You just have to pick up the phone, right? That’s what a lot of people think about customer service, in addition to some notion of a polite chatterbox simply being themselves – so polite and chatty, in other words – and the rest magically working itself out. But they couldn’t be more wrong.
Well-functioning, effective customer service is a bit like Disney World: all that which seems spontaneous and fantastic and just flows, it requires meticulous work with boring processes and routines day in and day out in order to work as it should.
Here are the main pillars that carry the Disney World of customer service:
Customer Service Requires Structure
- Clear tasks and a clear division of labour
Who should do what, and what is our task? What should we not get involved with, and what will we need from the client in order for the collaboration to work effectively? This is all about mapping out the task at hand, what the collaboration with our client should look like, who does what in our organisation and what technology and other tools we need in order to do it.
- Clear goals and key objectives
When are we done, and what does the end goal look like? We identify clear objectives in the form of an SLA, KPIs and other key figures and determine what the communication should look like throughout the project, including when and how the client can expect to get information and continuous updates.
Competence and Training
- The right competence
What candidate profile is right for this particular job? Do we need to take a listening approach and be especially receptive? Do we need to emphasise guidance and attempt to steer the conversation very deliberately? Will we be answering the phone all day or communicate a lot in writing? The agent who was perfect for yesterday’s task might not be right for this one.
- The right resources
How many team leaders does the project need? What other resources will the agents need, and when? We need clear roles throughout the organisation in order to be able to step in with extra support when each individual project needs it. For each and every project to run smoothly, we need clear routines and manuals for our work, as well as continuous monitoring and follow-up of all tasks.
- Training and development
Training and onboarding are central, naturally, when we welcome new staff members, but in order to maintain and develop our competence and ensure that we grow both as individuals and as a team, we also need continuous training and education. That can be anything from individual coaching to workshops or longer further education courses – anything to keep the knowledge and skills alive and current.
Efficient, positive customer service isn’t just polite and helpful. It is built on methodology and structures that are in turn built on experience and facts. How should an e-mail be structured? When should an agent listen, and when should they cut in to bring the conversation onto the right track? The truth is that receptiveness and rhetorical precision are a great deal more important than any shallow politeness when it comes to creating a positive customer experience – and yet again, we leave nothing to chance, but each interaction is built on a consciously considered and strategically designed methodology.
- Systems and tools
In order for structures, processes and routines to work as planned and for communication to run smoothly, you need reliable, well-integrated systems. Thanks to the right systems in the right places – and we’re talking numerous complex systems that interact with each other and are updated in real-time – we know that we always have current, up-to-date information about everything from stock levels to payment and shipping, and we have access to forecasts and predictions that show what the situation is likely to be like in the coming weeks or months. That way, we can not only offer good service that contributes to increased customer satisfaction, but also prevent additional future cases to customer support.
How hard can it be? Well, with the right resources, systems and methodology, it can actually be quite easy – but not by chance, and never without a tailored structure, clever processes and continuous monitoring.
If it comes across as easy, we’ve succeeded – because without the above factors, you’ll likely encounter problems that will eventually contribute to dissatisfied customers and increased costs. Only once all of the above is in place, it’s as simple as picking up the phone and being yourself.
In other words, we’re not good at customer service because of our personalities. We’re good at customer service thanks to many years’ experience, a clear and stubborn structure, a solid understanding of competence and resources, and the right technology in the right place – all of which, put together, means that we’re always on top of things and can offer customer service that exceeds the customer’s expectations and keeps your costs down.