How To Position Your Customer Service Team for Success

It’s January 2022 and you are processing the last orders of the season for your online business. Just as the holiday season has its highs of record sales and customer engagement, it also brings challenges to small business owners, managers and operators of customer support departments: Product shortages, shipment issues and social media feedback that can be hard to track and manage, to name just a few.

This was the case for one of my clients, a product-based business that sells handmade soaps and bath items throughout the US and Canada. The owner of the company has a remote team and two customer service agents to service customer inquiries. The company prepared in advance for the season, but this past holiday timespan was especially challenging due to supply chain issues and increased carrier shipping costs. They exceeded their revenue goals and most of their customers were happy with their overall experience, but there were some snafus that needed to be addressed and improvements to make in preparation for the year to come.  

How to conduct a detailed annual customer service audit

Now that the hectic holiday season is complete, it’s time to assess and reflect on what happened—good and bad—from the perspectives of both the customer and internal support team. What’s needed is a look at the reporting from the last quarter and year on overall customer service metrics and reviews to see how to position customer support teams for the upcoming year. This can be a daunting task but in the long run is well worth the effort.  Although some areas are reviewed throughout the year as part of regular reporting, a detailed yearly audit should be conducted to see what is working in one’s customer support system and what can be changed or improved. How does one begin to review their entire customer support system? The way one’s system is set up varies depending on the type and nature of the business but can still be audited even if it’s as simple as reviewing emails and google reviews. As a result of the review one can decide how to improve their systems and see what could be changed or added to elevate the overall customer experience. I’ve included some helpful beginning steps to get started. Here are seven key areas to evaluate during an annual audit of your customer service support system.

1. Review email or helpdesk ticketing system

One of the key areas to start reviewing in your customer support system is your email or helpdesk ticketing system and the current settings that are in place to monitor what type of inquiries you are receiving. Many ticketing systems have a variety of features that one may be over- or under- utilizing in their daily operations. Review areas of your system such as tags and how many are currently in your settings, ticket objects or property categories and how they are being used. Look at automations that have been set for ticket flow and efficiency, number agent seats, and the state of any integrations you have set to see if there are any updates or changes.  Reviewing this area in detail offers insight into how the system is currently working, whether an upgrade or downgrade in the software system is needed and the opportunity to update any outdated information or settings so that inquiries are accurately being processed. This ultimately will keep metrics and reporting in the helpdesk system concise.

2. Evaluate omnichannel support

Another important area to review is omnichannel support, which refers to the other channels teams are using to communicate with their clients and customers. This review would include phone/VOIP systems, social media accounts, chat/messaging channels, self service portals and any chatbots. Check on how these channels are being maintained, how many customers are communicating through these channels and whether your channels are still valid for your system. If not enough customers are communicating through a certain channel, then consider offboarding a channel or updating a channel, for example, adding automations or self services or even changes in how much time agents devote to the channel. If there is a phone channel it would be crucial to review call metrics and if possible listen to calls to see how agents are responding to customer inquiries. Review the volume of inquiries that come through and assess agent responses to confirm if they are complete or if more could be done in these areas to improve customer experience. Look at any social media channels and how they are being monitored, as customers tend to use social media to praise or vent on their customer experiences when purchasing products or services.

3. Audit customer communication documents, workflows and response templates

In your review there should be a detailed audit of customer communication documents, workflows and response templates that your team uses. This would include the macros or canned responses the team has been using as a start to responding to customers. Over a year’s time there could be multiple changes that have occurred in the business operations and the responses to your customers should be refreshed where applicable to reflect the updates. For example, if there has been something as simple as a rebranding in your business, the icons used in agent responses would need to be changed. Also, any new services or products added over the year should be incorporated in response templates so that agents are accurately addressing customer questions and any issues that arise during their purchase. Examples or questions to ask in this review would be if responses are still relevant to current operations and protocols. Another question to ask is if products or services or policies changed and if so, have they been updated in the customer responses.  

4. Assess knowledge base articles and FAQ pages

Another important area to assess is the knowledge base articles and FAQ pages. Look for any reporting available to see what knowledge articles customers find helpful and those that may have negative ratings. For any articles that have negative ratings, review to investigate why customers may not like the article. Is the article formatted in a way that is confusing or missing information? Also review to see if articles need to be archived due to outdated information or issues that are no longer happening for customers. Any FAQ pages posted on one’s business website should be reviewed to see if new questions need to be added or for any outdated answers that would need updating. This important update helps avoid miscommunication and ensures customers have current information about what to expect by purchasing goods or services from the business.

5. Analyze reports and metrics

Review the reports and customer service metrics from the last year to assess how the team performed overall. Looking at average ticket volume is important when deciding if expanding or reducing agents on a team is necessary. If the team was not able to consistently meet expectations in responding to customer inquiries within the expected response times, it may be time to add more agents. Ticket volume could also be an indicator in customer inquiries depending on what was happening in the business at that time. Was there a sale or an event that caused ticket volume to spike that overwhelmed the team and took extra time to resolve issues? Reviewing the patterns can help prepare for future sales or events where customers can be educated during their customer journey or the customer support team is better equipped to deal with the uptick as they are better prepared. One should also review the overall response and resolution times to see if there needs to be adjustment.

6. Check customer surveys and reviews

Customer surveys and reviews are an additional area to evaluate to gauge overall customer satisfaction. If you have areas where customers are submitting detailed reviews and comments it’s worth taking a deeper look at them to see how customers are experiencing your business and products. Happy reviews are easy to assess but if there’s a negative review, look at how the team at that time resolved or responded to the concern and/or issues. Multiple negative reviews could be an indicator of a bigger customer pain point that’s gone ignored. This assessment can shed light, help improve any pain points, reduce negative reviews/comments and elevate the customer experience.

7. Go over customer agent performance reviews

Finally one should take a look at customer agent performance reviews from the past year. Did your team meet expectations regarding servicing your clients/customers in their roles? Depending on the nature of the business, customer agent performance can be crucial to customer retention and customer satisfaction as they are typically the business point person your customers are communicating with the most. Looking at individual performance is important to see how their efforts are providing value to the team or straining the team due to lack of effort or training. Speaking with your team about findings is also important so they understand what’s expected of them and can provide feedback on how to improve areas of the customer support system.  

Prepare your customer service system for success

Take time to reflect on how your system is performing and make the appropriate adjustments. If you do, your customer service system will not only better prepare your team for the new year but also enhance the customer experience for your business.  

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
Sasheen M.
Top Rated
Customer Experience and Success Consultant
Coral Gables, Florida
Customer service

Read more from Sasheen Murray