Whether you’re a one-man eBay business or a Fortune 500 company’s Director of Customer Satisfaction, a sound customer service strategy is critical to your success. Much of your reputation, customer retention, sales, and ultimately profits all depend on it.
Customer service representatives must have certain skills: diplomacy, rapid learning, the ability to stay calm, and exceptional communication are some of the most important. Reps who give confusing answers will only make customers more frustrated. Reps who get angry will practically start a riot.
Never look at customer service as a low-skill position to be filled as cheaply as possible. Hire intelligent, professional people for the job. And if you offer phone support, then for the love of all that is good, make sure that your reps speak clearly enough for anyone to understand.
Make your customer jump through as few hoops as possible. The ideal customer service interaction has just two steps:
Notice that nowhere in those two steps are being put on hold, getting shuffled around to different agents or to superiors, or being left with unanswered questions.
To achieve this kind of customer service, you need to provide your support agents with high levels of training and flexibility. They should know everything about your product so that they can answer any question about it. They should also have the power to provide refunds and replacements, make changes to accounts, and do anything else the customer might ask of them.
Your representatives will need to exercise good judgment when handling things like refunds, of course. That’s one more reason why hiring the right people is so important.
Some customers will have complaints about flaws in your product. Others will have ideas for improvements they’d love to see. When they contact you with this kind of information, pay attention to it, and act on their requests whenever feasible.
Many companies pay thousands of dollars to find out what their customers want. Don’t take it for granted when yours tell you for free.
Q. What’s better than a perfectly handled customer service request?
A. Having no need for customer service.
Make complete and accurate descriptions of your product available to the public. If you can’t provide such descriptions at the point of sale, then post them on a website. Most prospective customers would prefer learning about your product online over needing to contact customer service.
Likewise, comprehensive user manuals and public knowledgebases will greatly reduce the number of support requests you receive.
Finally, always look for ways to make your product easier to use and more reliable. The less often it makes your customer call for help, the better.
We used this approach to improve our Amazon- and eBay-Zendesk integrations. We took a six-step process and created a button that did the same thing with a single click. By removing all of those steps, we greatly reduced the number of places where customers could get confused.
Look for ways to provide faster answers and make your reps’ jobs easier. Consider using customer service software like Zendesk or a CRM platform like SalesForce. Just beware of the potential pitfalls which can cause these to be a drain on your resources rather than the vast improvement they should be.
Ask your employees for recommendations, and keep abreast of best practices in customer service. Never assume that you’re doing well enough. Always look for ways to improve.
These are key elements of any successful customer service strategy. If you follow these principles, constantly seeking to make your customers happier while making your own operation more efficient, high ROI should be a given.