The Ultimate Guide To Customer Service
Customer service is one of the most important parts of a business. It is what lets people know that you value their opinions and needs. High quality customer service can increase awareness, build trust, grow sales, and contribute to the overall success of a business. And it all starts with a smile, a friendly voice and a passion to solve problems.
Do you want to improve customer loyalty? Are you finding it difficult to handle challenging customers?
We have the solution you’ve been searching for.
If you’re looking to increase your knowledge, upskill your internal staff or hire an outsourced company to take care of your clients and customers – let this guide be your go-to customer service handbook.
What Is Customer Service?
Customer service is the backbone of any business, no matter how big or small it may be. Essentially, no matter how fantastic your products or services may be, the way in which you sell your business and respond to customers must be of a remarkable standard. So, how is customer service actually defined? Customer service is the ongoing support given to customers to ensure they are satisfied with the product/services paid for. Good customer service involves taking the necessary actions to make sure customers are well informed, always responded to and consistently considered throughout every interaction. Representatives working in this department action each and every enquiry and concern raised with an effective solution, ensuring that customer satisfaction is always achieved. The high level of assistance and guidance provided by customer service agents should not only help a customer make purchase decisions but should also enhance the customer’s experience
How alldayPA Can Help You Manage Customer Services
As you can see, when it comes to customer service, there’s a lot to consider. Why not leave it to the experts and give yourself some more free time to get on with other important tasks that will keep your business moving forward? You’ll also have peace of mind that your customers are safe in the hands of our expert team!
So, how exactly do we support solo entrepreneurs, SMEs, and larger businesses?
Firstly, our service is 24/7, 365 days a year, so your customers will always be able to chat to one of our customer service agents when they reach out to your business.
We’ve also got a range of scalable packages for businesses to reap the benefits of. Choose from our Telephone Answering Service, Virtual Receptionist, or Outsourced Call Centre…
- Telephone answering – we’ll answer the phone and take a name, number and message
- Call forwarding
- Telephone answering
- Call forwarding
- Remote switchboard services
- Call triaging
- On-hold messages
- Diary management
- Telephone answering
- Call forwarding
- Remote switchboard services
- Call triaging
- On-hold messages
- Diary management
- CRM integration
- Email management
- Live chat management
- Social media management
How Does alldayPA Deliver Exceptional Customer Service?
Here at alldayPA, we work hard to transform businesses through our premium client services, operating 24/7 365 days a year. For us, providing the highest standard of customer care is at the heart of everything we do. Through the perfect combination of competent, friendly support with advanced technology, we ensure that your calls, emails, social media enquiries and live chat messages are handled masterfully. We tailor our extensive services and packages to meet the requirements of a variety of businesses in different industries. alldayPA works alongside organisations in providing bespoke Telephone Answering Service, ensuring incoming calls are dealt with both professionally and efficiently. Integrating our highly skilled customer service packages into your business not only saves time and money, but also alleviates a lot of the associated stress of getting back to your customers! We also offer multiple other comprehensive packages and services such as our Virtual Receptionist package, CRM Integration and Diary Management. If you are looking to revolutionise your customer service offerings through amazing technology and amazing customer service representatives, talk to us today to find out how we can help you.
Customer Service in the Modern World
The quality of customer service given is incredibly important as it can be the difference between a customer returning and a customer never coming back. Historically, customer service would be provided in-store (in the case of retail and hospitality) or by telephone. This meant that any negative feedback from your customers was less likely to be seen by the masses, and the damage caused to your business would be minimal. However, there is a lot more involved in today’s technology-focused world and customers now expect a prompt response to queries and concerns via social media, email, live chat, WhatsApp and text message. Therefore, the consequences of providing poor customer service can be catastrophic to a business these days, particularly when it’s possible to complain at the touch of a button – one negative comment posted on Instagram or Twitter can open the flood gates to many others and can permanently damage your reputation and your sales.
The Different Types of Customer Service
In an ever-evolving technological world, the platforms in which customer service can be carried out are always expanding. The world of customer service has developed dramatically since the introduction of online chat servers and social networking, maximising the ability to utilise various channels to communicate with consumers. In addition to modern platforms, in-person, post and telephone support are still significant methods of assisting customers and resolving any potential problems. Although there are various channels for businesses to directly engage with customers, there are also numerous types of approaches to customer service that a company can employ.
It is important to note that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to customer service, as every business operates differently from the next. Understanding your business, sector, competitors and target audience is fundamental to your success in providing top-level customer service. Although, in its simplest form, customer service exists as a tool to optimise customer satisfaction and retain customer loyalty, certain forms of customer care will benefit your business more than others. Depending on what your company offers and how large your organisation is, it may be advantageous to invest in automated functions or a team of technical support specialists. However, the possibilities in how you choose to engage with your consumers are endless!
Reactive Customer Service
Reactive customer service is a traditional yet effective way of resolving problems and answering customer queries. In most cases, customers are hoping to obtain additional product or service information when they contact customer service departments. For this reason, it is essential to have knowledgeable agents on-hand to inform, educate and, most importantly, sell! When customer service agents interact with customers, the agent should be understanding, empathetic and forward-thinking, ensuring they offer a satisfactory solution and maintain, or build on, the established reputation of the brand.
Automated Customer Service
The act of automating your customer service involves utilising the capabilities of technology to its maximum potential in assisting with customer queries. Whether that is by creating an in-depth knowledge base and FAQs or incorporating a chatbot into your website, automation can save a lot of time for your agents. Automated customer support works to reduce the involvement of your staff by enabling a purpose-built system to provide customers with assistance. However, it is vital that businesses strike a balance between computerised interaction and human interaction. A company should never become completely reliant on automated customer service, as this can be detrimental to the relationship between your business and your consumers. Instead of relying on automation completely, this process should be employed to complement your traditional customer service and assist your staff with their various workloads.
Why Is Customer Service Important?
It’s no secret that there is a direct correlation between happy customers and revenue growth, as brand loyalty is a huge contributing factor to any successful business. Fantastic customer service should be executed throughout the entirety of the customers’ journey, from the beginning of the purchasing process right through to post-transaction. As a business looking to generate revenue, it is crucial that customer service is never disregarded as part of your business plan. A positive customer service experience has the potential to retain customers in the long term, whereas 86% of customers choose to avoid a company completely as a result of a bad experience. By having a robust customer care strategy in place that caters to all types of customers, the percentage of customer complaints will be substantially reduced. In addition to the complications that good customer service can prevent, the deliverance of strong and memorable customer care can also positively impact your business in countless ways.
Brand Image Representation
The relationship between brand image and customer service is extremely important for how well your business is perceived by customers. These two aspects are completely interconnected, which is why demonstrating great customer service serves as a catalyst to positive brand identity. A company that invests heavily in building and maintaining strong customer relationships is a company that can expect to see fantastic results, gains and reviews. For bigger businesses, customer service teams are the driving force behind your business, serving as the direct link between the company and the consumer. Believe it or not, customer service – when done correctly – can be the cheapest yet most powerful force to boost customer satisfaction, retention, and revenue. If your customer service staff are approachable, client-focused, enthusiastic and compassionate, your customer’s perception of your brand will heighten by miles.
The Customer’s Experience
According to recent research, over 80% of customers find more satisfaction in a good customer service experience than in a product itself. Similarly, half of consumers claim that they would purchase from a retailer or service again based solely on a superb experience the first time round. So, with experience being a major influencing factor to brand reputation, regularly reviewing your customer service methods is paramount. When it comes to exploring the ways in which customer service contributes to brand image, it is essential to look beyond the friendliness and helpfulness of your agents. From the moment a customer calls your customer care line, the experience of the customer should be at the forefront of your call processes. Put it this way, a long-winded, automated answering service will instantly provoke feelings of frustration as the customer attempts to navigate their way through to an actual human being. Sometimes, simple tweaks to your technology and customer service KPIs and strategies can leave a positive lasting impression on your customers, boosting your brand’s reputation.
Development and Growth
It has been uncovered by researchers that, of the 80% of brands that believe they deliver high-quality client care, only 8% of clients agree. A considerable portion of your resources should be spent on examining existing processes in order to reassess and evolve your services. Customer support teams can gain insightful data about what customers are asking and/or complaining about day to day. Additionally, incorporating a concise review feature to your live chat, telephone and social media platforms allows customers to provide constructive feedback after interacting with an agent. A company can be transformed by just simply listening to customer feedback and using it to evolve your practises and processes. It is crucial to approach every interaction between customers and your business as an opportunity to progress methods and improve your services.
Reduction in Negative Reviews and Complaints
Having a proficient and knowledgeable selection of agents on hand is a powerful mechanism for deterring bad feedback and minimising the percentage of tickets raised for complaints. In addition to delivering strong customer support and communication skills, there are internal structures that can be implemented to best prepare for queries and problems. Customer service comes in many forms, some actions can be taken before a customer even picks up their phone. Proactive customer service requires predicting which queries may come in and responding to them, in advance, with FAQs or forums. This will inevitably reduce the volume of incoming complaints.
On the contrary, in the likely event that complaints are received, there are numerous ways to combat them smoothly. It has been assessed that around 13% of unhappy customers will share their negative experience with at least 15 other people. That said, only 1 in 26 dissatisfied customers will express their poor customer service experience with the business. When complaints are reduced through good-quality products coupled with amazing customer care, it becomes easier to quickly resolve situations. If you ensure that the average resolution time is short, unhappy customers can quickly become loyal, brand advocates!
Increase Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)
Customer Lifetime Value, in its simplest terms, is a metric that describes the net profit contribution of a single customer to an organisation. Although growing a customer base in any business is obviously beneficial, customer retention (or brand loyalty) is a priceless asset in the long run. There are plenty of strategic methods that can be carried out in order to retain customers, but getting this right can be challenging. Customer retention can be obtained through marketing, tailoring products and services to specific audiences and offering something that is completely unique. However, customer service is a precious commodity for increasing CLV. Here is how your business can gain loyal customers:
- Listening to feedback: Businesses should pay attention to customer feedback, reviews and complaints. Your consumers should be at the core of your evolving services, with their feedback propelling constant improvements. Customers that feel listened to are much more likely to grow attached to a brand and repurchase from the business.
- Being available to help: Being present on social media accounts and having multiple channels for customer interaction is highly appreciated by customers. Customer service representatives should be approachable and professional, ensuring they always provide the most detailed information and solutions.
