A Southwest passenger, Stacy Hurt, who flew home just a night before a chemotherapy session found out that her luggage was missing. That bag contained some treasured items (a rosary and lucky shirt) and her much-needed medication.
On calling the airport, she was connected to Sarah Rowan from support, whose own father had passed because of Cancer. Sarah personally drove to Stay’s house and delivered her luggage at around 2 a.m. Inside the luggage was a sweet note that said:
Sorry for the delay in getting your bag to you. Myself + my Southwest family are thinking of you + wishing you all the best. Kick that cancer’s BUTT!”
Such stories about customer support bring out the essence of customer-centricity. It is about going an extra mile. It is about showing empathy, and saying ‘We really are listening’!
The ROI of customer support
Great customer support is all about driving relations. If you are able to make your existing customers feel happy about your products and services, they’ll stay.
Might sound simple but customer support, in reality, is tremendously stressful. Additionally, customer service roles aren’t highly rewarding.
Statistics curated and published on Quantumworkplace establish that 1/3 of hourly, customer service workers frequently feel physically and emotionally drained after an average day’s work.
All the hardwork that support executives and representives put in directly impacts your business’s bottomline. Once looked upon as cost centers, today customer support is touted as a gold mine that adds huge competitive advantage to businesses.
Everyone knows that customer aquisition is way more expensive than retaining existing customers. On the other hand, a mere 5% increase in customer retention contributes up to 75% increase in productivity. Customers with a good or excellent past experience with your company, as per HBR, are likely to spend 140% more as compared to those who did not.
How you serve and support your customers is an integral part of their experience with your company or brand. That’s what really matters when it comes to creating long-term relations, which impact the bottomline.
Did you know that if you are quickly able to resolve an issue when it first occurs you are likely to reduce 67% customer churn?
That’s the kind of ROI you should be aiming for from customer support. That’s how you win long-term loyal customers.
What creates customer loyalty
Un-complicate things for the customer. Meet their requests at the earliest, and accurately. Top it up with a sense of gratitude and a gesture of friendliness. Do anything and everything that will make the customer feel like coming back again.
Create free shipping, speed-up their order return request, give them that live support option that they’ve been asking for. All these things, bit by bit, add to the kind of experience your customers are looking for.
Again, let’s dive into some statistics, to see how customer support translates into a positive experience and how it impacts loyalty.
As per an American Express survey, for 68% of customers a pleasant representative was key to their recent positive service experiences. People want someone who understands them, guides them, and helps them find a solution. And, do all this with pleasantness in their voice.
For 66%of adults surveyed by Forrester, the most important thing a company can do to improve online customer experience is to value the customer’s time. Speed up the pace at which you are currently handling customer queries. We’ve already mentioned how it nearly reduced 70% of churn.
Inviting, encouraging, and incorporating customer feedback is one of the best ways of making it to your customers’ good books. 77% of consumers are viewed more favoribly if they do so, says a Microsoft finding.That’s where your retention game gets stronger.
Given that customer loyalty is what your customer support team should be aiming to achieve, investing in the right tools should be at the top of your ‘to-do’ list. For example, you need to look beyond a traditional, bulky helpdesk software that treats important customer queries only as numbered tickets. You can do a lot better than that!
What kills customer loyalty?
Needless to say, there’s no dearth of choice for customers today. At the click of a button they can find alternative options to what they were originally considering. Loyalty is a slippery slope today.
A single instance of bad customer service can make them leave you for a competitor. A Microsoft survey states that nearly 50% of surveyed people switched to a different brand due to bad customer service.
Many don’t even bother to complain. Esteban Kolsky, in his research, states that only 1 in 26 happy customers complain. The rest of them churn.
Personalization in support and in other business processes also plays a key role today. Accenture deep dives into the emphasises that customers today put on hyper-relevance. If you aren’t personalizing your communication and support be ready to lose out on 33% of your customers.
Here’s a handy list that customer service representatives can pin on their workstations to avoid displeasing customers.
- Bad attitude towards complaints
- Inconsistancy in communication
- Lack of clarity in your response
- Arguing with customers
- Being impatient with customers
- Making customers feel unheard
- Not addressing concerns quickly
- Overpromising and under delivering
A sureshot way of losing customers | T-Mobile changes customer’s name to ‘IDIOT IDIOT’
An angry customer service representative working in T-mobile changed a customer’s name to ‘IDIOT’ after recieving multiple billing complaints. Of course, the customer saw this when he logged in to his Twitter account. It’s an ugly situation that T-mobile has got itself into.
