The New Year is a time for new opportunities—a time to turn over a new leaf, start a new habit and become a better person. Of course, the New Year is also a time for businesses to set goals, to reevaluate the past year and chart a new course for the year to come.
Customer service, just like any department, can benefit from implementing new goals for the coming year. Here are five resolutions you can set for customer service in 2016, along with some helpful tips on implementing them.
1. Integrate those channels
Despite our 2014 prediction that omnichannel would be a large part of customer service, companies are still struggling to integrate channels, CRMs and any other software. In fact, nearly 50% of contact centers name integration as their top challenge. But despite the technological hurdles, creating more informed interactions has some pretty substantial benefits: improved personalization, lower call handling time, high customer satisfaction, less customer effort, etc.
So how can you go about integrating channels and providing a better seamless experience? Start with these five steps:
- Identify what channels you do have: Are they well maintained? When was the last time they were updated? It’s a new year, so start fresh and make sure your service channels are well-maintained and in good shape for the year to come.
- Next, figure out if it’s worth getting rid of some channels? Are some of them not used? Is there any way you could promote use of a certain channel on other channels?
- Next, figure out if any of your channels are currently integrated. Are there any that are a natural fit for integration? Consider adding them here.
- Next, figure out if you could benefit from adding new channels? Are there some that go naturally together, like voice and text or mobile apps and the web?
- Next, figure out how to get these channels integrated. That may mean working with a developer to connect those channels, or finding a third party vendor that will be able to add the functionality you want.
2. Focus on the employee experience
Our 2015 influencers report found that the number one way to improve customer service was to focus on the employee experience. And there are a lot of benefits to focusing on the employee experience:
- Companies with engaged employees outperform those with unengaged employees by over 200% (Dale Carnegie Training)
- Employees who feel valued by their organization are 60% more likely to be motivated to do their best (American Psychology Association)
- 91% of highly engaged employees always try their hardest at work, compared to 68% of disengaged employees (Temkin Group)
But how do you go about engaging employees? After all, each employee is different and what motivates them changes. We’d suggesting talking to each employee and find out what motivates them. Is it money, a day off, the ability to wear sweatpants on Fridays? It’ll depend, and that’s okay. (However, research shows that the benefits employees are most interested in are compensation (40%), better benefits (36%), career/advancement opportunities (34%) and training/education (31%)).
If you’re sensing a common trend among what people want (ie a monthly bonus), think about deploying gamification and corresponding benefits/rewards. This could be as simple as rewarding the person who has the shortest call time, but a better way to go about it is to let everyone level up individually. You might consider using software like Bunchball to do this, but again, you don’t need to get high tech. What matters is that you’ve found what motivates each employee to do better personally and professionally.
3. Go mobile
The world is going mobile quite rapidly: over two billion global citizens will own a smartphone by the end of the year. Luckily, companies are starting to account for that mobile experience: 38% of contact centers offer texting/instant messaging, and 26% have a smartphone application.
That might be because there’s a lot that goes into a mobile experience—text, apps, mobile web, etc. So how do you provide the best mobile experience possible, especially given all these varying factors?
Start by focusing on your customers’ and prospects’ most used mobile channels. What can you do to design a better mobile experience? Do you need to update an app? Do you need to create an app? If an app isn’t cost-effective, would texting be a better option? It’s really about knowing your customers and what their mobile habits are.
Texting, for example, is one great way to engage with customers. 80% of Americans text, and Pew Research found it’s the most used “app” on a smartphone. In addition, over 60% of Americans would prefer to use texting for customer service.
Once you’ve identified your customers’ most used mobile channels, go about integrating them if it makes sense. For example, could you use texting to drive mobile app downloads, or can customers input their phone number on a mobile website to get a text message when their order is ready? The possibilities are endless.
4. Be consistent
There’s nothing worse than making promises in customer service and not following through. It’s equally as bad to move customers to a new channel and not follow through on where the conversation left off.
Just check out these tweets from a few disgruntled customers who didn’t get what they were promised.
I received a bill two days ago for cancellation fees that @CenturyLink promised I wouldn’t be charged. Now 2hrs on hold! Worst co ever!!!
— Simon Hartt (@simon_hartt) January 7, 2016
Been on hold with @BCBSNC for 2 hours. Get it together! Worst customer service I’ve ever seen!
— GAMINGwithMOLT (@molt_CoC) January 11, 2016
@O2 shocking service. Chat not available, no updates on twitter or on website, no explanation after being on hold for 30 mins!!
— In Stainless Eng (@InStainless) January 7, 2016
Mistakes will happen, and things will fall through the cracks, but that doesn’t mean they should. In fact, Zendesk found that 87% of customers expect a seamless customer experience.
To avoid any discrepancies in delivering on promises, have a script ready when talking to customers to make sure you’re addressing all relevant points. Sure, you can deviate, but make sure you’re hitting the required talking points so that you can get them all the information they need. You should also coordinate with other departments to make sure that promises made in marketing, and vice versa, are followed through on.
Being technologically consistent is equally important. Instead of making customers start over, integrate channels so that their interaction is tracked across channels. This typically involves an integration with your CRM and communication channels, so make sure you have a good developer on hand or find a solution provider that can meet your needs.
5. Be human
A lot of the customer service resolutions we’ve mentioned incorporate technology, but in an increasingly technological world, it’s important to take a step back and reevaluate our customer service strategies. And while automation is important, it’s just one piece of the customer service puzzle.
Customers aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet or email addresses in a database—they’re real people, with real opinions and feelings.
So how do you make your service more human? Consider surveying customers to find out what they think of your brand—chances are they’ll have valuable feedback that can benefit your organization. There’s lots of different types of surveys that can benefit your brand: NPS, CSAT, CES, etc.
Reach out to them on channels they use (see 1 and 3), or direct them to surveying services like Mailchimp. When interacting with customers live, don’t just speak off a script—let it guide your conversation, but don’t let it restrict it
Of course, there’s always the good-old fashioned “give them a call.” There is something to be said for a human touch, even if it’s just talking on the phone. Alternatively, send them a gift, or a card, just something to let them know you’re there and you care.
These resolutions are by no means an exhaustive list, but hopefully they’ve given you some ideas on how to provide a great service experience in 2016 and beyond.
To learn from more than 60 pros how to provide great customer service, download our influencers report here.
Photo credit: Unsplash. CC0 License. Edited.