- Providing fast response times: Even in your busiest periods, having a systemised approach and strategy in place is crucial to keeping customers content. Understandably, there are only so many hours in a day, which coincide with a set number of staff being available to help. For this reason, providing clear expectations and minimum response times will give your customers clarity.
By planning and implementing a suitable customer care strategy, your business can expect to reap the benefits of retention and higher revenue growth year upon year. Bear in mind that the requirements of your target audience and your sector change rapidly. Business owners should always stay ahead and take a forward-thinking approach to customer service, thoroughly researching upcoming trends and taking the appropriate action.
Given the detail provided in this guide, it’s easy to get overwhelmed when thinking about customer service. But, there’s no need to! When you strip it back, the basics of customer service involve being professional, positive, and prompt. You should always strive to go above and beyond for your customers, wherever possible. Not only does this benefit them, but it’s rewarding for you too and it can help you to enjoy your job. As the saying goes, ‘the customer is always right’ – keep this in mind too. Try to understand why the customer feels the way that they do. Here, empathy is key. Tailor your approach to them and their issue, so that they can enjoy a personalised service.
As we’re customer service experts here at alldayPA, you’re in the right place for tips on how to handle difficult customers. Whilst our blog explores these tips in greater detail, here’s an overview of things to keep in mind when dealing with difficult customers:
- Ensure you and your team have thorough training on complaint handling and general customer service.
- Minimise distractions.
- Don’t interrupt customers.
- Ask for clarification where necessary, or ask questions to learn more.
- Remember that the customer is human too! It’s easy to lose sight of this when they are angry or frustrated.
- Be transparent, considerate, and proactive when working to find a solution as quickly as possible. If possible, offer multiple solutions.
- Offer an apology and compensate the customer, where appropriate.
Here at alldayPA, we pride ourselves on having a skilled team that are equipped to handle a range of different situations in customer service. Not only does that mean having the right tools, but the right skills too – all our team have the key skills that are needed in customer service. Whilst customer service in each business or different sector can look a little different, the core skills still largely remain the same. These include:
- A professional telephone manner: A lot of customers will get in touch by using the phone.
- Communication and writing skills: Communicating – whether that’s in person, over the phone, or in writing – will be a central part of your role.
- Great time management: Managing your time is essential as you’ll be super busy and customers will be expecting a prompt response!
- Organisational skills: You’ll likely be dealing with several ongoing cases at once, so it’s important to keep on top of things and keep your files in order. A CRM can help you manage customer information and the progression of customer journeys.
- Empathy: Being able to understand and validate the customer’s feelings will help you to tailor your approach. It also shows them that you’re listening and are understanding.
- Adaptability: In customer service, you have to adapt to overcome issues and find solutions.
- Using positive language and maintaining a positive attitude: Remaining positive when customers are angry is a key skill. It can help you to set the tone for the conversation too.
- Active listening skills: Active listening shows that you’re engaged in the conversation with the customer and you’re taking on board everything that they’re saying.
Customer Service Tips
Of course, a lot of customer service tips are specific to the channel and method that you’re using to communicate with the customer. However, some of them can be applicable across all methods of communication. Let’s take a look at some general tips that you can apply to most situations…
Give your customers multiple methods of communication so that they can easily get in touch
Because services are offered in multiple ways nowadays – including both face-to-face and online – it means that there is also a demand for a range of communication methods. Not only that, but customers can’t always get in touch between the standard 9-5 working hours because of their own commitments and, sometimes, due to the nature of their issue, they need support around the clock anyway. As such, it’s important to make sure that customers can reach you whenever they need help – if you can, you should look at investing in a live chat, social media, email, and telephone service for your customer service to cover all bases. Likewise, 24/7 customer care is becoming increasingly important!
Be as prompt as possible with your response
Customers can now get in touch with you following just the click of a few buttons or keys on a dial pad. Because their communication to you can be instant, they’ll likely expect this to be reciprocated. You don’t always have to find a solution to your customer’s issue instantly – that isn’t always possible. However, you should always acknowledge a customer’s enquiry and let them know that you’re handling their case. This is a simple step but it can go a long way in reassuring the customer.
Don’t overpromise – strive to overdeliver instead!
When faced with a customer that’s disappointed, angry, or at least demanding a solution to their problem, it’s easy to get carried away. You might start making promises that you simply just can’t keep – after all, there are only so many hours in the day, and it’s likely that you’ll have other things to do for other customers as well. Instead of overpromising and then failing to deliver, make sure that you manage the expectations of the customer accordingly. You’d rather overdeliver as opposed to overpromise!
Exceed customer expectations wherever possible
Customers will expect a certain level of service, which involves meeting their expectations. To most, it’s a given that they will have their problem solved, their issue addressed, or their complaint handled. However, going above and beyond for your customers is usually what keeps them – if a customer complains but you solve their issue and offer them some form of compensation, they’re a lot more likely to stay and thank you for handling their case well. Sometimes, it isn’t about the initial problem, it’s about how you handle it. That’s what gets people talking and often recommending your business.
Be empathetic, understanding, and calm
Even when you’re faced with an angry customer, it’s important to remain calm – remember, the customer is always right! Staying calm can also help to set the tone for the rest of the discussion. If an angry customer is met with a calm response, they’re more likely to lower their tone and match yours. As well as this, any good customer service provider will strive to truly understand the customer and get to the root of why they feel the way that they do. This will then help you to deliver an excellent experience that focuses on not just solving the problem, but making the customer feel better.
Over the Phone
As one of the most popular methods of communication, it’s important that you nail your communication with customers over the phone. Here, your voice and your surroundings are key. Let’s take a look at how you can provide great customer service over the phone…
Ensure you have a quiet environment
When dealing with a customer call, whether you’re in the office, out on the job or working remotely elsewhere, it’s vital that your surroundings are quiet. This is beneficial for both you and the customer. For the customer, it helps them to hear you clearly, and it gives them the impression that you are listening carefully and are focused on helping them. For you, it can help to limit distractions and maximise concentration whilst dealing with the customer enquiry. As well as this, it also helps you to convey professionalism. For both your sake and the customer’s, the value of a quiet environment when taking a call can never be underestimated.
Answer within three rings
When a customer gets through to you, they expect their case to be dealt with promptly. Get things off to a good start by answering the call within three rings – this shows the customer that you are available and are committed to assisting them, whether that’s as an individual or a team. If you’re a larger business with a customer service department, the customer may have spoken to one of your colleagues before being forwarded on to you, so it’s important that you answer the call as quickly as possible to ensure they don’t become frustrated.
However, it’s still important here to take your time to get in the zone before answering a call. Allow for the three rings if needed – don’t answer the phone immediately if it leaves you feeling flustered.
When you answer the call, you should remain professional at all times. Be sure to greet the customer and introduce yourself and the business. Then, remember to speak clearly, confidently, and calmly whilst dealing with the call. It’s especially important to remember this when dealing with a frustrated or angry customer. Being professional isn’t just how you speak though, it’s about what you say too – make sure you’re explaining everything clearly and that the customer understands. As such, it’s a good idea to avoid jargon and slang. Jargon, for obvious reasons, can cause unnecessary confusion, and slang can often seem unprofessional and doesn’t provide the best impression.
Be an active listener
Active listening involves preparing to listen and observing the verbal messages a customer is sending. Then, it involves providing feedback or acknowledgement as appropriate to demonstrate your attentiveness. This can help to form a mutual understanding between you and the customer. In the context of customer service, active listening also demonstrates that you understand the customer’s issue or needs, and you understand that it’s important.
Be transparent when putting the customer on hold
If a customer has been passed around to different departments or individuals before reaching you, the last thing they want is to be put on hold again. If a customer is already frustrated or angry when they call, putting them on hold for the first time might still ruffle their feathers! If a customer needs to be put on hold, be transparent – let them know how long they can expect to wait, and why it’s necessary. For instance, if there’s a department or colleague better equipped to deal with their enquiry, then make it clear to them that this is the case and those people will do everything that they can to help.
Emails, Live Chat, and Social Media
With these methods of communication, the customer can’t hear you or see you – you’re relying on your written customer service skills here. These methods have gained increasing popularity as communication methods have evolved and improved, and we think they’ll become even more effective and dominant in the future. Take a look at our customer service tips when communicating with customers via email, live chat, or social media…
Provide clear information and resources
Before users even need to reach out via email, social media, or live chat, you should make sure that you have useful information that’s easily accessible so that they can self-help where possible. You can do this by providing the information on your company’s website, such as in the format of a guide, or by sharing it on your social media pages. However, if a user does need to get in touch for support, that’s an indication that they can’t find what they’re looking for, and they therefore need clear information to help them with their problem. Make sure that you’re explaining everything in detail to the customer every step of the way, and be sure to avoid specialist terms. Remember – if it’s easier to call a customer, then use that option too!
Personalise your interactions
Whilst automated messages and chatbots can save time, they lack a level of personalisation that only humans could provide. This personalisation is what keeps customers coming back and, more to the point, it’s what customers want. When dealing with enquiries, you can personalise your interactions simply by using their name, offering a tailored approach specific to their problem or circumstances, and by showing emotional understanding and empathy.
Adjust your response and style to the customer
Over the course of the interaction that you have with the customer, you will start to gauge their style of conversation. Let this inform the way that you support them. After all, a 70-year old customer who doesn’t know much about technology is likely to speak differently, and need more support, than a tech-savvy 20-something. Tailor your language accordingly but, of course, remember to remain professional!
Get a full understanding of the issue before acting
When communicating with customers via messages – whether that be web chat, email, or social media messages, they might not give you enough initial information about their issue. So, it’s important that you get all of the details before deciding on the best course of action. Do this by asking questions regarding your customer’s issue – this can help you to truly understand what their issue is and how long it’s been happening, amongst other things.
By having all of this key information, you can put a tailored solution in place and can hit the ground running. Failing to ask these questions might mean taking a ‘trial and error’ approach to solutions, which is time-consuming for all parties. Yet implementing the right solution from the start not only looks impressive, but it saves time too.
Be proactive, and share what you’re doing
Because the customer can’t see or hear you, it’s important to keep in mind that – unless you tell them – they’re unaware of what you’re doing to help them. So, it’s vital that you’re transparent and talk the customer through each step. This is particularly important if your actions might disrupt the user or could be considered ‘intrusive’ – for example, you might need to co-browse with them to help them solve an issue. Each part of your process should be explained so that the customer is aware of what to expect, demonstrating, too, that you are being proactive in trying to help them out.
