As much as customer satisfaction (CSAT), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and Customer Effort Score (CES) are touted as important keyholes to understand how customers perceive your brand, they are just lagging indicators. These insights are easy to measure but difficult to influence. They present the effectiveness of your customer support.
So the question emerges – what do you do with your CSAT and NPS results? If the outcomes are great – congratulations! – you already have a great customer service and you should find ways to keep the momentum up. But don’t just sit on your laurels; recognize and document the best practices, reward the top performing staff, and apply the techniques mentioned below to improve your customer engagement further.
If the outcomes are not-so-great, these metrics are not the best starting place to look at. There are a few more things that you should first work on in order to improve your customer support. Maybe your support team staff aren’t motivated or trained enough, maybe the tools they use aren’t that efficient, or maybe your business needs more hands on the support deck. Whatever the cause may be, take a step back and look for cracks in your customer support efforts. If you are serious about improving the quality of your customer service, you should focus first on improving these areas where you have direct control.
Here are a few things you can do to uplift the quality of your customer support and strengthen your relationship marketing efforts.
1. Train your customer support staff
Businesses recognize that customer support is the new marketing, but it isn’t the kind of marketing that gets you short-term acquisitions and sales. It’s a part of relationship marketing to help you retain customers and improve brand loyalty. And so, training your support team becomes very important.
Profit in business comes from repeat customers; customers that boast about your product and service, and that bring friends with them.
– W. Edwards Deming
It’s great to train your support staff on etiquettes, effective communication, empathy, handling resentful customers with patience, and the whole nine yards. But if you want to create exceptional customer service, you should train all your employees exceptionally on the above things, and then some. Here is a short list of things that you should train your staff on:
- Being proficient at using software they have to use daily
- Understanding all products and services related to your business
- Understanding products and services that rival your business
- Shadow training new/novice support executives, when needed
- Getting an accountability coach to hold them responsible
- Overcoming unconscious biases when dealing with customers
Training your staff to have an in-depth product knowledge is extremely important so that they don’t fumble when they interact with customers who expect proper guidance and timely solution for their problems. These hard skills should be scalable and measurable.
While it’s very important for your staff to be tools trained so that they develop deftness and become more productive of their time, it’s equally important for them to learn soft skills such as being more accountable, supportive, and culturally-sensitive. At Freshworks, we make all new employees undergo a multi-day training on understanding self and overcoming their unconscious biases so that we can cater to the needs of our global audience without being disrespectful and culturally insensitive.
Ideally, employees (especially in the customer service team) should already demonstrate these skills and traits when you consider them for hiring so that you can reinforce their Type B personalities further with proper training.
Your customer support agents should be able to answer anything and everything honestly, even if that means making your business look imperfect. Sometimes, that honesty becomes the differentiator in building trust and gravitating the right people to your business.
2. Create excellent first impressions with a faster response time
First response time or first reply time (FRT) is one of the ways businesses measure the speed of support to their customers. It’s the number of seconds, minutes, hours, or even days that your customer support team takes to answer the phone, reply to emails, or acknowledge a support ticket.
First response time is not a solution by itself, but it’s nonetheless important. Customers expect speed in communication; they want to be assured that their issues are being taken care of. That means you don’t have to obsess yourself with perfect answers to respond to customer from the get-go, just acknowledging their concerns and reassuring a solution makes your FRT successful most of the times.
The latest industry average of first time to response among B2B businesses in customer support, for example, is 31 seconds. It means that if your business takes longer than a minute to respond to customers who reach you out for support, you’re trailing behind by 50% in the competition.
The longer you wait, the harder it is to produce outstanding customer service.
– William H. Davidow
But how do you improve your first response time? The base step to improve first response time is to measure it. Is your support team taking a long time to respond to customers than you would expect them to? Based on the finding, you might want to adopt tools and tactics that will cut down the long wait time for customers.
Live messaging, for instance, can drastically cut down first response time even for smaller teams. A live chat widget is always accessible, both for your customers and your support team. Unlike phone support, where customers have to go in phone tree circles to talk to a human, chat is always-on. Support representatives can reply to incoming chats instantly instead of the ~10 hours that it takes for them to individually reply to emails. They can reply faster and also chat with multiple customers simultaneously instead of talking to them one-on-one.
3. Create room for self-service
Not all customers like chatting with support agents. A majority of today’s consumers binge on self-help books, spend their weekends doing DIY projects, or prefer making bank deposits at a drive-through ATM kiosk. There is a reason why self-service is on the rise – it’s convenient, available 24/7, and empowering to consumers.
A 2017 report by Aberdeen found that businesses with good self-service programs saw an 85% more year-over-year uptick in customer retention rates as against companies that didn’t offer self-service. Businesses are starting to take heed of the increase in demand for self-service and recognize its potential to better their customer support.
Customer experience is the next competitive battleground.
– Jerry Gregoire
If you want to improve your customer service, recalibrate your customer-facing interfaces to attend to your customers’ needs. Load up your Knowledge Base with FAQs, help guides, video tutorials, etc. and make sure your customers can find answers to their questions in a quick and convenient way.
Freshchat customers, for instance, love the integrated FAQs that appears within the chat widget on their website. When end customers click on the widget, they can instantly see the FAQ channel and find answers to their questions within the widget without ever having to leave the page or talk to an associate. They can upvote or downvote an FAQ content so that businesses can take that feedback and improve their content.
While self-service clearly is a must-have customer engagement channel, it’s ROI is also evident for businesses. HBR hails self-service as a kickass customer service because “the cost of a do-it-yourself transaction is measured in pennies, while the average cost of a live service interaction is more than $7 for a B2C company and more than $13 for a B2B company.”
Don’t stop improving
It’s important to measure and reflect on metrics that define your level of customer care, but what’s more important is you see those numbers as signposts and redirect your efforts to reach the goal you have set for your business. In today’s age of digital customer service, it’s easy for buyers to switch lanes and take their business elsewhere when their experience doesn’t match their expectation.
Work on improving your time to first response, refining your self-service offering, and providing continuous training to your support staff to create a world-class customer support.
Here’s a video recap of the three points discussed in the article above. Share the video and spread the word on how can businesses improve their CSAT and NPS by improving their customer service.