Multi-channel support made-to-order with Zendesk

customer satisfaction

We can't all follow the same recipe for multi-channel success. Every business serves customers with different preferences and needs, and it can be a challenge to find the right channel mix for your customers.

Fortunately, the Zendesk family of products are designed to work together to help you provide seamless multi-channel support, no matter which configuration of channels you choose. Use this ebook to guide you through the channel selection process, taking into consideration:

  • The type and complexity of customer questions
  • How convenient it is for your customers to find help
  • Context—who are your customers and at what point in the journey do they typically need help?
  • The cost of offering one channel over another, in the short- and long-term
  • How particular channels can help you achieve business goals
  • What you can accomplish with each channel using Zendesk products

Download the ebook to learn more about how you can provide multi-channel support with Zendesk.

Roll out and manage multiple customer service channels

There are a seemingly infinite number of ways to interact with customers these days. Live chat, messaging, SMS—even self-service counts. With customer expectations on the rise, it’s increasingly important to provide consistent support across multiple channels.

However, in order to provide consistent support, your company needs the right resources, training, and channel management. In this eBook, we cover how to roll out and manage multiple customer service channels so that your company has the opportunity to build more, and better, relationships.

Access the eBook, Roll out and manage multiple customer service channels, to learn more about:

  • Supporting multiple customer service channels
  • Anticipating and managing channel volume
  • Staffing for a new channel rollout
  • Training agents to support a new channel
  • How new channels affect the way agents manage their work
  • Managing escalation paths by channel
  • Measuring the success of your new channel

Meeting the fresh demands of multi-channel customers

Customers want service that is both fast and human. Those two ideas might seem at odds with each other, but achieving this is possible with a multi-channel support strategy that factors in the strengths and limitations of each channel, as well as how customers prefer to use them.

The Multi-Channel Customer Care Report

Customers simultaneously want the warmth of human communication and the speed and efficiency of automated service. It’s a paradoxical challenge for companies, one brought about by increasing levels of consumer expectations and the fast changing technical landscape of customer communications.

Zendesk recently commissioned research firm, Loudhouse, to explore this important and perplexing challenge. The research conducted illuminates four key trends of which important conclusions can be drawn:

  • Multi-channel customers are less patient and expect more than they did five years ago.
  • Multi-channel use has increased considerably in three years, with more diverse channels available to customers.
  • Customers are developing distinct expectations for each support channel.
  • Higher expectations are balanced by a more relaxed approach to sharing personal information—but only if doing so improves service.
  •  
    This report explores these key areas further, providing deep insight for businesses keen to stay ahead of their competition through improvements in their customer service strategies.

Making Multichannel Support Simple and Successful

Email. Phone. Chat. Messaging. Customers want to connect with companies over a variety of channels. And regardless of channel, they expect a seamless experience.

Join Matt Price, Zendesk’s SVP of Emerging Businesses, to learn more about how businesses are improving the experience for their customers and reducing costs by integrating new channels into their support operations.

We’ll also be joined by Matthew Grossman, co-founder and COO of Dorm Room Movers, the industry leader in college student storage and shipping, who will talk about how Dorm Room Movers is boosting agent productivity and reducing costs by integrating email, phone, chat and SMS support over one platform.

During this 60-minute webinar, we’ll cover:
● How to boost agent productivity through integrating new channels
● How to improve customer satisfaction with more seamless support
● How to set up new channels quickly with just a few clicks
● Tips and tricks for support leaders to successfully manage multiple channels


Matt Price is Zendesk's SVP of Emerging Businesses, overseeing Zendesk Voice, Zopim, Message and other emerging product lines. He founded the Zendesk Europe office in 2011 and regularly comments in the press and speaks at conferences on the future of customer service in a multichannel world.


Matthew Grossman is co-founder and COO of Dorm Room Movers, the industry leader in college student storage and shipping. Since launching Dorm Room Movers in 2007, right after graduating from college, he and his partner Leor Lapid have scaled operations to over 150 campuses, moving over 20,000 students.



Josh Frank is a Product Marketing Manager at Zendesk where he leads go-to-market activities for Zendesk’s products. He is passionate about helping companies build better relationships with their customers.

