Customer service excellence is not out of reach, if you can align three crucial components, writes Christophe DuMonet.
Customer service is the heart of any organisation; happy customers mean brand loyalty, a healthy bottom line and a wide horizon for growth. Outstanding customer service requires successful alignment of three key components: people, process and technology (PPT). The next three paragraphs describe each of these components, with some of the common challenges associated with each, and some suggestions about developing a comprehensive customer service program without breaking the budget.
Customer service is the ultimate people business. You need smart, articulate, flexible, creative people on your team, with a broad range of conflict resolution and problem-solving skills. Unfortunately, many aspects of customer service are repetitive, time-consuming and boring. Without ways to utilise their most important talents, skilled customer service representatives (CSRs) often burn out and move on. Minimising the amount of time spent doing routine tasks and maximizing the time spent helping customers will help you retain your best CSRs and attract the kind of new hires you need. In addition, you can learn a lot from your best CSRs about how to improve their job satisfaction. Treating them as the experts in their field – which they are – can open new insights into streamlining their workflows and making the best use of their talents.
If it’s hard to keep your top CSRs because of the high number of routine, repetitive tasks, it’s time to look at your customer service process. How do your CSRs document their calls? How do they identify problems, take orders, troubleshoot product malfunctions and resolve disputes? Are these procedures fast, efficient and easy to remember? Could they be automated to save time and reduce errors? Are CSRs involved in designing and implementing new procedures? If CSRs are the actors in your customer service theatre, the process is the play they’re performing. It needs to highlight their talents, shore up their weaknesses and bring out the best they have to offer. Pairing top-notch CSRs with effective, service-focused processes will make your customers applaud!
Technology, from the pencil to the tablet computer, is the bedrock of your customer service toolkit. In the theatre analogy, technology is the stage, supporting both the actors and the script. You want it to be simple, intuitive and reliable. Your CSRs want it to be efficient and accurate so they can spend their time helping customers instead of struggling with technical glitches. Your customers want it to be tailored to their needs so that their calls go quickly and smoothly. As technology advances, new tools are available to support every aspect of customer service, from language translation to order entry to quality reporting. With the right array of tools, your CSRs will feel empowered to do what they do best – make your customers happy.
Customer service teams are often underfunded, which makes it difficult to implement large-scale improvements. By breaking down your operation into the three components of PPT, however, you can identify changes that are moderate in cost but have a big impact on your team’s performance. A third-party vendor may be able to help you prioritise your needs and help you visualize the solutions you need. Manual processes that your CSRs find tedious or vulnerable to error may be streamlined into automated, paperless versions that in turn yield detailed reports. Decreased time spent in documentation will free up your CSRs to focus on your customers – and significantly reduce your call wait times.
If you are looking for ways to improve your customer service performance, download this detailed white paper to see how a comprehensive PPT approach may fit your needs.
Christophe DuMonet is managing director of Esker ANZ.