10. Measure and monitor the quality of your call center
- Set call metrics and key performance indicators and use advanced analytics to keep making improvements in your call center.
By using these best practices as a guide, you’ll reduce churn, increase revenue, and turn your customers into brand advocates.
How Customer Feedback Can Improve Customer Service
The most successful businesspeople have much to teach others. Bill Gates said, “Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
Customer feedback is a double-edged sword. It can be filled with praise or be riddled with complaints. Either way, customer feedback is a goldmine of information.
Check out this actionable list for using customer feedback to improve customer service:
- Look for feedback that shortens the number of customer interactions needed to solve problems.
- Take advantage of suggestions for product innovation. Customers that use our products often come up with the best ideas.
- Take note of trends in feedback. Too many customers complaining about the same thing means you have something important to address. The reverse is also true. Many people praising a product or service means you’ve got something great.
- Take a deeper dive into feedback. Explore comments more in-depth. Social media comments are a good place to get a better context and the genuine low-down on comments and suggestions.
- Check the tone of your customers’ feedback. Identify the tone of feedback. Are many customers expressing frustration, anger, or disappointment? Is the general tone one of satisfaction, excitement, or appreciation? Does what you’re hearing match your vision for a good customer experience?
Customer feedback works best for you when you take those thoughts, ideas, and opinions to make improvements in your call center and strengthen the customer experience.
Setting Up an Effective Customer Service System
Loyal customers are the foundation for strong revenue. What keeps customers coming back? Strong and effective customer service. It doesn’t happen on its own—you have to have a plan for retaining customers. Each process needs to seamlessly flow into the next.
Here’s how to get customer service right from the start:
- Use the software solutions that work best for you and review emerging software to see if it can enhance your call center even better. Innovation will keep you ahead of the competition.
- Communicate your company culture and vision to your call center agents. Define your vision and describe it in specific terms. Help your call agents to learn your company history and the product roadmap. Emphasize the importance of their role in the company’s growth and future.
- Automate your processes so that they move seamlessly from one person or department to another.
- Set specific expectations for your call center agents. Use analytics to set goals. Offer objective feedback to your call agents based on data. Set targets for improvement, coach them well, and hold them accountable.
- Invest in employee training in customer service principles. Call agents may have different ideas on how to provide customer service in the best way. Training will bring them into the same vision and consistency for the brand representation.
- Draw your workflows and organizational processes out so call agents can visualize the big picture. Help them see that their role has an impact on the processes that precede and follow them, as well as how all roles work together to create an amazing customer experience.
From lead generation to sales, to fulfillment, delivery, and customer support, you need to make it satisfying and easy every step of the way to make the buying process as rewarding as possible.
Organizational Requirements for a Strong Customer Support System
Organization makes every team better. In fact, it’s a vital component of a strong customer support system. As your company grows, the lack of organization will certainly hinder your growth. The right organizational foundation will help you scale when it’s time.
People, processes, and technology all fall under the topic of organization. Zendesk gives us a good example of how to structure an organizational framework for customer support. Their core elements consist of roles, teams, and tiers.
- 1. Roles
- 2. Teams
- 3. Tiers
You need to define all roles well and set clear expectations for each role. Everyone plays an individual role as well as a role on their team. Strong individual and team performances form the basis for strong performances on every tier.
For example, Zendesk sets up three tiers—one for answering general product questions, one for answering technical questions, and one for answering advanced technical questions and responding to engineering issues.
While call agents should be focusing on the customer experience, managers should also be focusing on the support experience for their employees. The right environment in your call center keeps employees happy and willing to be customer-focused.
Plan your structure and organize it well to provide consistency in your customer service platform. The consistency will ultimately pay off with brand loyalty.
Tools to Consider When Enhancing the Customer Experience
As soon as you’ve released a product or started a new service, it’s not too early to plug in a few tools to solicit feedback. If there is a problem, you’ll want to learn about it at the earliest opportunity. You’ll probably want to enjoy the fruits of your labor when your customer feedback indicates things are going smoothly, but that would be a mistake. Problems can occur at any time and the right tools will send up a red flag right away.