A Retailer’s Guide to Getting Omnichannel Customer Service Right

Retail Omnichannel eBook

With consumers shopping in more channels than ever, retailers have been forced to evolve. It's all about aligning your business to ensure the shopping journey is as seamless, quick, and hassle-free as possible.

Still, we all know there are going to be issues as consumers transition from mobile devices to in-store experiences to the web—and back again. That's when having the right omnichannel customer service program in place becomes so valuable. Being able to efficiently and effectively serve your customers in the channels they choose will make them happier, breeding loyalty in the long run.

Download this ebook to learn:

  • How to perform a customer service audit
  • Steps for executing and delivering an omnichannel strategy
  • Tips for optimizing omnichannel service levels
  • From brands doing it right

Engaging with Students in the Modern World

In today's digital world, prospective students and learners prefer an instant answer over having to wait for a pamphlet to arrive in the mail. Whether navigating through a Help Center of school-related content or engaging in an on-the-spot interaction via live chat, being able to respond immediately is paramount to providing a great support experience.

Many educational organizations use Zendesk to offer efficient, direct communication channels to their current and prospective student, faculty and staff. In this on-demand webinar, learn how Coursera and the University of Nevada, Reno used Zendesk to scale and innovate their support organizations by using multiple channels in Zendesk.
 
This webinar is facilitated by Ryan Kunkel, an enterprise account executive at Zendesk, and panelists include:
 
- Mike Robichaud, Manager of Support Products at Coursera
- Ana Fittrer, Admissions at University of Nevada, Reno
- Greg Dreyfus, Embeddables Product Manager at Zendesk
- Kristin Kwasnik, Senior Account Manager at Zendesk
 

Key Benefits of Integrated Phone Support

Phone support
Despite the rise of newer channels like social media and email, many customers still prefer the immediacy and real-time interaction that’s possible with the 1:1 interaction of a phone call. According to Forrester Research, 73% of consumers have used phone support in the past 12 months.

While many companies are adopting strategies and infrastructure to provide great customer service via newer channels, they are still making the investment in phone support. That’s the good news.

The bad news: too many companies are using phone support solutions that are separate from their other support channels, creating a silo around phone support. Treating phone support as a standalone support channel creates major problems, for everyone involved:

Agents - impacted productivity

  • Agents must switch between separate platforms for different support channels, slowing time to resolution
  • Agents must deliver phone support without a complete view of the customer’s cross-channel experience, making it difficult to provide personalized service
  • Agents must manually enter the details of a phone call or not log the call at all

Managers - limited visibility

  • Managers lack visibility into their phone support operations if agents don’t log calls
  • Managers cannot easily gain insight into how their phone support fits into multichannel support strategies without centralized reporting

IT/Owners - additional set-up and management

  • Setup can be costly and may require additional integrations or equipment
  • IT must work with multiple vendors

Customers - negative experiences

  • Customers are kept waiting as agents switch between systems
  • Customers receive inconsistent service across channels, as agents don’t have visibility into customers’ complete cross-channel interactions

The solution is simple: integrated phone support

Benefits of integrated phone support

Luckily, all of the above issues are mitigated or outright solved by taking phone support out of the silo and integrating it with other support channels. With integrated phone support, customer service teams can manage all support channels from a single, centralized support system.

Let’s take a look at the three main problems and address each one:

Agents - boost productivity

If agents need to switch through several systems for each support channel might, those seconds add up throughout the day, greatly hindering an agent’s overall productivity. A consolidated customer communication system solves this: now agents don’t need to switch systems when responding to different support channels. It also give them full visibility into the customer’s activities across all channels, enabling the agent to provide personalized service.

Integrated phone support should include automatic ticket creation, call recording and customer history, so agents aren’t forced to manually take notes or search several systems of record for information about the customer. Everything happens automatically and exists in a single location, so agents have the context they need and the freedom to truly focus on the customer call. Plus outbound calls from existing tickets automatically update that ticket, keeping all multi-channel interactions in one place.