Lack of personalization or human-touch wins you zero loyalty
In the age where personalized and hyper-relevance have become pivotal using traditional helpdesks for customer support can prove fatal. When using a traditional ticketing system, your customer representatives absolutely fail to understand who the customer is, and what their ‘real’ concerns are.
All that they are doing all day long is rushing to close as many complaints as possible. Accuracy of response and customer satisfaction with the resolution recieved is least of their concern. You are nowhere close to achieving any customer loyalty when your customer support is relying on such outdated systems.
A better option would be to switch to a tool that has enough scope for personalizing customer communication. Opt for customer support tools like Freshdesk or Kustomer that make communication with customers more about solving problems than about resolving tickets.
Aiming for excellence in customer support
In his book, Win the customer, Not the argument, Don Gallegos tells an interesting story of an angry customer. This customer desperately wanted to return a gallon of milk to the grocery store. And, even though the carton of milk had a competitor’s label on it, the customer service team obliged to do as the customer said. There were absolutely no arguments and no questions asked. The customer was immediately issued a refund. The grocery store won a lifetime of loyalty!
How many companies are doing this today? How many are working towards the customer’s happiness?
What best customer support teams do differently
The best of customer service teams work towards winning over the customer instead of winning repeat sales. The money and conversions will eventually come in. The best of customer service teams know this. What they see as a competitive advantage to business is customers choosing them over and over again.
Everyone is resolving technical glitches. Everyone is getting billing faults rectified. How the best are doing it so brilliantly is what matters.
- They are listening to complaints more kindly
- They are following-up on resolved complaints
- They are having human, empathetic conversations
As Seth Godin says:
“Be genuine. Be remarkable. Be worth connecting with.”
Here’s how you too can do what the creme de la creme is doing to keep customers happy.
- Focus on customer success
The first step that you should take is to shift from a support mindset to a service ideology. Here’s the difference between the two:
- Support is a reactive response to problems. Service is proactive and tries to minimize the complaint incidences.
- Support ends when a problem gets solved. Service is not transactional in nature. It never ends and works towards continuous improvement.
- Support focuses on the number of tickets solved and the time taken to solve them. Service tries to measure the accuracy response of the resolved issues, and how happy customers are with the provided support.
- Lastly, Customer support is a necessary operational cost. However, customer service is an investment towards building brand loyalty.
- Exceed customer expectations
- Identify mistakes and improvement areas
Find out the gaps between what you are currently delivering and what customers actually look forward to in terms of support.
You might be under the impression that just because you addressed a customer query in less than five hours your support is on point. It could be possible though that because two of your customer representatives ended up sending out two different responses to the same email, the customer is rather furious and confused. Some tools that are specifically meant for easing customer support actually end up complicating matters more. For example:
In Help Scout, all communication, be it incoming emails, outgoing replies to those emails, team activity logs, all communication eventually becomes a part of the same thread. It is difficult to avoid response clashes when everyone ends up recieving all queries, and no one has the slightest idea about who is meant to respond. It is quite predictable, in such a scenario, that one customer receives two or more contradictory replies to the same inquiry.
Mesuring such gaps in your support delivery and customer requirement forms is a basic step when you are aiming at exceeding customer expectations.
- Understand customer happiness and delight
People appreciate a quick response. However, what makes them happier is a heatfelt apology. One of the main reasons why people stay after a negative experience is an apology.
What delights them is when after resolving the problem you immediately follow-up, and connect with them from time to time asking if they are facing any other problems. Even better if you offer them a discount as a way of saying ‘thank you’.
- Collecting and working on customer feedback
Finding out what your customers think about your customer support/service function is integral to finding and filling out existing gaps between expectation and reality. It’s easy to miss out on your own flaws. That’s why you need an outsider’s opinion. Your customers are the ‘closest’ outsiders whose word can be taken and trusted.
And, while positive feedback is extremely encouraging there is a wealth of learning hidden in negative customer feedback too.
“Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning.”
Bill Gates, CEO, and Founder of Microsoft
This gets us to the various available methods that you can use to collect feedback. Some of them are as follows:
- Net promoter score surveys
Measures customers’ sentiments about your service and product. Customers give a rating on a scale of 0-1. 0-6 is a bad score, 7-8 is a passive score that indicates indifference, and 9-10 is a good score showing that people are very happy with your service/product.
It’s a good practice to send out an NPS score survey to your client everytime a query is resolved.
- Long form surveys
These questionaire-based surveys have been around for quite some time. However, as of late, companies have realized that longer your surveys don’t cut it anymore.
When people are presented with too many questions to answer they tend to speed through, which in result impacts the quality, accuracy, and reliability of the answers. The more questions you present them with the lesser time they’ll spend on each.