Face-to-Face Customer Service
For some businesses that aren’t completely online, face-to-face customer service is still essential. In these situations, you’re entirely visible to the customer – there’s no screen to hide behind, so it’s important that you get it right! Let’s take a look at how you can do this, here…
Provide a warm and friendly welcome
As soon as the customer walks through the door, that’s when the amazing customer service needs to start. Here, it’s all about finding the right balance – you want to provide a friendly welcome but without intimidating your customers or going too over the top. Sometimes, simply smiling is just enough to make customers feel welcomed, showing them that you’re friendly and approachable if they need support. You could also ask if they need any help or assistance when they enter your business premises – this is a good way to open dialogue.
Understand body language
Body language can be just as powerful as words – we all use it, and it can say a lot about how we’re feeling. When providing face-to-face customer service, you can observe your customers and their actions, and then step in where you feel it’s required. By doing this, you can spot customers that seem irritated or frustrated, and therefore might need some assistance. This level of attention and customer service doesn’t just benefit the customer – it benefits your business too. Helping them to find what they need can lead to more cash for your business, and the great customer service you’ve provided them could mean they keep coming back.
A positive attitude can go a long way! If a customer has a problem, have a positive, can-do attitude and focus on solving the issue. Even if you can’t provide a solution or an answer right away, reassure them that you will go and find out or speak to the relevant person. Being positive can also set the tone for your conversation with the customer too – even an angry customer would struggle to maintain such an attitude when someone is so positive!
Know your stuff!
When a customer asks you a question, they really expect you to know the answer. So, knowing your products and services inside out is vital. Take the time to expand your and your colleagues’ knowledge whenever possible – training and experience are essential for this! Not knowing about your products and services when a customer asks you a question can look quite unprofessional. On the other hand, having the knowledge to share gives your customers trust and confidence in you. As a result, they’re much more likely to invest in your product or service, especially if they fully understand what it does and how it can help them.
Make sure that they leave happy
Just as you greeted customers when they entered your business premises, you should always make sure that they leave happy too. If a customer has made a purchase, make some final checks to ensure that everything is as it should be – whether that’s a service they’ve signed up to or a physical product that they’ve bought. Even if they don’t make a purchase, make sure you thank them as they leave.
Customer Service by Sector: Tailoring Your Approach Based on Your Industry
If someone needs the help of a company within the property sector, it’s likely that they’ve reached an important chapter in their lives, whether that’s buying, renting, selling a home, or looking for property management services. Whatever the specifics may be, there’s no denying that it can be stressful – customers might struggle to navigate the different processes involved within the industry. So, it’s important that you ensure your customer service is up to scratch to make the experience as enjoyable as possible, with no unnecessary added stress.
It’s always important to remember that properties are usually an individual’s most valuable asset, so any issues that they have should be addressed with urgency, and the approach to customer service should be personal and tailored to the person’s individual needs and circumstances. It’s likely that your customers will have different goals and budgets, so you should tailor your service to this each time you deal with a new customer. To do this, it’s important to have the right team – you need a team that are knowledgeable, as well as passionate about customer service.
As a professional in the legal sector, chances are you’ll be handling sensitive cases that truly matter to your clients, and the outcome of your work could have a lasting impact. As such, customer service is one of the most important things in the legal industry when considering how to ensure a positive experience for all that choose to work with you. Above all, taking the time to understand your clients’ needs can go a long way. With this approach, you can create a tailored service that suits them and that is better routed towards them achieving their desired outcome. It also shows that you care, and their needs do truly matter to you. This can leave a great lasting impression.
Other customer service tips in this area also include keeping your clients up to date at all times – let them know where you’re up to with their case or their enquiry, even if you’re still waiting on something. These updates don’t have to be too detailed – remember, your clients don’t know the law like you do. They’re more concerned with how your work and actions will be employed to advocate their case. Prioritisation is also key in this industry – understand your client’s priorities, prioritise effectively yourself to meet deadlines and handle the most urgent cases, and ensure that you prioritise service just as much as knowledge.
Health & Care
For most people, their health and wellbeing is naturally one of the most important things. Whenever they experience a health-related concern, this can often be a great source of stress, and they will likely wish to seek medical help. That’s where health and care professionals come in – not only is finding an appropriate solution or treatment important, but the way that you handle the patient’s case and provide a service matters too, as your actions here have the opportunity to minimise stress and keep matters as calm as possible.
Customer service in this sector follows the same general rules – maintain professionalism at all times, show empathy where possible, and always deal with enquiries as promptly as possible. However, not only is general customer service important here, but having measures in place to keep improving your service is vital too, especially as the demands and needs within healthcare continue to evolve. With that in mind, you should always use follow-up calls and questionnaires to gather patient feedback. Then, it’s one thing to have access to this feedback, but you need to act on it too – make sure you listen to concerns and complaints, and address them, and be sure to continuously review the systems and tools you have in place.
As someone in the construction industry, it’s likely you’ll have a range of enquiries to deal with whether it’s a request for a quote, someone booking your services, or asking for emergency support. Because of the nature of the enquiries and their urgency, it’s important to remember that customers are entrusting you to get their issue sorted promptly. After all, any issues can have a significant impact on the way that your customers are able to work and live, especially if it concerns electricity or hot water.
In this area, communication is absolutely essential. You need to reassure customers that you’re going to get their issue resolved as quickly as possible, and then take the necessary steps to do so. Even if you’re delayed – for example, because you’re waiting for a part to come in stock – make sure that you communicate this with the customer. Let them know why the delay has occurred, how long they can expect to wait, and if there are any quick fixes or alternative solutions. It’s important to communicate effectively, provide updates, and manage expectations where required.
Accountancy & Finance
Nowadays, support in the financial sector goes far beyond face-to-face interaction in your local branch. How financial services are delivered has evolved significantly over the years, and now online services are more widespread, meaning that organisations have to utilise many channels when it comes to their customer service. As such, one of the most important things is to make sure that information and support are easily accessible. This information includes self-help information too, where the customer can find the answers to their queries online, via your website or social channels, to help them with a particular problem.
Despite services becoming increasingly digitised, it’s still important to deliver a personalised service. In other words, when communicating with customers via a live chat or through emails, it’s still important to preserve the personal element of the service – avoiding the use of bots and using real-life people is the best way to do this! Also, it’s important to make sure that your records are up-to-date so that when a customer gets in touch you know exactly where they are on their journey. A CRM (meaning customer relationship management system) will help with this.
Business support can encompass a variety of different operations including finance, HR, logistics, business operations, technology, and so much more. Yet despite the array of areas within this sector, if your business belongs to the business support sector then it has one central purpose – your company exists to help other companies. As such, customer service is central to your business. If businesses need your support, then they’ll expect it promptly. The way that you deal with an issue can affect business continuity for that company, which is crucial in determining the success of the business in the face of obstacles and issues.
Providing amazing customer service in this sector involves being empathetic and understanding towards business owners – if they’re frustrated or demanding urgency, it’s important that you seek to understand why, and how, the issue is affecting their business. This can help you to provide a personal service, and it will also help you to prioritise accordingly. On that note – there are only so many hours in the day, so prioritisation is a key skill here. Make sure you assess the urgency of your customers’ needs and prioritise accordingly so that the most urgent issues are dealt with first.
IT & IT Support
Technology plays a crucial role in many businesses. In fact, without technology, many businesses wouldn’t be able to operate as normal. As such, IT support services are vital for business continuity and support. Companies in these sectors can help other businesses to provide their services, overcome issues that can affect their operations, and assist with data collection from IT infrastructure such as CRMs. With all that in mind, it’s important to deal with issues as effectively and efficiently as possible.
Providing good customer service within this sector isn’t just beneficial for the client in helping their business to get back on its feet if something goes wrong. In fact, it’s beneficial to you too – providing great customer service is so important for your reputation. Business owners usually move in circles that consist of other business owners, so word of mouth can be a great way for you to attract new clients. By making sure you’re going above and beyond for your clients, you increase the chance of them recommending you to others and leaving great feedback.
PR, Marketing, and Advertising
As a marketing, PR, or advertising agency, you need to be flexible and adaptable in your approach to customer service. It’s likely that you’ll have several different clients to manage, all with a variety of needs depending on the services that they’re with you for, the type of accounts that they have, and their budgets. Advertising and marketing never sleep – take social media ads and Google ads as prime examples, these run at all hours. So, it’s important to be responsive to your clients if they have an issue or a cause for concern.
Not only is it important to communicate with your clients in a prompt manner, but the way that you communicate is important too. Remember that your clients might not have any prior knowledge or experience of marketing, advertising, and/or PR, so explaining everything in a jargon-free and easy to understand manner is super important. Not only that, but being responsive, reassuring, and transparent will go a long way too. If there’s been an issue or your client is worried, talk them through it. Explain how it may impact them, followed by what you’re doing to resolve the issue.
The History of Customer Service and How It Has Evolved…
It can be difficult to imagine a world without customer service. How on Earth did customers survive without that point of call? Prior to the competent support methods that we often see today in our ever-evolving world of technology, getting support from businesses used to be lengthy to say the least – often requiring an inconvenient trip to make your complaint in-store, and without a delegated representative or knowledge of what your customer entitlement was in advance. We have come a long way over the last few decades, with many customer service departments looking ahead towards an even more efficient way of communicating with consumers. That being said, it is worthwhile looking back at how methods of customer service have developed in accordance with societal changes and technological advancements.
The Birth of Customer Service
The concept of customer experience was born out of the industrial revolution around about 3000 B.C. Proper customer service was essential to meeting the needs of the industrial age. International trade brought people from different places together, and businesses needed skills in how to deal with them. Early on in the history of trade, traders realised that the way they treated their customers influenced their business success. The beginning of trade and the foundation of customer service laid the groundwork for what we have today.
The phenomenon first began gaining worldwide attention in 1760, when it began carving its own niche. Traders began to use terms like “scale” and “customer care” between the years 1760 and 1820. We enjoy today’s multichannel customer support, but a cursory glance at the past reveals many ups and downs of the customer service evolution. The 1750 BC Complaint will forever be etched into history books as one of the greatest milestones in human history. In the British Museum archives, this complaint represents the first-ever customer service complaint. Since then, complaints have bolstered the way in which businesses respond to issues and resolve them.
Before the introduction of the telephone, returning items to stores and retrieving information from suppliers were incredibly difficult, as contact options were limited. Face to face complaints and returns were the only way to find a resolution for faulty products. Even then, refund policies were non-existent. However, the hassle was soon somewhat alleviated once telephone communication opened the door to a speedier form of customer interaction.