Managers - improve visibility

Managers require clear visibility into their customer service health—both of individual agents and the department as a whole—to improve performance and plan for the future. This is not feasible when phone support is managed through a system separate from other support channels.

Two distinct systems of record that don’t “speak” to each other—one for a call records (which only include phone and provides insights like average call time and number of calls each agent handles an hour) and a ticket record—make it impossible to gain comprehensive insights into all channels and plan accurately for the future.

Integrated phone support lets managers understand the performance of the entire channel mix, including:

  • What percentage of support tickets are through the phone
  • Which types of issues drive phone calls vs. emails vs. chat, etc., enabling managers to strategize ways to reduce calls or divert support requests to other channels, reducing costs and improving efficiencies
  • How to best train, hire, and distribute staff. If managers know they need more top-notch phone support agents, they can plan accordingly

    Owners/IT - consolidate systems and reduce costs

    With integrated phone support—specifically a phone support solution that’s built into a customer support platform—IT is able to work with one trusted vendor for all support channels. Furthermore, phone support systems that integrate with other channels are typically VoIP solutions, which come with the additional benefits of reduced equipment and maintenance costs, portability and flexibility.

    Customers - better experiences

    The most important reason to adopt integrated phone support is because it’s better for customers. It allows companies to provide customers with exactly what they want: quick, consistent, personalized service.

    First and foremost, customers want customer service to be fast. As mentioned earlier, the seconds can really add up when agents are forced to switch back and forth between different systems to reference interactions while on the phone with a customer. Integrated phone support means agents will have ready access to that information, leading to faster service. Integrated phone support means agents don’t have to keep customers waiting or worse, put them on hold while they search for information that straddles different systems.

    Customers also want service from knowledgeable agents, and they want it to feel personal. When phone support lives in a silo, agents lack access to previous interactions with the customer and other context. But with integrated phone support, agents will not only know who is calling (thanks to CTI screen pops), they can also see if the customers has any outstanding tickets in other channels, previously closed tickets, purchase history, and more. All of which makes it easier for the agent to treat the customer like an individual.

    Selecting a vendor

    Now that you’ve made the decision to give your customers the best possible service with integrated phone support, here is a quick primer to help you choose the best vendor:

    Support platform integration

    Look for a phone system that fits into your agents’ workflows, complementing other channels. Agents should work from a single platform, and managers should have a full-view into support operations. Seek a telephony system that is built in to the support platform, limiting need for any custom integration work and reducing the number of software vendors.

    Inbound screen popping

    For inbound calls, receiving pop-up alerts with a link to the contact’s record in your CRM puts essential information at agents’ fingertips. This is especially useful for organizations focused on customer service and support so that you can provide a personalized experience.

    Customer history

    Contact details, including custom user and organization fields, as well as full multi-channel support history, should be at the agent's' fingertips during a call for easy reference. Knowing what other issues a customer may be facing leads to faster resolution and consistent cross-channel support.

    Automatic ticket creation

    It is essential that you choose something that keeps track of calls and voicemails with automatic ticket creation, eliminating the need for manual data entry. Plus, tickets can serve as a data source for quality assurance, agent training, and customer feedback.

    Call analytics

    Call activity reporting with real-time performance analytics and dashboards are essential to monitor productivity. You will also want to make sure that it is easy to do historical reporting and analysis across your channels.

    Call recording

    You should have the ability to record all inbound and outbound calls made from any device associated with the system. These recordings should be easily accessible directly in the contact record and easy to share with other agents for training and quality assurance.

    Routing and automatic call distribution

    Ensure your phone support system will route callers to the right agent or department with routing tools like IVR (interactive voice response) systems and group routing. Round robin call distribution will ensure that calls are always routed to an available agent and evenly distributed among support team members.

    Flexibility & customization

    It’s important to seek a vendor that offers the flexibility to work with the systems you have in place and doesn’t require purchasing any additional software or hardware. It should be easy to customize for your team’s specific use cases and workflows, without the help of consultants or technicians.

    Ease of use

    Since agents and managers will work with this tool for many hours at a time, it’s mandatory that you choose something that’s simple to use and designed with the user in mind.

    Ready to get started?

