How many memorable meals have you had in your lifetime? What made them so remarkable? It probably came down to a few simple things: the finest and freshest ingredients, combined in a defined order, and cooked for a certain amount of time at a precise temperature to perfection. Simple, right? No, because even the slightest failure in any one of those areas would ruin the dish.
As with cooking, serving up great customer service is not without its challenges. There is no one thing to focus on; rather, it’s a matter of combining many elements together. While there are many parts to consider, it can be boiled down to a few essentials:
- Establish a customer-centric culture – If an organization isn’t putting the customer first, many items on this list might prove to be that much more challenging or even impossible. Silos must be torn down and teams must work together to recognize fixing customer issues isn’t the sole responsibility of customer service. A poor customer experience–be it product quality, billing problems, or other issues–aren’t the fault of customer service, after all.
- Utilize a customer service platform – Connecting teams and strengthening the customer-centric culture requires a means of shared visibility into customers and their issues as well as communication and keeping departments outside customer service accountable. In addition, it should support standard customer service processes such as case management.
- Make it easy for customers to connect – Customers have different communication preferences. In addition, problems can occur at any time. Offering robust omnichannel, mobile-friendly service options are a must.
- Invest in knowledge – knowledge management ensures solutions are available to both customers and agents alike. It also provides answers other service channels like chatbots can tap into. To stay viable, knowledge management requires adherence to curation processes that not only ensure development and maintenance of current material, but also the retirement of not-needed solutions.
- Empower agents with strong service tools – Despite gains in automation, self-service, and machine learning, the most important resource in the service center continue to be its agents. They require efficient case management as well as assistive capabilities that suggest potential relevant knowledge articles and facilitate easy submission of new knowledge management articles.
- Listen to customers – Be it CSAT, NPS, or another measurement, look for opportunities to periodically survey customers to collect their feedback. Their time is valuable, so offer an incentive for them to provide their beneficial insights.
- Offer self-service – Customers are pressed for time, so it’s no surprise nearly three-quarters start their search for a solution online. Modern customer service platforms offer a myriad of self-service capabilities, including automated solutions powered by workflow, knowledge management, online communities, and virtual agents (chatbots).
- Map the customer service journey and secret shop – Mapping lays out the intended path and secret shopping is the audit. Map and reimagine the journey periodically, but regularly secret shop all customer service paths.
- Permanently address issues – Workarounds are different from permanent solutions. With a customer-centric culture (#1) and a customer service platform (#2) in place, it’s possible for issues raised by customers to customer service to be assigned to and resolved by other departments. Product and service quality issues can be routed to manufacturing and engineering. Billing problems are directed to finance. Rather than answer the problem repeatedly, the core issues can be identified and permanently fixed so the issue does not recur, improving the overall customer experience.
- Leverage machine learning – Machine learning is a critical investment for organizations. 89% of CIOs report they either currently use or plan to use machine learning. Modern customer service platforms offer machine learning to automate mundane work such as categorizing, prioritizing, and assigning cases or suggest solutions to agents based on prior solved cases (both in support of #5).
- Solve problems proactively – Problems don’t typically affect only a few customers–characteristics that led to the problem manifesting in the first place are shared across many customers. Rather than provide reactive service, work to preempt issues. Collect and maintain current information so that similar customers can be easily segmented. When problems occur that only affect customers with certain characteristics, they can then be easily identified, notified of the problem, and provided with a solution when available. Proactive service offers two great benefits: it raises the bar on service in the customer’s eyes and prevents high volumes of calls, emails, chats, and more when there is a problem.
- Continue iterating – customer service is dynamic and ever-changing. Some of that is increasing customer expectations. Another is new and more efficient means of servicing them. Changes in other business processes also impact customer service. Customer service leaders must stay vigilant for ways to improve and optimize service delivery.
A memorable meal is a sum of many parts. The dishes must be planned out and compliment each other. Each course requires the finest ingredients. Preparation requires adding things in the right order, at the right time, and cooked or chilled precisely.
Like a great meal, remarkable customer service doesn’t come out of a box. There are many aspects to consider and the work is ongoing. By carefully combining the ingredients above, though, it’s possible to not only deliver amazing customer service but to also improve the overall customer experience.