A telephone was a rare commodity within the first few decades of its existence, and because of the technology that connected it only to its pairing, it had limited uses. As a result of the invention of the telephone switchboard in 1894, telephones across the country could be linked together, allowing wealthy clients to contact store owners about their products. Throughout the 20th century, customers were generally served in this manner for nearly half a century.It was not until the 1920s that the automatic switching capabilities of the rotary dial system were fully realised, although the system was implemented in the late 1800s. Since early telephones needed operators to connect callers, rotary dials were devised to act as operators, using phone numbers dialled to connect callers to the appropriate telephone. By accepting this technology, customers could more easily reach stores and businesses to receive customer service.
The Introduction of the Call Centre
The introduction of the call centre pioneered the concept of telephone customer service. The term ‘call centre’ was only coined back in the early 1980s; however, the call centre environment was discovered around the mid-1900s. Now that calls could be directed and rediverted to various locations across the country, the call centre filled the void that businesses and consumers so desperately needed. In the 60s and 70s, businesses began to understand how telephones could be used to their advantage. It was around this time that companies began dealing with enquiries from potential customers over the phone, enabling people to make contact in a faster way. Primarily, call centre staff were given the key role of promoting sales and onboarding new customers. Off the back of these calls, major businesses began receiving an influx of inbound calls from marketing campaigns, with many consumers looking to locate additional service information.
In 1989, call centre outsourcing became a significant aspect of many companies’ formal customer service strategies. Passing on customer service matters to a dedicated outsourced business became the norm for a lot of businesses, as this decision was considered both cost and time-effective. Moreover, despite this seeming a logical decision and strategic move for business owners, it was imperative to consumers that the quality of customer service was not compromised.
Whilst most companies continued to experiment with new-found technologies, there were various drawbacks and backlash experienced as customer service departments found their feet with balancing call and email communications. The ongoing, unmanageable flow of incoming calls made it difficult for businesses to respond to clients, causing mass frustration for both employees and customers alike. Call centres struggled to fight back the poor reputation they continued to maintain. Something had to be done to solve the constant issues of long wait times and automated phone trees.
The Impact of the Internet
Fast forward to 1991, the launching of the internet had taken the business world by storm. It soon became apparent that the facilities made available online could be employed by customer service centres as an alternative, simplistic avenue of communication. With consumers and companies now gaining access to a new channel for one-to-one interaction, the demand for customer service agents and contact centres grew massively. Both instant messaging channels and email features allowed consumers to contact a business without having to engage with operators, cutting out the middleman that previously burdened the process. This new diversity in contact centres meant that an increasing number of businesses could now transfer their services/products to the web.
The Shift to Omnichannel Customer Service
The internet plays an integral role in the history of customer service, as this technology would propel the transition from ‘call centres’ to ‘contact centres’. The term ‘call centre’ became less well-known once the internet continued to grow and the telephone became less popular. Contact centres began to recognise the positive impact of embracing all channels of communication as a means to best interact and please their customers. By giving consumers a variety of contact options, the waiting times would soon decline. In addition to the plethora of contact choices available, such as SMS, email, live chats, phone calls and snail mail, contact centres could become the main hub of customer service.
Modern CRM systems were soon integrated into customer service strategies to streamline, develop and log interactions back in the 2000s. Renowned companies such as Salesforce and Microsoft became essential partners to the industry, providing businesses with both cloud-based solutions and CRM software that would strengthen their services.
The Popularisation of Social Media
The power of social media has completely revolutionised customer service and the way in which consumers interact with brands. The entire experience of customer service has been altered through social networking, due to the open aspect of social media that allows users to freely share their opinions. The interaction between an unsatisfied customer and the business in question is no longer a private matter, as public posts enable an entire following to view posts directed to the brand. When complaints are openly left on social media, this shines a spotlight on the brand that serves to encourage a swift response. On the contrary, social media has transformed customer service in a way that makes providing solutions much easier. The visibility of interactions between consumers and brands means new customers are likely to use the experience or visible feedback of others to assist with their queries before customer service gets a chance to respond. Additionally, a large quantity of happy customers take to social media to post about their positive encounter with a brand, boosting brand awareness and driving traffic to their website.
All in all, over 60% of consumers interact with brands in some way either before or after purchasing a product or service. This evidences just how prominent social networking has become in the evolution of customer service.
You’ll come across a range of difficult customers if you work in customer service, but knowing how to handle a customer complaint is essential, as this requires a different approach. The best way to handle a complaint is to start by listening carefully to the customer. They might vent or rant for a few minutes, but it’s important to stay calm and let them get things off their chest. Then, thank the customer for bringing the problem to your attention – even if they’ve been angry or rude, this can help to shift their tone. Ask any questions or ask for clarification if you need a deeper understanding of the customer’s complaint too.
Once you have the facts, your focus needs to be on finding a solution as effectively and efficiently as possible. If you need to go away and find a solution, be open and honest and let the customer know about the next steps you plan to take and that you will keep them updated. If you need to put them on hold or put them through to another team, politely explain why. If possible and necessary, you should also look to compensate the customer for the inconvenience.
You’ll have heard the saying ‘the customer is always right’, but why exactly is this? This phrase relates to an attitude/mindset as opposed to being fact – it involves taking on the view that your customers, no matter what their view or issue, are always right and treating them as if they are correct. The phrase was coined by retailers Harry Gordon Selfridge, Marshall Field, and John Wanamaker in the 1990s after their realisation that the success of their companies largely depended on customer satisfaction. Happy customers are more likely to leave positive reviews and recommend your business, meaning that you can grow your customer base. On the other hand, if customers have a poor experience, they’re likely to shout about your business for all the wrong reasons and turn people away.
If you ever hear the term ‘apathy’ in the context of customer service, this isn’t a good thing! You need to avoid apathetic customer service which is, in other words, inattentive behaviour towards customers. This involves being slow and unresponsive, ultimately behaving like you aren’t bothered about what the customer has to say or what they’ve experienced. Customers that experience an apathetic service are more likely to avoid using your company again, especially if they receive a better service elsewhere.
Omnichannel customer experience involves providing a user experience through several different channels, including a website, apps, email marketing, live chat, telephone support, in-person advertising, and so much more. Businesses using this approach can increase their presence and also provide customers with several methods of communication, making it easier for them to get in touch. This gives the impression that the company is easily accessible and available to help at any time.
What Is Good Customer service?
Good customer service can radically improve your reputation and revenue, and it doesn’t take much to create a positive experience for your customers. Many of us will have experienced poor customer service before, but what exactly does good customer service look like?
When attempting to lure in prospective customers, the way that you treat them and respond to their questions is paramount to ensure their continued custom. If you are lucky enough to win that customer’s patronage, ensuring that quality service is still provided to your customers will keep them coming back for more. But, even if you don’t manage to land the sale, courtesy, patience and knowledge could lead to that customer coming back to you some time in the future. Good customer service leads to loyal customers. The root of good customer service comes down to the core values of your business and the ability to meet the values of your current and prospective clients – this is because if people think they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand. Everyone values patience, kindness and loyalty, but what else makes good customer service?
Implementing a Stringent Customer Service Strategy
Devising a company-wide strategy is what sets the expectations for your customer service. Outlining policies, procedures and KPIs ensures that consistency is always maintained throughout the entire business. The strategy should contain in-depth guidelines on how interactions with customers should transpire, offering details on how to tackle every situation. Agents should always be closely observed to ensure that all expectations are achieved consistently throughout all customer contact. By setting strict standards for what is expected from your customer care team, your business can truly excel and exceed the expectations of your consumers. Adhering to such strategies is paramount to providing customer service that is coherent and professional.
For any large-scale business, it is essential that customer service representatives are aware of their requirements. It is crucial that a strategy is developed to ensure that complaints and problems are resolved in a systematic manner. The resolutions provided to customers should remain consistent for every possible scenario. If one agent delivers compensation for the same issue that another agent ignored, there is a higher probability that further complaints will be made. Consequently, everybody’s role within the business should be defined and processes should be followed to ensure that all interactions are efficient and persistent.
When a customer contacts a customer service department, they tend to be seeking a resolution to an issue, answer to a query or an update on their purchase. It is the duty of the agent to not only console or reassure the customer, but to also provide detailed information regarding the next steps that will be taken to resolve the situation in hand. No matter which channel a customer may engage with your business, the end result must always satisfy and provide the results that the customer expected to achieve. Ultimately, the job of a customer support agent is to offer the most comprehensive advice and suitable solutions to a customer’s queries. Moreover, where problems cannot be immediately solved, communicating to the customer exactly what they can expect to happen next is vital to disputing any complaints. A fantastic customer service agent will understand how the business works, how a problem should be approached and exactly what steps to follow to conclude a successful interaction.
A highly skilled customer service representative will take the necessary steps to put themselves in the customer’s shoes. Regardless of the circumstances, identifying a way to relate to the customer’s frustrations will help in leading the best responses throughout the conversation. Firstly, customer service staff should recognise and acknowledge the feelings of the customer. Secondly, the agent should repeat the query back to the customer to ensure that they have understood the context, as well as to reassure the customer that they are truly engaged in the conversation. Being empathetic towards a customer will immediately have an effective calming effect on the other party, encouraging them to feel appreciated, listened to and recognised. Remember, your brand’s reputation is always on the line. For this reason, it is fundamental to the business that customer service agents remain calm, collected and understanding.
All too often, customer service staff take a robotic, stiff approach to communicating with customers. This can make customers feel uneasy and under-valued, due to the agent’s lack of human emotion and empathetic attitude towards them. Regardless of the stringent strategies in place that may provide loose guidance on how staff members should behave and interact, it is important to be relatable and approachable to all customers. Nothing retains customers quite like a personal experience. A little conversation goes a long way in obtaining your customer’s admiration for your overall service and brand image. Personalisation can also work in online interactions, particularly when businesses send out regular targeted vouchers or rewards. Personalising your customer’s experience initiates a relationship and eases customers into feeling involved and valued on a personal level.
Staying Calm and Professional
Delivering top-quality customer service can be particularly difficult when faced with a challenging customer. However, remaining calm, cool and collected is perceived as key to professionalism in any business. Sometimes, adapting to the tone that is being received on the other end of a call, text, email or message can be tricky, particularly when confronted with rude language. However, by mirroring a customer’s negative behaviour, problems are rarely productively solved. Additionally, stooping to this level can have a knock-on effect when it comes to customers leaving reviews – it is important to any business that customer service staff obtain a good rapport with customers. Not only does staying calm build your brand’s reputation without tarnishing your business, it also aids your angry customer in relaxing to match your tone. This can be an extremely effective way of getting your customer to comply and agree to a solution that works for them.