    Zendesk Voice -- a phone support solution built right into Zendesk -- makes integrated phone support easy. Learn more here.

    Continue reading
  • Providing Great Customer Service Through Social Media

    Social media
    Social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have evolved to become more than emergent platforms for marketing and advertising. Increasingly, they are also valid and important channels through which consumers solicit and receive customer service. According to the Q2 2016 Sprout Social Index, 90 percent of surveyed consumers have used social media in some way to communicate with a brand. What’s more, over a third (34.5 percent) said they preferred social media to traditional channels like phone and email.

    "Social care" is not a new concept, yet providing multi-channel support that includes social media can present real challenges for B2B and B2C companies both large and small—as well as opportunities to positively impact sales and customer loyalty. The reality is that customer service expectations are rising year over year and consumers are looking to brands to create a seamless experience that spans the showroom floor to the Facebook timeline. Simply having a social media presence is no longer enough; your job is to be a social media rock star.

    But how? In this guide we'll explore some best practices for an employee to deliver great customer service through social media, whether you're just getting started on the job or taking your social care to the next level.

    BE WHERE YOUR CUSTOMERS ARE

    One of the first challenges to providing great customer service over social media is determining where to focus time and resources. While marketing efforts may drive traffic to targeted social sites, customer service teams must meet their customers where they're already socializing. For most companies, Facebook and Twitter will be the primary focus for social care, but some brands may find that their customers also frequent Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Instagram, or other social sites.

    To feel out where your audience is, search for mentions of your brand within popular social sites. Whether this is a first step toward creating a social media presence, or something your marketing department has already done, it is a mistake to leave dialogue about your brand solely to online commenters and the Google search algorithm.

    If you find that your audience aren't yet talking about your brand online, look for ways to include yourself in conversations relevant to your industry. The way, for an employee to be welcomed into social conversations is to add something of value.

    Because the consumer—not the brand—wields the most power over a brand's image on social media, the bottom line is that neglecting conversations that occur on sites like Facebook and Twitter can have staggering consequences. Conversocial reported that 88 percent of consumers are less likely to purchase from a company that leaves questions on social media unanswered.

    LISTEN TO WHAT YOUR CUSTOMERS HAVE TO SAY

    Many marketers are already familiar with social media monitoring tools that automate the process of searching for mentions of a brand name, or combing social media pages for specific keywords, but listening is equally important from a customer service perspective. What's more, many customers already believe that you are. In fact, research from the Institute of Customer Service reveals 1 in every 3 customers turns to social media to seek advice or communicate with a business.

    Depending on how much volume your brand's social media pages generate, it's an important part of the job to collect and analyze activity so that you understand the kind of issues being raised over social media. Smaller companies may need to collect a week or month's worth of activity while larger companies can probably take a pulse over a shorter period of time.

    Look at the information you've collected to determine:

    • How many comments appear to be written in moments of frustration, perhaps after having a poor customer experience in person or online?
    • How many are technical or account-specific questions?
    • How many comments provide feedback, positive or negative?
    • How many questions can be answered using links to existing help content?
    • How many brand mentions require, or would benefit from, a response?
    • What time of day are your customers most active on social media?

    The answers to these questions will help you plan staffing and resources, define priority criteria, make decisions about self-service options, and determine whether you'll be able to handle the majority of issues directly through the social channel or require a process for directing social media users to another line of support.

    There are tools that automate the process of calculating volume and time, and an employee can generate reports to provide you with a complete picture of customer demand. You may learn, for example, that the hours your audience is the most active on social media do not align with your actual work hours.

    TRACK AND MANAGE VOLUME

    The size of your company and industry vertical will affect your social metrics. Some companies will see a lot of what amounts to "noise" via social media, and their challenge will be to sift through the noise to find the top priority contacts that require a response from an employee. Other companies will find that the majority of their contacts are direct requests for customer service. Depending on the volume of social interactions your brand generates, and the size of your staff, your ability to keep track of social inquiries (and your responses) may be made easier by a customer service platform that can integrate with social media and turn posts, tweets, and direct or private messages into tickets. In this way, you can easily triage, track, and escalate issues behind the scenes, yet still respond to the customer in the space where they have contacted you.

