Customer service: turning transactions into relationships


Customer service has never been easy. Over the years it has only become more complex and demanding. Every person has different needs and wants you to meet them all. Some want access to information so they can help themselves. Others need a little hand-holding as you work with them to navigate a new product or service. Some customers even have different customer service channel preferences depending on their inquiry or mindset.

The people who support your customers—agents—are human too. They have their own ways of learning and communicating, and their own unique career aspirations to be developed and cultivated.

All of the above present myriad challenges, none of which have quick and easy solutions, and all of which must be solved if you want to provide great customer service.

And you do want to provide great customer service, because doing so leads to loyal, satisfied customer who tell their friends, family, and coworkers to do business with you. The result: Your company will move away from only caring about transactions—a nearsighted approach to business that focuses on the immediate—and towards caring about relationships, which focus on the full lifetime value of a customer.

But how can you achieve this?
Software is necessary for providing great customer service, but it’s merely a tool that enables your customer engagement strategy. The best tool in the world won’t help you provide great support if you aren’t committed to doing so. That’s because the best support is human support, and learning to provide that will be the biggest differentiator between you and the competition.

Zendesk believes that excellent customer service must focus on the customer experience, the agent experience, and the agent lifecycle. Each of these three pillars are the foundation of strong and long-lasting customer service. That's why we worked with customer service experts to create three guides, one for each pillar, to help customer service leaders like you help your agents provide great support.

The 3 pillars of customer service
First, we want to share with you the basic tenets of each pillar:

Customer experience
Customers are the reason we’re all here, so we must first and foremost try to look at everything through their perspective. Different departments frequently disagree on the right approach for important decisions such as how to best provide customers access to important information. Your sales department might have thoughts about how to do this, the product team has another idea, and marketing might want it done a completely different way.

But what’s best for the customer? What will provide the customer with the best possible experience?

Customer experience focuses on improving the way customers interact with your business. It’s one thing to talk about being customer centric, but doing so means putting the needs of the customer front and center, even when it’s at the expense of people within the company. Taking this approach might lead to some hard-fought internal decisions, but customer service isn’t easy, remember?

The thing for everyone to keep in mind is this: If you provide a negative experience to a customer, not only will they likely tell their friends and colleagues, they will abandon you for a competitor. This is bad for everyone, including departments who might wish you’d do things their way. The good news is that the opposite is also true: provide positive experiences and customers will tell others about and choose you over the competition, time after time. When this happens, anyone who advocated against the customer-centric approach will quickly forget they weren’t always in favor of it.

Overview: The Customer Experience guide will show you how to build processes and infrastructures that enable you to always put the customer first, building and constantly improving experiences for them.

Agent life cycle
No matter the type of business, customer service agents are very often the first people to interact with customers and prospects. Not only that, they’re usually the people who interact with customers more than anyone else. In that regard, they are the face and ambassadors of the brand. Every single interaction with a customer represents an opportunity to either create a brand loyalist or someone who will never do business with you again.

All of which is to say this: Customer service agents are very, very important for the success of your company. Time, energy, and resources must be dedicated to hiring, training, developing, and retaining the best possible talent to fill all the various roles in this department.

The way your business treats its agents can have a direct impact on how they interact with your customers, which in turn impacts the bottom line. Happy agents will not only provide a better customer experience, but also stay with your organization longer.

Overview: The Agent Life Cycle guide takes the long view of your customer service agents, showing you how to do everything from finding and training them, to developing their skills and value as they grow into more advanced positions within your organization.

Agent experience
In contrast to the big picture challenges of hiring and training agents, agent experience focuses on the day-to-day challenges of their typical workload. This includes everything from resolving support queries to writing knowledge-base articles to improving operational efficiencies. These tasks might not seem as inspiring as the work of building meaningful relationships with customers, but the agent experience is foundational to that work.

Customers want support to be human and personal, but they also want it to be fast and efficient. Agent experience focuses on improving the way agents interact with customers.

To effectively meet customers’ needs, support agents must be set up for success. That means making an up-front investment in tools and processes that enable support agents to not only provide the kind of support customers love, but avoid providing the kind of frustrating experiences customer hate.

Overview: The Agent Experience guide shows you how to setup your agents for success, and help them avoid the typical pitfalls of customer service, like taking to long to respond to a request of support or making customer repeat their issue to multiple agents.

One size does not fit all
No two companies are the same.

Within each of the three pillars lives an entire spectrum of strengths and weaknesses that will be specific to each organization. Maybe you’ve made a heavy investment in the customer experience but haven’t had the time to focus on your agents. Or maybe you’ve finally figured out how to onboard agents and have build satisfying career roadmaps for them, but still aren’t doing everything you can to keep your customers satisfied.

We’ve broken everything down into three segments:

High growth
As a high-growth support organization, something is clearly working. The support you provide resonates with your customers. But the demands are increasing. Time and time again you’re asked to do more, straining your support team and threatening your ability to not just maintain the same level of quality, but improve it.

Achieving scale
As a support organization looking to achieve scale, you have matured to the point that you are able to deliver quality support to an ever-increasing number of customers. You know that you are able to meet those needs, but as the company moves to another level of success, the deluge of customer interactions is just around the corner. As your support structure and strategies currently stand, you know there is no way to meet future demand without finding a way to scale and maintain a high level of quality.

Driving efficiency
As a support organization looking to drive efficiency, you have effectively overcome the challenges that typically plague less mature support organizations. You have a robust team with specialized roles that provides high-quality support. Even though you're experiencing great success, you can’t shake the nagging feeling that things could be much better. Maybe the support provided from a newly opened international office isn’t performing as well as you’d like, or change management still feels like it did during the startup days. As your support structure and strategies currently stand, you know you can’t rest on past successes, but instead must find a way to improve even further.

Conclusion
As stated at the beginning, customer service is hard. While Zendesk can’t make it easy (any software company that claims it can should be met with serious skepticism), we can make it easier. But we know from experience that software is a tool, and tools are only half the answer. The other answer lies in the people using them. That includes everyone from the agents who interact with customers to the designers who create experiences for them.

And Zendesk is here to help with that side of the equation too.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.

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