How Good Customer Service Can Impact Your Customer Relationships
Life today’s fast-paced, so any experience a customer is expected to have with your business needs to be considerate of the time limitations on people’s days. Prospective customers may only have their lunch hour to speak to one of your representatives and so the experience must be quick and productive. For existing clients, the same is true, but remember, as Vince Lombardi said, ‘It takes months to find a customer… seconds to lose one.’ A recent article found that the average wait time for customers trying to speak to a customer service representative to discuss their broadband has increased by over one minute in the last year, resulting in Ofcom demanding improved services. Research also shows that poor customer service is the number two reason for customers changing their broadband or mobile phone provider, second only to financial deals.
Every year, the UK Customer Satisfaction Index carries out an online survey to over 10,000 adult consumers in the UK to ascertain their experiences during the previous three months with a range of businesses across different sectors. Each customer rates one organisation in each sector, including those in retail and utilities. In January 2021, businesses in the UK scored 0.1 points lower than the previous year. It’s likely that this statistic was impacted by the pandemic, as it stands to reason that, if more people were at home, there were more opportunities to complain, or even just to notice areas for improvement.
Fantastic customer service is about going that extra mile to ensure that your customers are fully satisfied, that they will continue to be loyal patrons, and that they will tell their friends and colleagues about the efforts your company goes to for its customers. Richard Branson says that wonderful customer service begins at the top, and no matter what size your business is, you should always spend time, money and effort ensuring that your customers are happy.
Different Methods and Channels for Providing a Good Customer Experience
The tools that are used by customer service agents in order to best approach customer queries and complaints can hugely impact the customer’s experience. In a world driven by advanced technology and a growing dependence on the innovative capabilities of the internet, businesses may feel overwhelmed by the endless possibilities available to them. The most suitable channel for interacting with customers is hard to determine, as different business types and target markets have unique needs and preferences. However, a company should always conduct thorough research of their target customers in order to understand which channels they may prefer to engage with. All in all, a successful business is most likely to offer an omnichannel of support to best tackle each and every query. By catering to phone users, live chat users and social media users, your methods of customer service will be able to provide optimal support for all customers, no matter which method they choose to contact you by.
Phone Call Support
Out of all the available methods of communication, telephone calls are still the most effective way to resolve an issue and reassure customers quickly. Despite the introduction of live chats and social media interactions, 85% of consumers prefer to use the phone to contact a company to get a problem solved swiftly. Not only does phone communication provide the customer with immediate acknowledgement of the issue in question, it also enables the customer to feel directly connected to a representative of the company.
This channel offers customers a simplified, streamlined customer experience. For any consumer, interacting with an empathetic and attentive human being is reassuring. Not only does this one-to-one communication technique deliver authentic and invaluable customer service, telephone services tend to solve problems at the first point of contact and help brands to increase customer loyalty.
Social Media Interactions
Unfortunately, feedback from customers that have shared their negative experiences with brands on platforms such as Twitter and Facebook continues to have a detrimental effect on brand image. It has been assessed that 94% of people will avoid a brand based on an online review, be that through a search engine or social media platform. With this in mind, it is crucial that businesses remain vigilant online, ensuring that social media posts and comments are monitored.
Although email communication tends to be one of the longest ways to receive a response and tackle problems, they are also a great way to keep track of the process. Around 64% of small businesses utilise email servers to interact with their customers, making emails a prominent focus point for delivering quality support. In situations where complaints have been raised, emails are easily tracked for the customer service agent’s reference. This helps the customer support team to reflect on past messages, helping them to gain a deeper understanding of the circumstances and the steps that have already been taken. Not only does this ensure there is no vital information missed, it also gives the agent the time needed to construct an informative, knowledge-based answer that accurately responds to the customer’s query.
Methods of communication are changing all the time, and one of the most recent developments is live chat, or webchat. A live chat is a type of messaging software that allows customers to communicate directly with a customer service agent for support – this messaging function is usually displayed as a pop-up on a website. The pop-up can appear as soon as the customer enters the site, after a certain period of time, or when a customer takes a certain action like clicking on a particular page or icon. This method of communication allows for immediate support.
Live chats can be manned by humans for a more personal approach, or a chatbot that automates responses based on a customer’s message. We know that customers prefer a personalised service though, so we would always recommend having real-life people operate your live chat! Generally though, live chats can provide several benefits – they are convenient for the customer, allow you to solve problems promptly, and can also boost your customer retention and satisfaction rates as they can improve customer service.
Because methods of communication are now so varied and we can share so much information with one another through different channels, self-service is now a popular method of customer service. This allows customers to solve issues themselves before they need to reach out to a customer service agent or business owner. Self-service allows customers to find answers and solutions through the likes of video tutorials and written guides – it’s popular amongst bigger brands that can invest in these tools.
It’s vital that this information is easily accessible – you might decide to display it on your website under a dedicated Help & Support section or an FAQs section, or some of the material could be posted on your social media. Either way, self-service can help customers to have a more involved understanding of your services and products, as well as a better experience.
Automation and Outsourcing: Alternative Methods for Managing Your Customer Interactions
What Is Automation?
As might come as no surprise, automation is the process of making something operate automatically – this is usually a system or a process. Automation minimises the need for human intervention and can help companies to deliver a service or product in a more efficient manner as a result. Setting up the automation of a task, system or process can be rather technical – it usually involves getting the system to predetermine decision criteria, related actions, and relationships – however, once set up, automation can help businesses to save time and resources, which can then be focused elsewhere. As such, the main benefits of automation include increasing productivity and efficiency by minimising human input.
There are a few different types of automation, all of which can be used for a range of different purposes. Some of these are listed below…
- Basic automation – This type of automation usually involves digitising your tasks or your work using software and applications to do so.
- Process automation – This usually relates to business processes, including your main workflow.
- Integration automation – This type of automation involves training a machine or software to mimic human tasks. As such, it can form part of the team and can perform various tasks and roles that a human would.
- AI automation – This is one of the most popular types of automation, and its popularity continues to grow as our grasp of artificial intelligence, in turn, continues to evolve. This type of automation involves machines making decisions based on learnt behaviours and other inputs that they have previously come across, digested, and analysed.
Clearly, automation can play a key part in the way that a business operates. As technology continues to adapt and evolve, we suspect the process of automation will become easier in the near future, as well as more commonplace in businesses across a range of industries. Now that you know what automation is, you might be wondering what exactly you could automate in your business. Well, we’ve got you covered – keep reading on to find out more about what to automate!
What Can I Automate?
There are plenty of tasks that can be automated within a business – such as those related to marketing and finance/sales – but given that the focus here is customer service, we’re going to look at the customer service tasks that can be outsourced.
Emails work as a customer service tool as well as a marketing tool, and automating them can ensure that created emails reach the right people at the right time. One of the best ways to automate your emails is to link your email marketing platform with your website analytics. Then, you can create emails to target people based on their previous sales, preferences, and behaviour on your website.
Live chats can be automated by using a chatbot to deal with customer interactions. However, if you don’t want to lose that personal touch that human interaction provides, you can still use automation here whilst still having real agents. Live chats can be used to monitor conversations and enquiries, and then you can see if there are any frequently asked questions or concerns amongst your customers. This might indicate that something needs to be addressed or made clearer.
Cut out the need for users to get in touch with you – help them to find the information or answers that they need on your website with guides, FAQs, support articles and videos. This minimises the time that you or your team spend dealing with customer interactions that could’ve been avoided, simply if there was more support on your website.
Interactive voice response (IVR)
IVR is a form of technology that allows your customers to interact with a computer-operated phone system – this reduces the time that real-life operators need to spend on the phone. However, it does mean that the service loses a personal touch, so we’d recommend outsourcing your inbound phone calls if necessary rather than automating them.
Assessing customer satisfaction and gaining feedback
With automated surveys (these are usually sent via email using the contact details that the user has provided at some point on their journey), you can easily gain feedback about the customer’s experience. On top of this, you can also automate an escalation process, or automate an alert to your team to flag that an escalation process needs to be started. For instance, if a customer leaves a low rating, you can automatically schedule a follow-up from the appropriate person or team, such as the manager or customer service team.
What Is Outsourcing?
Outsourcing involves giving tasks or responsibilities to a third party, for them to complete on behalf of your business. This third party might be another business with several employees, or it might be an individual – for example, a freelancer. Whilst plenty of customer service tasks can be outsourced, it’s also a popular solution for tasks in the areas of IT, marketing, accountancy and finance, graphic design, and so much more. What you can outsource will largely depend on the nature of your business and the sector that you operate in.
If you can outsource some of your tasks though, it can be incredibly beneficial to your business. It gives you more time to spend on other important matters and can reduce the stress felt by you and your team, especially if you have been struggling with your workload. Better still, you might decide to outsource certain tasks to experts in that field – for example, you might entrust alldayPA with your customer interactions. Not only does this give you more free time to deal with other business matters, but it means that your customer interactions are all handled by customer service experts! Then, you can rest assured that any inbound calls or messages are dealt with to the highest standard. In the meantime, you can deal with leads and focus on converting them, or you can focus your attention and efforts elsewhere, wherever they are needed!
What Can I Outsource?
As with automation, there is a range of tasks that can be outsourced to a third party. These include IT support, HR, marketing, website development, and customer service and support. Let’s take a look at the customer service tasks that could be outsourced to a third party – please note, this list is not exhaustive! These are just a few things to consider…
You might decide to outsource all of your telephone calls, or just your overflow calls when there isn’t anyone available on your end to take the call.
Many customers now choose to communicate with a business via email, and it’s important that emails are replied to promptly. As such, you might choose to have a third party monitoring your emails and responding to customers.
Customer service on social media
This can be considered in two parts. You might want to outsource your customer service by entrusting a third party with your social media enquiries. Or, you might want to hire a third-party marketing team or expert to look after your social media posts. Whilst the latter is technically marketing, some of it overlaps with customer service too, especially if your content relates to providing support or valuable information to customers.
Of course, outsourcing might not always be the best option for your business. It all depends on the demand you’re facing, your stage of growth, and also how your customers prefer to reach out to you. However, here at alldayPA, we provide services and packages for a range of different businesses spanning several industries. We can help companies with their incoming customer interactions, saving them time, boosting their productivity, and helping them to maintain customer satisfaction! If you’d like to find out more about how you can outsource your customer service tasks to us, why not give us a call on 0345 056 8888?