    As a best practice, it's not necessarily wise to simply turn every social media mention into a ticket, either because your company's social media pages are so heavily trafficked that the volume becomes unwieldy, or because every interaction does not require a response (even if it feels like it should). Still, what an integrated, multi-channel customer service platform can provide is context. The more you can see about a customer's history, the better. Are there open or prior conversations with this customer? Who did they interact with, and what was the outcome? Have they had this same issue before? Have they already tried reaching customer support through traditional channels or was Facebook their first line of defense? If you already have user data stored, agents can eliminate back-and-forth questioning for basic (or private) contact data.

    In the fast-paced world of social media, speed of response is critical. Treating social media tickets like any standard ticket isn't going to be enough because a faster response is expected. So, how can you define priority criteria? There's no single way to do it, of course, but here are a few suggestions:

    Highest priority:

    • Direct technical or account-related questions
    • Complaints from dissatisfied users
    • Service or product requests that are urgent
    • Issues (or outages) that affect many users or raise a potential PR crisis

    Items that are second-tier in priority are often opportunities to be proactive. You might consider:

    • Responding to general references to your products or services
    • Thanking those who provided positive feedback
    • Touching base with those who have made comments about your brand or industry that weren't necessarily targeted at you or requiring a response

    Smaller businesses without a need for a customer service platform might try one built specifically for social media ticket creation and management (rather than phone, email, and chat support) or, at the very least, utilize the private or direct messaging features of Facebook and Twitter to help create an archive of interactions.

    REPEAT THIS MANTRA: TIME IS OF THE ESSENCE!

    It's worth restating: speed of response is critical.

    "Live help" typically refers to phone or chat support, yet in the customer's mind, social media is a gray area that more closely straddles the line between chat and email support. There is the potential for help to be instantaneous if social media is constantly monitored, but more likely, help will arrive hours later.

    Several studies have found that most people feel they deserve a response over social media within the same day. That’s pretty reasonable considering the Northridge Group reported that 42 percent of consumers expect a response to their customer service inquiry within the hour. Of this group, 17 percent expect a response in minutes. These can be difficult service levels to meet, though some companies are beginning to.

    One of the challenges to providing social care when you're not using the follow-the-sun model of support, is that tweets and timeline posts can languish overnight, driving your response time from just a few hours to 10-20 hours later.

    As a best practice, always respond with immediacy—or with the promise of. This can be tricky without being able to send an email autoresponder, but one workaround that problem is to prepare a boilerplate message catered to each social channel that lets users know you've seen their comment and that you're working on a resolution.

    Speed isn't everything if you're not able to resolve the customer's issue. As a general guideline, if you can easily answer a question posed over social media in the space of a comment or tweet, and the answer can be public, then by all means, do it. But more important than providing an answer through the same channel it was asked, is providing a timely and correct answer. This might involve providing a first response over social media that moves the conversation to another channel of support.

    SOCIAL CARE IS CARE. PERIOD.

    The success of your social care efforts will depend, as ever, on the quality of care you provide, but you might want to pull out the kid gloves because providing great customer service over social media can require extra special handling. Agent responses must be timely, accurate, sensitive, brief, and friendly—a tall order.

    Agents must respond quickly but not so fast that the problem isn't properly resolved. Agents must employ their customer service skills to read into a customer's emotional state and properly determine when the informal nature of social media, such as the use of smiley faces or emojis, are appropriate for conveying friendliness and willingness to help, or when a more formal statement of empathy or apology might be required before addressing an issue.

    Then there is the issue of length. Can or should the issue be resolved publicly, within the limited real estate of a comment or tweet? Is the agent trained in, or capable of, drafting custom replies without errors? Popular myth suggests that the young and tech-savvy are best equipped to handle social media, but some large companies have reported success using seasoned customer service agents, trained specifically for social media.

