These days customer feedback and distress signals come in a head-spinning variety of formats and flavors. Joining the ever popular toll-free phone line are flurries of emails and SMS texts, blog comments, tweets, Facebook posts, Yelp reviews, and snarky Youtube video parodies and all those who love to comment on them.
But just because the channels for engaging and responding to customers has multiplied, doesn’t mean response times should suffer.
Here are 8 keys to delivering top-flight customer support, courtesy of Jon Picoult, founder of Watermark Consulting, a customer experience advisory firm.
- Acknowledge, acknowledge, acknowledge. In all interactions letting the customer know you hear them is critical, particularly if the customer submits electronically. At the very least, they need to receive an auto response giving them the ticket number and next-step actions.
- Set an accurate expectation. Let the customer know what to expect and when – the next time they will hear from you and in what format, the resolution time, whatever you can commit to legitimately; be clear and articulate.
- Deliver on expectation. It sounds simple but this is where many, many companies fall terribly short. They are cavalier about setting expectations (if at all) and don’t have a high sensitivity about NOT fulfilling on a promise. If you don’t do that, no matter how much you’ve communicated, you’ve lost the game.
- Communicate even if you have nothing to communicate. If you’re the frontline person and you made a commitment that ends up being inaccurate, the natural response is to hunker down and hope it goes away. Nobody wants to have that tough conversation, but the hallmark of a great service organization is to communicate the status, listen to the customer and continue to strive to deliver on the promise.
- Track all activity. No matter who initiated the contact or for what reasons, companies need to have a mechanism in place that allows reps to track customer data and customers HATE to get shifted around from rep to rep and repeat themselves.
- The customer decides the definition of “resolved.” In IT and software companies especially, there is a focus on getting the ticket off the desk and resolved, but does the customer think it’s resolved? The ticket is not closed until the customer says, “Yes, I’m all set.”
- Let the customer be the judge of success. Improving turnaround times and the rate at which you close tickets is important, and via those benchmarks you might think you’re doing great, but the folly of internal performance measurement is that those measures are not of value to the customer. Complement internal measures with external “horse’s mouth” measures by capturing direct customer feedback.
- Set up listening posts to capture hidden information. Listen closely to the social media space and look for patterns in emails, blog comments and the like. You have a treasure trove of customer data at the ready, but many companies just don’t tap into it. What’s the common thing or things that people are saying to you? It’s akin to paying close attention to the offhand remarks to glean insights in product development and better customer service. Categorize why people are calling, for example, and capture why you have to say “no” to a customer and sorting through that stuff to be able to not say “no” in the future.