Things to Consider if Opting for Automation or an Outsourcing Solution
These two options might sound like great ideas if you’re struggling to keep up with all the tasks that you need to do as a business owner or a customer service team. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when implementing these processes or using these services that will ensure that your customers still receive top-notch service!
Don’t get too carried away with automation
Your customers will appreciate a personalised service, so you don’t want to lose that personal touch. With that in mind, we’d say avoid chatbots and interactive voice response (IVR)! Here at alldayPA, we use automation tools to help people, not replace them. Nothing beats that human touch.
Don’t make any hasty decisions when it comes to outsourcing
Make sure you’re using a reputable company that has plenty of experience and great reviews. If you’re looking for all of the above – why not choose us?
Be sure to look at where your third-party provider is based
Remember that if they’re abroad, this might mean your service is affected by language barriers, cultural differences or a difference in time zones. alldayPA are UK-based and operate 24/7, so none of this will be an issue if you work with us!
Look for scalable solutions
As your business evolves, it’s important that your services evolve with it. As such, you’ll need a scalable solution – like the packages at alldayPA – that help you to adjust the service you receive over time. We know that the businesses we work with will grow considerably over time, which is why we allow our clients to scale their packages as and when needed!
Internal Policies, Procedures and Models Relating to Customer Service
Whilst customer service obviously involves your customer base, there are several internal policies, procedures, and models that companies will have in place to ensure that the service they provide is to the highest standard, including steps to follow if this standard is not met (e.g. in the event of a customer making a complaint). Let’s take a look at what these different things are, and how they play a role in the overall customer experience and service provided by a company…
Customer Service Policies
Customer service policies are written codes of conduct that provide employees or teams with guidelines to follow. In other words, they act as a rulebook to ensure that all employees are on the same page. These guidelines are usually designed for a range of different scenarios, such as answering customer questions, dealing with complaints, and refunds. As such, they’ll detail the specific actions to take in this scenario. They might also include information and outlines about your services and products, benchmarks to aim for, and company mission statements that relate to the standard of service provided.
Given that companies operating within the same sectors are likely to provide similar, if not the same, services and products, customer service is one of the things that can make you stand out amongst competitors. So, creating customer service policies is a great way to ensure that your service, and therefore the customer’s experience, is consistent.
Customer Service Procedure
The terms ‘procedure’ and ‘policy’ are often used interchangeably, and they are very similar. A customer service procedure refers to your company’s routine practice and the way that you carry out customer service. A procedure may also refer to the process of improving your service – for example, finding a more efficient way of doing something.
Putting procedures in place may also include improving the performance of customer service agents or teams. Usually, managers in this field have a responsibility to monitor employee performance and, as a result, will need to regularly be checking for areas for improvement. Procedures can then be implemented to help the employee to improve, enhancing the level of service provided overall.
Customer Service Model
This is a plan that determines how your business will deal with certain enquiries or customers – usually those that are unhappy and/or have made a complaint. The model will outline what to do in certain situations, and it should also detail how to obtain customer feedback, how your business plans to maximise customer retention, and how you will meet customer needs. Ultimately, a customer service model will be in place to ensure that your business maintains an amazing level of customer service and provides a fantastic customer experience!
To create a model, you should consider common problems or complaints that you receive. Then, think about the steps that need to be taken to ensure that the issue is rectified. To compensate for the inconvenience, is there anything that you can do for the customer? Above all, the model needs to turn a potentially negative customer experience into a positive one. Once the model has been created, it’s vital that your teams have training to ensure it is implemented and used successfully.
Skills That Every Customer Service Agent Needs
Customer service agents need to have the right skill set in order to handle the surprises and challenges that their roles throw at them. Most importantly, having the right skill set will ensure that agents provide a great level of service and that they can stay cool, calm and collected whenever a problem arises, such as having to deal with an angry customer. Of course, the specific skills needed will vary depending on the business, the industry, and the products and services offered, but many customer service agents operating in different areas will tend to need the same set of general skills. Let’s take a look at what they are…
As we’ve established, many communication methods are now used to provide customers with an omnichannel customer experience and service. As a result, channels such as email, social media, the telephone, and live chat are all now commonly used by customer service agents. That means these agents need to know how to tailor their communication not just to the customer and their needs, but to the method of communication that they’re using too. As such, communication skills – across all used platforms – are absolutely essential for agents to succeed in their roles.
The ability to use positive language
In most cases, if a customer contacts you, it’s because they have a problem that they need to discuss and solve. As such, your customers might appear frustrated or angry and, in the face of that, customer service agents need to remain positive despite how challenging that may feel. Of course, you must empathise with the customer, but the tone of the conversation should remain as upbeat and as positive as possible. Focus on getting a positive outcome and use positive language when focusing on the solution. This can also help to set the tone for the rest of the conversation, preventing the customer from remaining angry.
One of the key skills that any agent needs is the ability to actively listen to the customers. Active listening involves delving deeper – you must understand what the customer is saying, and why they feel the way that they do. As such, being empathetic and actively listening are very closely linked. By delving deeper into the customers’ issues and feelings, you can deliver a truly personalised service that is bespoke to them, what they need, and how they are feeling.
One of the biggest challenges that agents will face is handling calls from customers that are angry and frustrated, and then rude and loud as a result. Keeping your cool is essential in these situations, so being patient is a must-have skill. Keep in mind that this person’s anger isn’t a personal attack on you, and it isn’t aimed at you. Instead, they are frustrated with the situation. However, you do have the power to turn their day and their issue into something positive, but keeping a clear head and remaining positive is vital in doing that.
As mentioned above, part of the day-to-day role in customer service will likely involve dealing with angry or irate customers. That’s why resilience is another important quality to have – in the face of obstacles and challenges, customer service agents need to remain calm and confident. Resilience is an important quality to have when dealing with customers, but also when dealing with internal challenges such as unforeseen issues and challenging workloads.
As a customer service agent, it’s likely that you’ll have several ongoing customer enquiries to deal with, and therefore several problems to solve. Because of this, it’s important that you have good time management skills, so that you can balance your tasks accordingly. Similarly, prioritisation is another key skill here – you need to recognise which enquiries or issues are the most urgent, and therefore which should be dealt with first. If you have a team of people working with you too, the ability to delegate tasks also links very closely to these skills as well. In the role of customer service agent, you’ll need to make sure you can manage your time, your priorities and your responsibilities.
The hunger to keep learning and expanding their knowledge
Customer service agents need to have an abundance of knowledge – this pertains to what they know about customer service, but also what they know about the products and services of the company that they represent. After all, customers will likely have problems or enquiries relating to these products or services, so agents need to know the key points and features, and at least where to direct the customer if someone else is more suited to deal with their enquiry. As well as having detailed knowledge, customer service agents need to have a willingness to learn. Industries, service offerings, and technology are changing all the time – you have to keep up, learn, and adapt to still provide a top quality service.
A ‘people first’ attitude
As the saying goes, the customer is always right! But seriously, in a customer service role, your priority and your focus should always be on the customer. That includes understanding the customer’s problem, identifying the solution that they want or need, and working hard to ensure that a solution is found effectively and promptly. In this line of work, you have to be a people person, and you certainly have to be driven by the desire to help people. With this attitude, a role in customer service makes for a very rewarding job.
Given that many customers will be reaching out to you because they have an issue or a problem, you must have amazing problem-solving skills if you’re a customer service agent. Even if you provide support in-house (for example, on an IT support desk of a financial firm), then the same still applies – even if you’re helping colleagues internally, you are there to solve problems and to keep things ticking over. Having problem-solving skills will help you to deal with the unexpected – the term can often be used as an umbrella term to describe other important skills such as time management, active listening, research and decision-making which all contribute towards solving problems.
Emotional intelligence and the ability to show empathy
Any customer service agent excelling in their role will have the ability to show emotional intelligence and, more specifically, empathy. Instead of taking things personally, you should actively listen to understand exactly what the customer is feeling, and why. Think about a time when you’ve been frustrated – you’ll have likely been comforted if the person that you were talking to showed some understanding. The same applies to customer service. Even if you just reiterate the issue, it can go a long way to helping the customer feel heard and understood. This is particularly effective when customers are irate or angry, as it can help to calm them down.
Employing an Expert Customer Service Provider for All of Your Support Needs
Running a growing business can be time consuming and stressful. Often, customer service can become a neglected aspect of a business, despite the fact this element contributes to a large portion of your company’s success. It is for this reason that a large quantity of businesses in all sectors seek to collaborate with an outsourced service provider. Here at alldayPA, we possess the skills, knowledge, patience and time necessary to alleviate the stress from business owners. We pride ourselves on our ability to provide high-quality customer service around the clock, working hard to answer all queries and solve as many problems as possible. Want to learn more about how we can help your business retain customers and gain an unrivalled reputation? Contact us today to find the solution you’ve been looking for.
Customer Service Glossary
A customer service agent – also known as a customer service representative, is a person that helps a business’s customers by offering support in a variety of ways. Often, an agent will use a telephone, live chat, messaging platforms, social media, and email to communicate with customers. It’s important for agents to have all of the vital skills and characteristics required in customer service, such as proactive listening, communication skills, and showing empathy.
Application Program Interface (API)
API is a type of software that facilitates communication between applications. We’ll use APIs every day, but most of the time we aren’t aware that we’re doing it. If you are to log onto social media and respond to a customer, you’re instructing the social media application to carry out that task using an API. So, APIs are vital in customer service and whether you know it or not, they are fundamental to the delivery of customer service given that they are so crucial to many applications.
Automation simply refers to the process of making a system or process operate automatically, thus reducing the amount of human input and maximising efficiency when it comes to delivering a service or product. When it comes to automating tasks or processes, the difficulty varies, but it usually involves the system learning and predetermining decision criteria and relationships. However, once set up, automation can help businesses to save time, which they can then spend on other important tasks.
Average First Response Time
Your average first response time (also known as FRT) is a metric that shows the average time it takes for a customer service agent, or any other individual, to respond to a customer. FRT can be vital when it comes to customer satisfaction rates – the lower your FRT, the more satisfied your customers will be. So, if you’re looking to boost customer satisfaction, one of the first things to address is your FRT. Of course though, it’s important to note that this is just the start of the process – once an agent has responded to a customer, they’ll then likely need to find a solution to their query.
