20 tips to deliver excellent customer service

Salesforce, one of the largest providers of customer relationship management (CRM) software globally, has come up with a report ‘20 customer service best practices: How to deliver exceptional service’ outlining the core best practices of excellent customer service.

Using feedback from customers, product experts, and thought leaders, Salesforce has pulled together the following 20 customer service best practices, with five aimed at great service across channels, five around treating customers well, and 10 focused on building a world-class team. Let’s take a look.

Know your customers, wherever they are

Customers often report lower satisfaction when companies force them to visit multiple channels to resolve their support issues. Make sure your agents know your customers well, including what they want, their history with you, their preferred communication channels, etc, the report says. That way, if customers begin a conversation on email, they don’t have to start over if they switch to phone or live chat.

Leverage customer information

Use your contact center as the collection point for complaints, comments, and product suggestions. Your team should centralize all customer data in one place, making it accessible to anyone involved in the customer service experience, Salesforce says.

Use channels your customers prefer

When a new customer arrives, that’s the time to find out which channels they prefer for service assistance. As part of your on-boarding process or welcome call, have your agents ask which channels customers prefer to use for service issues.

If part of your on-boarding includes a welcome email, include a handy “cheat sheet” of all of your service team’s contact channels. As well, include calls-to-action in your marketing content asking customers to connect with you on their preferred mediums, Salesforce report adds.

Go mobile

Mobile options, such as text messaging, aren’t a dominant channel for most contact centres, but companies need to start thinking about it as a service option. Mobile offers a platform that’s always with the customer, and offers a real one on one feel. Does your customer service center consider other options for customers to connect, like mobile and beyond, asks Salesforce report.

Provide omni-channel training

Your agents won’t become multichannel masters overnight. As you add service channels, your customer support agents need to be trained on how to use them effectively, adds the report.

Share helpful content

To empower your customers, you must help them become sources of knowledge. Useful content – whether it’s a blog post, webinar, social post, or white paper – can help solve your customers’ issues while enabling them to easily share this information with others, says Salesforce report.

Keep it real

It sounds obvious, but staying away from canned responses and ensuring every interaction is authentic are critical to successful customer service. Train your customer service teams to be genuine, and encourage an open and candid tone with customers. If your customers feel comfortable, they will speak honestly – which helps you solve problems faster, the report adds.

Turn setbacks into solutions

Unfortunately, many companies will have customers who like to gripe. Customer service provides a place for them to let off steam. Remember, this can be a very positive and productive development, helping current customers, as well as your product teams, understand product capabilities and limitations. Ensure your team treats every complaint as an opportunity to make your organization even better, Salesforce report adds.

Leverage the experts

Encourage your agents to collaborate directly with the external experts in your industry. Choose experts that are devoted fans of your products, highly engaged, and ready to help others get the most out of your offerings to create even more highly satisfied customers, says Salesforce.

Follow the regulations

Ensure that with any customer interaction, industry regulations are followed. This can be particularly important when adding new channels, such as a contact center adding a live chat option that may be used to collect credit card data from customers, Salesforce report says.

Start with the interview

During a session at 2013’s Call Center Week event, Kimberly Warrick, Client Services Manager at NJ Shares noted that agent motivation should be considered from the very first interview. Here, you have your prospective agent directly in front of you, ready to answer any questions. That’s the time to get your first look at what motivates them. Before they’ve even put on a headset, you’ve got the chance to make note of what will keep this potential service team member motivated, says Salesforce.

Hire for culture fit

Many agents will have the skills, fewer will have the attitude. The right culture fit should be what gets an agent hired. Sometimes, it may be worth keeping customer service positions open a bit longer to find the right person rather than rushing to fill available positions. The long-term cost of hiring the wrong person can be much greater than keeping those spots unfilled. Cutting down on attrition begins with bringing the right people on board in the first place, Salesforce report says.

Think beyond the cubicle

The millennial generation has huge career aspirations, and as potential hires, they often make up their mind during training whether they’ll work at your center for a long-term period, adds Salesforce report.

Implement gamification

There is a plenty of buzz surrounding gamification in sales, but the very same tactics can benefit contact centers as well. Gamification brings an element of fun to an occasionally monotonous job, says Salesforce.

Leverage channels to reduce monotony

Adding new customer service channels doesn’t simply offer new options for customers to interact with your company. Agents benefit by acquiring and using additional skill sets that can improve their resumes while breaking up the monotony of their day, Salesforce report says.

Allow for flexible scheduling

A company that recognizes that agents require that flexibility in their work schedule, and whose management team trusts employees enough to make shift changes happen easily, is a company that will attract and retain a higher percentage of their workforce, adds Salesforce.

Frame the job in a meaningful way

Your employees need to know they are making a real difference for your customers, and they aren’t just a collection of metrics and numbers, the report maintains.

Reward, reward, reward

Reward employees for a job well done and be certain the rewards are those that can be put to use outside of the company walls. Work-life balance is important to your employees, so if possible, keep your reward initiatives focused on helping your agents make better use of their time away from the contact center, Salesforce report says.

Give regular feedback & acknowledgement

You don’t always need to spend money on tangible rewards in order to make your team feel motivated. Quite often, a supervisor’s quick email or internal social network mention to a team member on a job well done is equally as effective as a gift certificate. Continue to celebrate even incremental successes with even the smallest acknowledgement can brighten the day of an agent dealing with an otherwise stressful shift, the report adds.

Provide opportunities for career growth

A lack of career opportunities is often one of the top reasons for leaving a job. Experienced, top performing support agents often feel like they’ve hit a glass ceiling in a contact center. Try allowing these agents opportunities to try out new roles, even temporarily, Salesforce report says.

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