    In general, all tenets of excellent customer service apply to social media. A great response will:

    • Correctly identify the issue or problem
    • Provide links to additional information
    • Close the loop (even to a "thank you" comment or tweet)
    • Include a personal touch, such as signing off with the agent's first name or initials
    • Be consistent across the organization, with regard to tone and response time

    Active use of a site like Twitter can be an acquired taste—and a learned skill. Consider hosting a "Lunch and Learn" or equivalent to cross-train your staff on social media usage and etiquette. Often at smaller or newer companies, there is overlap between marketing and customer service, but as companies grow, shared skill sets, best practices, and communication guidelines tend to break down and become siloed. Cross-training will ensure that your teams learn from one another, and that your brand message and integrity are upheld at every point of the interaction.

    Once agents are trained at responding over social media, they have the potential to be more efficient, handling four to eight times the number of contacts received through social media as they can by phone, according to a report by Gartner. In addition to improved efficiency, it was also reported that providing excellent social care helps to foster a deeper emotional commitment to your brand, directly impacting your Net Promoter Score.

    DETERMINE WHEN TO TAKE AN ISSUE "OFFLINE"

    Providing a public response to a question or complaint can go a long way. According to Conversocial, 95.6 percent of consumers are affected by other comments on a brand's social pages, and so it follows that consumers will also be affected by your responses to questions they see raised over social media.

    When you gain or lose customers based on customer service, it adds up in dollars. The good news is that customers can spend up to 20 percent more when a business engages their customer service-related tweets, as reported by Applied Marketing Science.

    But the reality is that not every contact over social media can be easily resolved in a single exchange (or in less than 140 characters), particularly if the issue is very technical or when the customer has many grievances to air. It can also be hard to know at the outset whether the customer will keep a thread going, cluttering your Twitter feed with @replies, so customer service reps must become adept at determining when to take a conversation from a public page to a private message, or perhaps off social media altogether—as well as when to bring the exchange back into the public sphere.

    Generally, agents should move a conversation "offline"—in this case, off a timeline or feed/stream/profile—when:

    • there are many back and forth replies, perhaps because the customer needs to answer a series of questions, or
    • sensitive personal data is required, such as email addresses, phone numbers, passwords, account or credit card numbers.

    But how to do it? Sensitive information that can be quickly conveyed in writing may easily be sent in a private or direct message through the social media site. The following are based on a few real world examples of how one company used Twitter to request information, suggest another channel, and move a conversation into a private message:

    @Customer My sincerest apologies! I would be happy to look into this for you. Can you please follow us and DM me with your order #? ^SB

    @Customer So sorry for those emails! If you need help w/ your email settings, don't hesitate to LiveChat us [bit.ly/link] ^SB

    @Customer Apologies for the inconvenience! I just reached out to you via Facebook Message. Be sure to check your "Other" folder. ^SB

    One benefit to using a customer service platform that integrates both social and traditional channels is that you can use social media to let the customer know you'll send them the information they need by email, without having to request an email address.

    After an issue is resolved offline, it's important to return to the social channel and thank the customer for reaching out. Public interactions can be a double-edged sword, but the positive ones, when a customer has the chance to express gratitude for a great customer experience, is not the interaction to miss out on.

    While building a social media support strategy, it's worth considering what might happen if you moved every social interaction "offline" or to another channel of support. Companies with limited staffing and resources might find that they must, and when done well, the customer will feel like they received a response over social media and had their issue resolved.

    LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES TO MAKE LEMONADE

    We're all familiar with that old adage, "When life gives you lemons..." The well-known implication is that it's possible to turn around a less-than-hoped-for situation with a change in attitude. This is particularly useful advice when providing customer service over social media, given consumers' proclivity to use social media to grab a brand's attention. A survey by Dialog Direct and Customer Care Measurement & Consulting found that in 2011, 20 percent of customers were using social media to communicate their complaints to a brand. By 2015, that number had increased to 33 percent.

    When this happens, everything depends on your response. Receiving negative feedback is an open invitation to rectify your brand's image and, more important, your relationship with the customer. The customer must feel like they've been heard and that you're willing to do what it takes to make them happy.