Stick to 5-10 questions for feedback collected to be accurate and credible.
Ask open-ended questions if you really want to know what the customer is thinking. No use asking him ‘How was the onboarding’. You’ll get a better response if you instead ask ‘What can we do to improve our onboarding experience?’
- In-app surveys
Collecting feedback as and when a customer is using an app is one of the best ways of fetching precise feedback. Maybe, they aren’t able to locate a certain tab, or find that a link is broken. In-app surveys make sure that you get notified of such glitches as soon as a customer discovers them. If they were to reach out to you on a support address later they might not have taken the trouble at all.
You can combine in-app surveys with a follow-up NPS to get a complete picture on how happy customers are with your service and response. When a customer reaches out to you with glitches he has discovered in real-time you need to make sure that those issues get fixed in the shortest possible span of time.
- Social listening tools
An unhappy customer is highly likely to share his negative experience with friends, family, and with others in his social circle.
It is important to keep a watch on what customers – existing and previous – are talking about your product or service on their social channels.
Manually, it can be difficult to keep a tab on all conversations happening around your company and it’s services. That’s where social listening tools like Hootsuite, Buffer, Buzzsumo, etc., step in.
A lot of people Tweet their negative experiences. A tool like Tweetreach can help you monitor such mentions and respond to them in real-time.
- Suggestion boards
The ultimate purpose of feedback is to make something better. Suggestion boards are the perfect way of accomplishing this using collective and collaborative customer feedback.
When one customer posts a suggestion, others can upvote it or comment on it to give their opinion. This brings out the real value in a submitted feedback or suggestion.
Someone, for example, points out that it has been more than four days that he recieved an update on his cancelled order. Eight people upvote. There are four comments saying that there have been delays in communication from your customer service representatives.
You know there is a problem. Maybe, because you are using Google Collaborative Inbox it is giving you a hard time figuring out the status of email responses. Maybe, it is time that you should be using a tool that gives you better control over team and response management.
The valuable feedback that you’ve collected is a complete waste if you don’t make use of it. Work on the suggested improvements, do even better where you are doing good already, and always go back to your users and tell them you implemented something they suggested.
- Maintain standard of excellence
You can only manage that you can measure. And, this holds true even for the standard of customer service you are providing. Quantifying customer satisfaction and happiness into key performance indicators is important if you want tangible proof of your current performance, and want to improve in the future.
Covered here at the 10 most important metrics you need to track to see if you are meeting set service standards. With every metric, we’ve also provided a handy ‘Use This’ section, so you know exactly what to do to improve.
1. Average Ticket Count (Daily/Weekly/Monthly)
This is the average number of daily, weekly and monthly tickets you recieve. Depending on the volume of tickets, you’ll want to allocate a specific period (say a week or a month), and keep track of the tickets you receive in that period. Keeping average ticket count will help you identify frequently occurring issues and determine whether they can be automated or not.
Improving performance on this metric: Meeting standards of excellence on this metric requires your customer service team to understand why a certain issue is occuring frequently. And, then working on resolving that issue to bring down the ticket count for that particular problem.
2. First Response Time
The time (minutes, hours, or days) between when a customer 1st submits a ticket and when a support representative provides his 1st response. Sending the first response within the shortest possible time span after recieving a customer’s email is a sign that you genuinely care about what customers expect from your support team. As per a study by CMO Council, 47% of customers expect that customer support responds within 24 hours to customers, while more than 22% expect an instant response.
Improving performance on this metric: Always respond with an answer, to a customer within 24-hours of recieving an email. You can acknowledge the reciept of a query with an automated email immediately.
Additionally, reaching out with accurate answers is important. A metric like quick issue resolution times can mislead you to believing that your customer service team is doing great. It’s a known practice among many service based companies where the support staff tags tickets as resolved without actually resolving the issue completely and upto the satisfaction levels of customers, only to meet their targets. This can be a huge blunder.
3.Number of Interactions per Ticket
Quanitifies the amount of interactions between a support representative and the customer about a single challenge before coming to a resolution. An efficiency metric, it shows the calibre of your support executives at understanding and solving a given problem.
Improving performance on this metric Assign customer queries to team members best equiped to handle them. Effectively delegate customer support emails and also keep a check on the status of the reply. Number of interactions will automatically reduce when no more than one person is responding to the same customer.
4. Self-Service Usage
Most customers would rather resolve issues on their own than speak to a customer support agent. This is where self-service tools come in handy. The more customers use your self-help channels, the better it is for your company. If you find more customers accessing your self-help documents than reaching out to you by phone or email, consider it a job well done.
