Customer Service 201: Take Your Program to the Next Level

Customer Service 201: Take Your Program to the Next Level

You’ve put many hours and effort into surviving your first year in business and learned a lot (congratulations!). Now it’s time to sit down, review and make the changes needed to improve what you’ve worked so hard to build.

While this practice could apply to all parts of the business, I want to talk to you about reviewing your customer experience and taking your program to the next level to achieve your ultimate goal: Customers that keep coming back.

Table of Contents: How to improve your customer experience program

  1. Review all parts of your business
  2. Identify new best business practices
  3. Listen to your customers
  4. Personalize the customer experience
  5. Educate your team

Review all parts of your business

It has been said that death and taxes are the only two things in life that are certain. I can, however, guarantee with certainty that the plan you had for your company when you started, did not turn out as you had envisioned.

This is especially true for first ventures. In that first year you will experience an avalanche of things that didn’t go how you expected them to go.

This is why, after a year in business, it’s a good thing to pause, review, adapt, amend, and move forward. It’s so important to do a review for all parts of your business, not just customer service, but let’s just focus on customer service for now.

Waiting a year, instead of reviewing experiences in real time, will allow you to bundle together all the knowledge you acquired during that year and view your business with fresh eyes. Here are the benefits of reviewing your customer service program at this juncture:

  • Improve existing processes, invent new ones, scrap old ones where necessary
  • Touch base with your customers and get their overall impression of your business and products
  • Analyze the impact of business decisions you made in that year (different suppliers, different couriers, etc.)

Identify new best business practices

Best business practices are the optimum operating protocols that allow you to reach your goals and are different for every business. You must review the operations of each department within your business to figure out which best practices need to be applied.

Best business practices in logistics, for example,  might mean you need to switch packaging or couriers. It could also lead to new decisions about managing the people that work in that department. It’s important to set clear boundaries for what is in and out of scope when you begin your review.

When reviewing best business practices for customer service, you can divide your review and implementation into two parts:

  1. The customer service program itself; the processes, the feedback from customers, the feedback from your employees about products or processes, etc.
  2. Employees in the department

Try to remain neutral during these reviews and select which method is best for your particular needs. Some examples include KPI’s, reviews from customers, conversations with your employees. Each business owner has their own preferences and points they find important, which is why I can’t give you a set plan to follow.

Listen to your customers

You may think that all you do is listen to your customers. When I say listen, I’m not talking about the “regular” aspects of customer service work. It’s important, beyond hearing the customer’s problems and finding the quickest, easiest (and cheapest) way to resolve that problem, to also connect with your customers.

Take time to ask about the experience they’ve had over the last year and the experience they’d like to have moving forward. Active listening creates goodwill, additional interest in your product or service, and additional sales opportunities. Here are some benefits of this approach:

  • Valuable product feedback
  • Improved customer retention
  • Opportunities to cross-sell and up-sell

Personalize the customer experience

The time you spend listening to the customer will reveal what’s needed to create a tailored, more personalized customer experience program after your first year. If you did market research on your preferred customer before you started your business, this new feedback will help you review and redefine your customer base. Areas to look at include:

  • Communication
  • Omnichannel options
  • Digital tools

Communication: Do you need to amend and personalize the language you use to communicate with your customers? Take a look at customer service training language and marketing emails.

Customers tend to prefer “conversational communication,” meaning they want to talk to you on the same level. Greeting the customer with a sir and madam are no longer necessary, unless you’re dealing with an older customer base.

Conversational communication still means you need to deliver a good service, choices, and availability, which translates into your next point of personalization, adding omnichannel service.

Omnichannel: Omnichannel funnels multiple forms of communication into one channel, so customers experience it as one source. The customer just wants different options to get in touch with you, either through phone, email, face-to-face conversations, social media, live chat, etc, and an omnichannel service unifies those options.

Customers expect you to be available through multiple channels. The more channels you represent on, it’s more likely the customer can and will get in touch with you if you utilize an omnichannel service.

Digital tools: New digital tools mean a full sales experience can happen without a face-to-face interaction. A customer will still expect a personalized experience, even if it’s self-serve.

Self-serve allows the customer to look up FAQ’s, processes for exchanges, etc, without having to wait for the next available agent. This improves the customer experience in many cases and minimizes delay.

Educate your team

The final step to improve your customer service program is to focus on the internal part; your customer service team.

Do not underestimate the power of happy employees in your service. They will go the extra mile, both for you and for the customer.

While compensation is a big part of employee happiness (nobody works for free!), there are other important factors you can and need to take into account to create and maintain a good work environment. One of these factors is education.

Set up a great CRM system and train your employees to use it to the fullest. Train them in the different processes and systems and all they need to know in order to do their job.

But training doesn't stop there. With customer service it’s just as important, if not more, to train your employees in soft skills. Soft skills are the interpersonal skills that your employees need to do well in their jobs.

Some popular examples of soft skills are communication, team work, and problem solving. Almost every soft skill is partly or completely applicable to the field of work.

Active listening, mentioned earlier in this article, is also a great soft skill for your employees to have. Active listening (even if it’s through email or chat) means you make a conscious effort to not only literally understand what the customer is saying, but also incorporate the other factors in a communication exchange, trying to get the complete picture.

By letting the customer see that you are listening and responding actively to what they’re saying, you create a mutual understanding which can diffuse tense situations or even bring up other areas where you might be able to help the customer.

By improving your employees' soft skills, you can reduce stress levels, quicken processes and decision making, and create better communication between employees and customers.

Invest in your program and your team

You’ve survived your first year in business. Now it’s time to take it to the next level. These are the areas to look at when improving your customer service program:

  1. Review all parts of your business
  2. Identify new best business practices
  3. Listen to your customers
  4. Personalize the customer experience
  5. Educate your team

Having an open mind when it comes to looking at your company after the first year will benefit you, your team and your business in the long run. Invest in your program and your team for success in the years to come.

I help businesses begin and maintain their customer experience programs. If you’d like some help with your program, send an inquiry through my Upwork profile and we can discuss the best options for your needs.

This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the independent freelancer listed as the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
This article was submitted by and expresses the views and opinions of the author. They do not constitute the views or opinions of Upwork, and Upwork does not explicitly sponsor or endorse any of the views, opinions, tools or services mentioned in this article, all of which are provided as potential options according to the view of the author. Each reader and company should take the time needed to adequately analyze and determine the tools or services that would best fit their specific needs and situations.
Article Author
Author
Customer Service 201: Take Your Program to the Next Level
Linda V.
Customer Service Manager
Roosendaal, Netherlands
Customer Service
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