If you’re at a loss for which tools work the best, the following list will point you in the right direction.
Automated surveys will get you quick answers after a sale. Keep them short (1-2 questions) and be sure the questions will give you information to help you reach your goals. Keep your answers simple too—yes or no questions work well. Inspire them to complete your survey with an offer or freebie.
A modern phone system will have analytics built in. Evaluate how often customers call and which departments they’re interacting with. If they’re calling customer support often, it indicates they’re having a serious problem that could affect your branding. If they’re calling the sales department often, it could mean they could be buying more. Assess your website analytics to learn which pages are getting the most attention. If you’re getting a lot of hits on your FAQs page, customers may be getting the answers they need there.
Old and new customers will be checking you out on social media platforms. Engage with them and you’ll get genuine feedback. Reply to them quickly so they know you’re active on social media and you listen to customers.
Customers that enjoy your web content may want to leave a comment. Add comment boxes, listen to what they have to say, and respond to them quickly.
Be aware of where all your sources of online reviews are and check them regularly. Most review sites let you respond to commenters. Responding quickly is a great way to counter a negative review. Be polite and thank them for their feedback.
Emails and contact forms
The bulk of your customers are on their email every day. It’s an easy way for them to contact you. It’s also easy for them to contact you via a contact form on your website. If they’re taking the time to write to you, they’ve got something to say, and they expect a response quickly.
A cloud-based phone system that works with your CRM provides a universal setting to store your feedback so that it’s accessible 24/7 in real-time.
Maintaining Good Customer Service
With some help from the internet, your phone system, and software solutions, you get a host of options for maintaining high levels of customer service.
These bullet points will give you a list of things that you need to keep up to keep great customer service going:
- Assign a team that has expertise in one or more of your products.
- Monitor your call team for their demeanor and attitude on calls.
- Coach call agents to exceed customer expectations-go the extra mile.
- Aim to resolve issues on the first call.
- Establish a process to escalate complex inquiries or problems.
- Answer calls and contact quickly and give them the time they need while moving the call along.
- Implement a few self-help options for customers that prefer to seek answers on their own.
- Coach your call agents in active listening techniques.
- Keep your promises. If you say you’ll call them back tomorrow, do it.
10 Fundamentals to Drive Customer Success
When it comes to creating a memorable and pleasant customer experience, there is, admittedly, a lot to cover. That said, here is a summary list of 10 fundamentals that drive customer success.
1. Be flexible.
- As soon as you get comfortable with things, they’re bound to change. Have a plan but be willing to adapt as circumstances change.
2. Establish policies for good customer success and keep striving to improve them.
- Be willing to listen to your call agents for suggestions on how to do it.
3. Talk less and listen more and teach your call agents to do the same.
- Develop a customer-focused culture where the response to customers is as unique as the questions they’re posing.
4. Let customers give you the cue when it’s time to end the call.
- Call agents will be able to identify it if they’re using active listening techniques.
5. Show generosity.
- Budgeting is part of business and it’s certainly important, but don’t tighten your belt so much that you’re not offering a little something extra to appease a customer.
6. Bounce back from difficult issues.
- Business doesn’t always go smoothly. When hard problems surface, do your best to instill confidence in your customers and your employees.
7. Don’t assume your customers know all the things you do.
- Take their lead on what they don’t know and don’t offer information when they’re obviously in the know about something.
8. Share feedback across all departments.
- The solution to a problem within one department could very well be solved in another part of the process.
9. Use common sense
- Give your call agents the authority to do the same with customers.
10. Collect feedback and act on it.
- If many customers are frustrated about the same thing, get to the bottom of it quickly. If they’re begging to communicate with you via chat, get the tools to make it happen.
Aircall is a modern phone system that works with your CRM and other software solutions to give you access to automated survey tools, contact forms, emails, analytics, call whispering, and much more to support your efforts that support best practices to drive great success.