Improving performance on this metric: Make sure your Help and FAQs section is easy to understand. Try and provide in-app support for customers to find answers for themselves quickly and easily. Chatbots and AI-enabled interactive tools can be put to good use for self-service usage.
5. Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT)
Customer satisfaction is a subjective metric that doesn’t give a complete picture on its own. That’s why, to get a better picture, use this metric in combination with other important metrics.
For example, people might give you a high customer satisfaction score because they are really happy with your flexible payment plans. However, they might not give you a terrific NPS score because they are facing many challenges with your tool’s interface.
Improving performance on this metric: To get a higher customer satisfaction score you’ll need to drill deeper into customer problems. Drill deeper to find out why there is a mismatch between the NPS score and customer satisfaction score. Use follow-up questions in your NPS, for those customers who give a rating of 6 or less. Clearly, ask them their reason for such a low score.
6. Customer Experience Rating
Customer experience rating is a key customer service metric. It ultimately impacts your customer retention, upselling/cross-selling, and satisfaction rates. When customers give your support reps a five star rating for their service, it means that they really like how their problems are being dealt with.
To get a higher customer experience score from your customers focus on making their interactions with your staff a pleasant experience. Small things like the tone and voice of your support staff, promptness in their reply, their concern about what could be the real challenge facing the customer, and the willingness to keep customers informed at all points, all account for the kind of experience that customers look forward to.
To measure customer experience, make use of transactional surveys and in-person feedback.
Improving performance on this metric: A customer could have a rather bad experience with your customer service team for having recieved two clashing responses to a single problem. This could ruin your customer experience rating. Make sure that you are well-equipped to prevent such ugly collisions and work duplications.
To communicate with your customers, try using shared inboxes that work from within Gmail. Using shared inboxes you can categorize all your customer support emails as unassigned, mine, team, pending, or closed. When emails are neatly categorized, everyone on the team has complete clarity on what has do be done, what is complete, who is working on what, etc. This prevents any sort of work duplication, or response collision. In turn, it improves customers’ interaction experience with your support team. No reason that they don’t score you high on this metric, now.
7. Customer Effort Score (CES)
Measures how much effort a customer has to put in to use your product. It is indicative of how user-friendly and intuitive your product or app is. In terms of customer service, CES, quantifies the effort it took for customers to solve their problem or get their questions answered from your service representatives.
Improving performance on this metric: Always automate and assign customer problems to the best person equiped to take it up. Assigning support emails automatically is best done using a tool that provides such a functionality. A simple tool like Intercomm will suffice.
8. Customer Churn
The metric stands for the percentage of customers that unsubscribed from or stopped using your company’s product or service during a certain time frame. One of the most important metrics for any organization, customer churn, needs to be dealt in time, with complete knowledge about what is making customer’s leave. Of course, some will stop working with you once their subscription expires. That’s unavoidable. In that case your focus should be on finding out if they’d like to renew and become repeat visitors.
Improving performance on this metric: No single strategy or tactic is sufficient to deal with churn. Reducing customer churn requires that you deliver exceptional customer support, make your customers feel valued and cared for, ask for and implement feedback, and work hard towards crafting a meaningful long-term customer-company relation.
9. Customer Retention Rate
This metric depicts the percentage of customers you have with you as of now compared to the number that you had at the beginning of a certain time frame. This does not take into account the new customers you have aquired during that period.
Improving performance on this metric: Just like with churn rate there is no single strategy that works for increasing retention rate. To get an idea, however, we’ll discuss how you can increase retention for one segment, say ‘high NPS raters’.
Begin by asking them why they gave you a rating of more than 8 on the NPS. Dig deeper to find out if there is anything that they dislike about your customer service. Also, ask them to be a part of your suggestion board and submit regular feedback there. These efforts and involvement from your customer service team is likely to win them over, and keep them loyal.
10. Repurchase Rate
An often overlooked customer service metric, Repurchase rate is generally used by companies that do not have a subscription model. These could be e-commerce companies or consumer product businesses.
Customer experience with both the product and the service that these businesses provide impacts the repurchase rate. For example, if you are an eCommerce business and your customer service team doesn’t handle return requests effectively, your service quality will be seen as poor, and will in turn negatively affect the repurchase rate.
Improving performance on this metric: Ask for customer service feedback on messengers. Resolve and process return requests quickly. Offer refunds on damaged products. These measures show that your customer service team is always on its feet to help you. That’s how your customers will become repeat buyers, and your repurchase rate will go up.
Bringing customer-focus in your communication
Communication is the essence of all relationships. When it comes to business-customer relations, the way you talk to your customers reflects your company’s culture.