Average Handle Time
This metric, which is also known as AHT, is used to measure the duration of a transaction between a customer service agent and a customer. This duration includes when the customer initiated the conversation, hold time, and any other tasks that were carried out during the conversation or ongoing enquiry. To calculate average handle time, the talk time + hold time + other related work is usually divided by the number of customer conversations that have taken place. Again, the lower the AHT, the better. That being said, it’s still important to always thoroughly provide customers with the service or answers that they need, and that they contacted you for in the first place – the process mustn’t be rushed for the sake of it. Instead, companies should have systems in place to ensure that the AHT can be as low as possible but without compromising on quality service.
The simplest way to think about backlog is that it’s the number of unresolved customer requests that a company has over a period of time. The way that businesses define ‘unresolved’ will vary, but usually it includes any new and open tickets/enquiries as well. Ideally, companies will have a very small backlog, and the number of new queries would equate to the amount of existing tickets or queries that are resolved and closed. However, if your backlog starts to grow, customers can become frustrated as it can affect your response time. Before it gets to this stage, it’s worth considering how to minimise the backlog (e.g. by using our services to ensure all customer enquiries are dealt with).
Benchmarking refers to the process of comparing the processes and performance of a department or overall business against the best practices within the industry. Costs, time, and quality are typical factors to be measured, with specific metrics that can be compared. This can help businesses to pick out the best companies within their industry and, where similar processes to their own exist, it allows them to draw comparisons. Benchmarking is often considered vital for continuous improvement – something that is crucial for success within any sector.
Business hours – or office hours – are the hours where business is conducted. For example, you might operate 9-5 or 24/7. Whatever your business hours are, Whilst you should be contactable during these business hours, you might deliver customer service outside of these hours too – for instance, you might operate 9-5 and carry out your business tasks then, but your customers might be able to reach your business via an emergency hotline at any time around the clock if they need support. This can be true for the likes of gas and electric companies.
A call centre can be a department or an office where calls are handled; this can include inbound and outbound calls, and calls from your existing customer base or new and potential customers. Most of the time, those working in a call centre are referred to as agents. Larger companies tend to have dedicated call centres to carry out a range of roles such as handling customer queries, telemarketing, and conducting market research. As well as this though, and perhaps most relevant to small companies, some smaller businesses or entrepreneurs might use an outsourced call centre – like ours – where their calls are handled remotely by external agents. These are also known as virtual assistants.
Canned responses are predetermined responses to frequently asked questions – they are typically used in customer service departments and technical support teams where having a default response to a common question can be efficient and convenient for both parties – the advisor/agent, and the customer. In these settings, the advisor might select the relevant canned response from a drop-down menu or something similar, to avoid typing out the same response over and over again.
Some programmes also have built-in features that allow canned responses. However, it’s important to note that canned responses are a slippery slope – they shouldn’t be seen as a quick fix. They need to still answer the customer’s query, and agents still need to ensure that they are providing a personal service.
When done correctly, case studies can be a powerful marketing tool. Essentially, they are a piece of content that helps to bring a service or product to life, by detailing how they have affected your customers and clients. When writing a case study, you should aim to convey what the problem was that your customer faced, how you helped them to overcome that problem, and what the outcome was. For instance, a marketing agency might use a case study to demonstrate how they increased their client’s organic traffic, and – in turn – their revenue. You can take a look at our case studies by following the links below too:
- How we helped HiPP with their growing call volume
- How we helped 408 Media to increase their revenue
- How we assisted Lance Mason Solicitors in handling their calls
- How we managed Trade Counter Direct’s excess calls
- How we improved customer satisfaction for Carshalton Boilers
Channels can refer to a number of things, but here we’re referring to how a business reaches its customer segments, and communicates with them. Channels can usually be considered as direct or indirect, and there are usually five phases to note – awareness, evaluation, purchase, delivery, and after sales. These may be called something else in your business model, but ultimately they tend to mean the same thing and follow the same structure. Within these channels, customer relationships and communications might be automated or personal depending on their nature but, overall, the objective should always be to build customer relationships and earn the trust and loyalty of the customer.
Bots are on the rise, so you’ll have likely heard the term ‘chatbot’. A chatbot is a software application that simulates a human conversation. Typically, users will communicate with a chatbot via a webchat (also known as live chat) or by voice, exactly as they would with an ordinary person. Chatbots will interpret and process a user’s words to give an instant response. In customer service, chatbots are usually used before the customer is passed on to a real human agent. Most of the time, chatbots are used to determine the nature of the customer’s enquiry or problem, and then they can be passed to the most relevant department or individual.
If you have a business, customer churn is one of the most important metrics to analyse. Customer churn refers to the amount, or percentage, of customers that have stopped using your product or service over a specific timeframe. You can work out your churn rate by dividing the number of lost customers by the number of customers that you had at the start of that specific time period. Of course, you should always aim to have a churn rate as close to 0% as possible. Ensuring that your product and/or service is top quality, and that your customer service is great, will minimise the chances of your churn rate increasing.
Customer aftercare has many different aspects, but ultimately the term refers to all of your steps, communications, actions, and processes that occur following the sale of your service or product, to ensure that the customer remains happy and engaged. Nowadays, online reviews and word of mouth are vital for sales, and that’s where customer aftercare plays a part. With great customer aftercare, people are more likely to leave you a positive review or recommend you to people that they know, which can then help you to drive sales and grow your customer base. Moral of the story: don’t neglect your customer care at the point of sale!
Customer Effort Score (CES)
A Customer Effort Score is a metric that is used to measure how much effort a customer has to go to resolve an issue, purchase a product or service, return a product or service, get a question answered, or get a request fulfilled. You may also hear of CES surveys that will ask the customer about how easy or difficult they found a particular process. CES can correlate with customer churn too, with the idea being that the easier your processes are, then the more loyal a customer will be. There are various things that you can do to increase CES, but the main points are to optimise for mobile, keep things simple, and share survey data with the relevant teams so that you can keep improving.
The term ‘customer experience’ can often be used interchangeably with similar terms, such as ‘customer service’. However, customer experience refers to all aspects of a business’s offering. This can include the advertising and marketing, the product or service itself including how easy it is to use, and then customer aftercare after the point of sale. Customer experience is absolutely vital for customer loyalty and retention – provide a great experience and you’re more likely to keep your customers, and they’re also more likely to spread the word about how great you are!
Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
CRM refers to a range of technologies and strategies that companies use to manage their customer data and interactions, all the way through the customer lifecycle. Quite often, companies will use a single CRM system where they can store data and access information about the customer’s journey. This data can include facts about their purchase history, personal information, and any ongoing enquiries or concerns. It can be particularly useful when a customer gets in touch – the agent can easily find all of the information about their journey within a CRM system, so that they can pick up exactly where is needed.
Customer satisfaction measures how satisfied customers are with a company. This pertains to many aspects of the company, but mainly their services or products, and their customer service. To determine customer satisfaction, you may decide to roll out surveys and review platforms, or give customers the ability to give you a rating. This can help you to determine whether improvements need to be made, and where. Above all though, customer satisfaction is vital for the success of any company, and businesses should make it a priority to always maintain and increase their customer satisfaction rates. This can help to retain and gain business, thus increasing sales and revenue.
This term refers to the support that you provide to your customers – this includes support both before and after the purchase of your product or your services has been made. Customer service can be offered through various channels including over the phone, via email, live chat, and social media platforms. Given the developments in technology, it’s now easier than ever for customers to reach out for assistance and receive customer service, and rightly so. Customers have now come to expect prompt responses from customer service assistants, so great customer service is vital for customer satisfaction.
This term is often confused with customer service, but there are some subtle differences between the two terms. Customer support can often refer to the team of people that help customers whenever they have issues, particularly problems with the company’s services or products. Ultimately, customer support is all about supporting your customers to ensure that they can solve the issues that they are facing. Customer support usually comes in the form of a single interaction, whereas customer service is typically an umbrella term that refers to all interactions that improve the customer’s experience. Where customer service therefore seeks to build relationships, customer support seeks to fix issues – usually technical issues.
Cross-selling can work as a highly effective marketing method. Cross-selling involves selling a related product to a customer, or even giving it to them for free. Taking the Marketing industry as an example – you might have a client that uses your PPC services, and then you cross-sell and they come on board for Paid Social Work too. The term can often also be confused with ‘upselling’, which instead refers to promoting or selling an upgrade or higher-end version of a service or product.
Diary management involves much more than just keeping track of events. Whilst the term usually refers to the management of a business leader’s diary, it can also involve ensuring that their time is spent in the best way possible, and that they are working efficiently. It involves making sure that there is enough time between scheduled meetings and appointments, that the email inbox is synced to the right calendar, and using the best technology to manage the diary. Diary management may be done in-house by a PA or a receptionist, or it can be outsourced to teams like us here at alldayPA!
Empathy is the ability to share and understand the feelings of others. In customer service, it’s all about understanding why the customer is feeling the way that they do, and listening carefully to their needs and concerns. When customers are concerned or annoyed, showing them that you care and understand can go a long way, and this is where empathy plays a key part. By actively listening to their issues and understanding, you’re more likely to provide a personalised service that’s bespoke for their needs. It can also help to set the tone of the conversation – by being kind and empathetic, you may just calm an angry customer down!
First Contact Resolution (FCR)
FCR is a metric – usually calculated as a percentage – that measures a customer service teams’ success rate in resolving and answering customer queries when they first ask. The term can often be confused with First Call Resolution, especially because they have the same acronym. However, First Call Resolution (also known as One Call Resolution) measures only the voice channel, whereas First Contact Resolution extends to all customer service channels, such as emails, social media, live chat, and text messaging.
Regarding First Contact Resolution, many are now using it as a way of measuring the efficiency of their team or call centre, as opposed to using it as a target for agents. This is largely due to the fact that it can cause unwelcome behaviours – agents will start to rush and may not be as accurate with their information or advice if there’s a rigid target to meet.
A help desk, or help desk support, usually comprises a group of specialists that are on hand to support customers by answering their questions or addressing any issues that they have, including with their product or service. Help desks may also support teams within the company too – for example, you may have an IT help desk to support internal systems and IT equipment. In many companies, they will have their own name for a help desk, depending on what exactly it is used for. You may also hear the term ‘help desk’ used to describe the software a customer uses too when they are seeking online support.
Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
IVR is an automated phone system technology by which incoming callers can get information from pre-recorded messages, thus meaning that they don’t need to speak to a real life agent. With IVR, they can also make use of menu options and speech recognition amongst other things, to have their call passed on to a specific department, team, or individual. A well-designed IVR system will improve operations, particularly when centres and teams are faced with high call volumes, but it won’t compromise quality when it comes to the service that the customer receives. In most cases, IVR shouldn’t be a substitute for human contact, it should just help customers find the right person to speak to.
Key Performance Indicator (KPI)
A KPI is a value that can be measured, to demonstrate how well a business is meeting and achieving its key objectives. Companies will use KPIs to evaluate how successful they are when it comes to meeting targets. Top-level KPIs tend to focus on the overall performance and success of a business, whereas lower-level KPIs may be department specific – for example, they might pertain to a particular department like Sales or Marketing. As well as this, KPIs can also be set for individuals to track their progress and their targets.
A knowledge base usually sits on a company’s website, and is considered a hub or collection of documentation that can help customers. The knowledge base might also include guides, but ultimately the information provided will help customers whether that’s through how-to guides, answers to commonly asked questions, or instructions for troubleshooting. Above all, the information provided should be easy to access and easy to understand, to reduce the need for users to get in touch with a customer service agent. Well-written content within a knowledge base can therefore help companies to offer customer service more efficiently, whilst providing users with instant, helpful information.
Lifetime Value (LTV)
Customer lifetime value is a key statistic when looking at customer service – it gives an indication of how valuable a customer or client is to your business. However, when looking at customer lifetime value, it’s not just about how much money they spend with you – you need to consider the relationship as a whole too. Given that it costs less to keep existing customers rather than gain new ones, measuring and tracking your customer lifetime value is extremely important. The term is often confused with Net Promoter Score (NPS). However, NPS focuses largely on customer loyalty and satisfaction, whereas LTV does take revenue into account as well, albeit it’s not the sole factor to consider.
Live chat – or a webchat as it’s often referred to – is a form of technology that allows users to get in touch with a business directly from their website, in real-time. A live chat can be used in a variety of ways and for various purposes including sales and marketing. However, it is most commonly used for customer service – users can ask questions via a live chat and will receive an instant response. Sometimes though, chatbots are used on live chats which can be efficient to an extent, but you have to be careful that you don’t rely on it too much – some human interaction should still be used.
Message taking usually comes as part of a wide telephone answering service. When an agent answers the phone to an inbound caller but the person that they need is not available, then the agent will pass on a message – this is called message taking. Typically, the caller should find out who the caller is, which company they are calling from (if applicable), and if there’s anyone specific that they are calling for. If there is, the agent should check that person’s availability and forward the caller on if they are available. If not, the agent will take a message and pass it on. Alternatively, if there’s no one specific that needs to take the call, the agent should find out why the person is calling and then they can be passed to the most relevant person or department.
Metrics have been used for years and years in a variety of industries spanning marketing, finance, operations, and beyond. Metrics are a standard of measurement that are used for quantitative assessment – they can be used for drawing comparisons and tracking performance or production, as examples. Quite often, business analysts – or the relevant people within a business – will create dashboards where they have access to the metrics they’re interested in, so that they can form business strategies, draft assessments, and track performance.
Net Promoter Score (NPS)
NPS is used to measure customer loyalty and satisfaction. An NPS is gained by asking customers for feedback – usually, this involves asking customers whether they would recommend your product or service, but of course, there is a lot more to the metric than that. Getting an NPS helps businesses to understand how they can improve their products and services, as well as their customer service and support. Putting the right actions in place can help to increase customer loyalty, and therefore the NPS.
You may have heard the term ‘omnichannel’ in the context of an omnichannel user experience – it’s something that we talk about a lot here at alldayPA. Essentially, an omnichannel user experience utilises multiple channels from a company website to apps, email marketing, in-person advertising, social media, live chat support, flyers, and so much more. Omnichannel user experiences could encompass customer support and service, as well as marketing efforts. It must be noted though that using all of these channels doesn’t necessarily mean you’re providing an omnichannel user experience – instead, the platforms must be integrated and push users along the customer journey seamlessly.
Outsourcing involves giving out tasks and responsibilities to an external third party, meaning that they manage it on your behalf. There are so many things that can be outsourced depending on your own industry and what you’re looking for. For instance, your marketing could be outsourced if you want an expert team working to help your business. You may also decide to outsource your accountancy if you lack the expertise in-house, or you might ask a third-party to create graphic designs for your business to save you time and money. And, of course, you might choose to outsource your customer service to us – alldayPA! Whatever you decide to outsource, it can be incredibly useful for your business by giving you the time to get on with other important things.
Personalisation – or personalised service – in customer service means providing an experience that’s bespoke to the customer’s needs. This can be done by storing data and information about your customers, their journey, and their purchase history, so that you can tailor your interactions to them accordingly. Personalisation makes your customer feel valued, appreciated and understood, resulting in higher rates of customer loyalty, retention, and satisfaction. Evidently, providing a personalised service can bring a whole host of benefits to businesses, so this approach to customer service should certainly be embraced by organisations.
Being proactive is one of the most important skills a customer service agent can have. Proactive behaviour is all about solving a problem before it has occurred – in other words, it is the opposite of a reactive approach, where a reaction occurs after an incident or issue. If you see that something has the potential to escalate or turn into a problem, proactivity is all about working towards a solution at the earliest opportunity. You may also hear the term in reference to proactive listening too – this is where you gain a deep insight into what the customer is saying, and what they mean.
Remote Customer Service
Remote working has changed many industries, and customer service is no exception. Remote customer service is customer service that is carried out by agents, in a different location to where the business that they are representing is based. This might be because the customer service agent is working from home or, alternatively, the agents might be remote because they work for a third-party customer service provider (like alldayPA)! Wherever they’re working though, the customer service agents will carry out the same, usual responsibilities associated with their role. This might include taking customer calls, responding to feedback, and message taking.
This is a metric used to compare how many service requests, or tickets, have been fulfilled. Of course, the rate at which you respond will differ across each channel, and customers tend to be fully aware of this. For example, a customer emailing your company won’t expect an instant response, but someone ringing will expect the phone to be answered promptly, and a resolution to be given as soon as possible. You can calculate your resolution rate by dividing the number of solved tickets with the number of received tickets, and then multiplying by 100. The target resolution rate is likely to vary from industry to industry depending on the nature of your customer requests, so it’s important to get to grips with the expectations.
Customer retention is all about how businesses can keep customers coming back as repeat buyers. In other words, it stops them from switching to a competitor and keeps them loyal to your brand. The higher the customer retention rate, the better – this indicates that your product or services are of good quality, and that customers are satisfied. Some companies, depending on their nature, will also produce strategies that focus on how to maintain and boost retention, as well as the customer lifetime value. You can improve retention by improving your customer service, and/or your product or service offering too.
Self-service allows customers to solve problems independently, without the need to contact a customer service agent or department. Given that customer service can now be delivered through various methods and channels, self-service is now easier than ever. It typically comes in the form of how-to guides, video tutorials, and FAQs sections that address common questions and assist customers with troubleshooting or any technical/usability issues with the product or service. Not only does self-service help customers to gain a better understanding of your product or service, but it can create business efficiency by removing the need for customers to reach out to you.
Service Level Agreement (SLA)
An SLA outlines the level of service to be provided by a vendor. It might also detail the metrics that the service will be measured on, and what will happen if the service levels that have been agreed are not achieved or delivered. The SLA protects all parties within the agreement, ensuring that they all have an understanding of what is expected of them as well as the others within the agreement. Without an SLA, contracts are open to misinterpretation which can cause problems for your business, many of which can be easily avoided by drafting the agreement.
A survey is a questionnaire and, in business, surveys answered by customers can help to give useful indications of things like customer satisfaction. As well as this, the feedback from surveys can help to inform businesses of what their strengths are, and what needs to be improved from the point of view of their customers, whose opinion arguably matters most! Surveys might be delivered to those that have made a recent purchase or that have had a recent interaction with your business or customer service team. Alternatively, surveys could be rolled out on an annual basis for customers on a retainer or a subscription basis, so that you can stay in the know about exactly how they’re feeling as time goes on. This could help you to identify trends and, in turn, areas for improvement every year.
Telephone answering is an outsourced service provided by an external third-party, like us here at alldayPA! This means that dedicated agents or PAs will answer incoming calls, on behalf of your organisation. Whilst this service has been around for a while, it’s gained further traction in recent years as business owners increasingly have more responsibilities, and therefore less time to answer their inbound calls. Using a service of this kind ensures that you never miss a call, and therefore never miss a potential lead. Given that customers are always answered when they call, it can also help to boost customer retention and satisfaction rates.
A ticket simply refers to an issue raised by a customer that the business then needs to address. It can also be known as a ticketing system. A ticket could come through multiple channels, such as via telephone, email, social media, and live chat. A ticketing system can be an effective way for businesses to organise, delegate, and address their customers enquiries or issues, to ensure that they are dealt with promptly and by the appropriate people. Ticketing systems can usually be accessed via help desk software used by customer service teams, making it super simple to get started.
Troubleshooting is a common term in technical support, and involves finding the source of an issue and addressing it through a systematic approach to problem-solving. It is usually a term used in the context of computer systems, iT, and electronic devices whenever a bug or a breakdown occurs. Troubleshooting can be carried out via self-service methods by the customer themselves, or it can be carried out by customer service agents, either face-to-face with the customer or remotely. Different methods of troubleshooting include the process of elimination, diagnosis analysis, and product restoration.
Like cross-selling, upselling is a sales technique, but this aims to persuade customers to buy a more expensive or premium version of the product or service that they have chosen. It also includes persuading them to buy addition-add ons, for the purpose of maximising profits from a sale. The term is often used interchangeably with ‘cross-selling’, but there are some subtle differences: upselling focuses on convincing customers to upgrade to a more expensive version of the chosen product or service, whereas cross-selling is all about making personalised recommendations regarding relevant complementary products.
Upselling can be beneficial as, in a lot of cases, it is easier to upsell to existing customers than acquire new ones. Similarly, it can help you to build strong relationships with customers, and it can lead to an increased Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
Given the name and the mention of ‘virtual’, is not unusual for people to think that virtual assistants are robots. However, that’s not the case at all! However, virtual assistants offer administrative and customer support services from a remote location, either to an in-house team of colleagues or to customers from their business, or a business that they represent. Virtual assistants tend to be self-employed. However, here at alldayPA, all of our agents are known as PAs, virtual assistants, and virtual receptionists. We can assure you, all of our team are real people – they just work remotely from the businesses that they represent.