Your customer service team carries this huge responsibility of your brand being perceived positively by customers. That’s why customer representatives are often given communication etiquette training before they join the team. Also, most companies use email for support. Learning email etiquette, therefore, becomes all the more important if you are working in the customer support department.
Here’s a handy checklist that you can refer to for writing compelling email responses
- Automate. But not make responses seem robotic
Give your automated emails a human-touch rather than making them sound robotic. Below is an example of a bad email that lacks a personal touch.
We’ve recieved your inquiry. Your ticket number is #23478. Once your ticket is resolved we’ll let you know. For future communication on this query/inquiry please mention this ticket number.
Instead, personalize your communication.
Here’s how you can respond warmly and in a friendlier way.
Subject: Your inquiry is in the right hands. We are working on it.
Thanks for letting us know about the challenges you are facing with the tool. We have taken a look at your raised request and will solve your problem in the next 6 business hours.
Be back soon,
2. Keep communication structured
Offload too many instructions from your email. Don’t make it look like a ‘to-follow’ troubleshooting guide. If you can’t avoid the ‘step-wise’ approach in your email, please keep the email readable. Make use of pointers and logically sequence the steps instead of wrapping everything up in paragraphs.
3. Don’t be vague
Your response should be precise and clear. Don’t say ‘We’ll be back in touch as soon as possible’. The customer doesn’t want that anxiety of having to wait for your response. Tell him instead, ‘ We are on it and will be back with a response in the next two hours’.
4. Take a problem-solving approach, first
When a customer specifically asks about how to use your ‘analytics tool for social listening’, don’t send him an email with a ‘Complete guide into our analytics capability’ that you’ve just compiled and published. No customer wants a self-help guide that only leaves him more confused with information overload. Get in touch over a call and walk them through the social listening feature. Thereafter, send a follow-up email asking for feedback on support. In this email, you can ask them if they need a guide to go through in-depth about the features on your analytics dashboard.
5. Pay attention to the tone, voice, and grammar in your emails
Double-check your emails for grammatical, spelling, and typographical errors. It is equally important to be polite. Avoid imperatives like “do this, click here, or search this.” Such language is commanding. Following are listed some negative phrases that you should avoid using as much as possible
- You claim that..
- You mean to say that..
- We cannot understand how..
- You should rather..
- You must..
Instead, use polite phrases. Examples:
- If you could send us (the screenshot), we’ll be happy to take it up
- It would be great if you could (the idea)
- One option in which this can be approached (whatever)
D. Be digitally diligent
Who would have thought that the world will come to a standstill in 2020? The outbreak of a pandemic has brought everything into a messy state. Only, a few truly digitally reliant companies are coping well with this new ‘normal’. The rest are still only trying.
Running customer support remotely can be a complete nightmare when you really haven’t ever previously managed work from home employees. Now, you are faced with managing your entire team that’s gone remote. Neither is your team used to it. It would have been great if your company culture permitted work from home as a policy. At least, that way, you wouldn’t have to start from scratch.
Not much is lost yet, though. You can still continue providing excellent customer support if you manage to keep your remote team productive and motivated. Here are a few quick tips on how:
Great support is all about putting your best forward, always. Whether your support team is working from the office, working from home, or is entirely remote – they should meet the set standards without fail.
- Organize scrum-style daily meetups. Fix up the scrums for a time that’s convenient for all. Ask each team member about what they are working on and if they are, so far, facing any challenges. Ask them to share a report on their daily work, in an excel, at the end of the day.
- Organize weekly virtual meetups where you can talk about what goals were successfully achieved, and which team members were able to complete deliverables on time. This will help make everyone feel like a team. Additionally, will keep the competitive spirit alive.
- Play a game, maybe, to make home feel like a lively office abuzz with people. It could be something as simple as sharing pictures of your ‘office space at home’. Such fun activities are a great stress buster and a huge motivitational push that keeps everyone connected.
Steer clear of internal collaboration hiccups
Collaboration loopholes exist everywhere and can easily grow exponentially if you don’t know how to coordinate in a virtual environment. Two customer service reps working from home, for example, could unknowningly and unintendingly be replying to the same customer query. Similarly, there can be an indefinite delay in responses that have to be made urgently and are important, if clear directives aren’t given in time.
Using the right tools can streamline the flow of communication helping you steer clear of hotpotch.
Shared inboxes help you streamline collaboration. It’s easy to have all team members on the same page about who is working on what when using a shared inbox you can automate and assign emails, label them clearly as important, urgent, completed, pending, etc.
Great customer support is all about driving relations. If you are able to make your existing customers feel happy – happy enough that they talk positively about your product – you are on the right path.
How do you plan to take customer support from good to great in your organisation? Do write in.