    The following are some other things customer service reps might do to proactively to engage customers:

    • Respond even when the user hasn't directly tweeted at you or asked for help. Answering brand mentions or comments that don't require a response, but might benefit from one, shows you're paying attention.
    • Promote your customers by retweeting a happily resolved support interaction, or by "liking" helpful interactions that occur between customers. It's kind of like giving your customers a hug.
    • Give your customer service team a public face by introducing who's on duty and how long they'll be answering questions. Consider posting a team photo or an agent spotlight. It's nice to connect the face of the brand with the names behind it.
    • If feasible, follow up a resolved interaction with, "How is everything?"
    • Promote self-service. Think about introducing a support tip of the week and assigning it a clever, unique, and easy-to-remember hashtag, or designating someone to update your company's social media accounts when a new article has been added to your knowledge base or help center.

    MIND YOUR P'S AND Q'S

    Whatever the social channel, there are a few ways to (publicly!) stick your foot in your mouth. The following are a few social media don'ts:

    • Don't neglect your customers. If you're going to provide customer service over social media, at minimum every direct support question should be answered.
    • Don't delete (or hide) comments or posts. The only exception is when comments are clearly spam or in violation of posted community guidelines. Deleting a customer's negative comment in order to preserve your virtual image will only further enrage the customer and damage the relationship.
    • Don't be defensive. It's important to remember that the customer, even when angry, has reached out to you. Thank them for bringing their issue to your attention, acknowledge their concern, and apologize for the trouble they are experiencing (even if you know it's self-wrought).
    • Don't engage with a customer whose intent is to simply argue and publicly defame your brand. Sometimes your best defense is silence and, after a certain point, they'll damage their own credibility more than your brand's reputation.
    • Don't overwhelm your customers with too much information, whether you're posting articles from a knowledge base or providing a too-lengthy response in a comment.

    There are, of course, always a few exceptions to the rule, and here's one of them:

    • Don't reply or respond to every customer in the event of mass issues or outages. When many customers are affected by a single issue, it's best to provide only public status updates that will reach everyone.

    Regular monitoring of your company's social media pages combined with savvy use of the sites can elevate your customer service efforts from acceptable to exceptional. The better your social care, the more social traffic you can expect, and this is a good thing!

    If you’re looking for more information about using social media for customer service, we’ve got you covered with downloadable platform-specific tip sheets:

    Tips for Providing Great Customer Service on Facebook
    Tips for Providing Great Customer Service on Twitter

    How to Provide Great Twitter Customer Service

    Much like the great Wizard of Oz, it's not always clear to consumers who, exactly, sits behind the curtain of a brand's Twitter profile, but they believe someone is there. For years companies have been pouring money into marketing and advertising on Twitter and have, effectively, taught customers to turn to the all powerful Tweet to get their questions answered as quickly as possible.

    Usage of Twitter for customer service is growing, perhaps more rapidly than any other social channel, but the level and quality of support provided across brands and industries is uneven, and there is clear room for improvement. A March 2013 study by Simply Measured reported that 99 percent of the Interbrand Top 100 brands now have an active Twitter handle, and 30 percent of those brands have dedicated support handles. While it's a promising start, only 10 percent of these brands responded to more than 70 percent of their contacts, and the average response rate overall was 42 percent.

    Our tip sheet for providing support through Twitter includes suggestions for:

    • Searching for direct and indirect mentions of your brand
    • Using Twitter to promote other support channels
    • Learning the language and mastering the art of brevity
    • Using features such as direct messaging and lists
    • Hosting a Twitter Chat with your customers
    • and more!

    Omnichannel customer service report

    Consumers are becoming more comfortable interacting with companies across a growing number of channels, and as a result, they're demanding a seamless and consistent approach across all those channels when it comes to customer service.

    How are companies around the globe doing in implementing omnichannel customer service and sales strategies to meet consumers' expectations? Loudhouse, an independent research agency, surveyed 7,000 consumers in seven countries (U.S., U.K., Australia, Brazil, France, Germany, and Japan) to find out.

    Download the full report: The Omnichannel Customer Service Gap

    More of a visual person? Check out our infographics:
    Bridging the gap: Customer service omnichannel survey (global findings)
    Australia omnichannel survey graphic
    Brazil omnichannel survey graphic
    Japan omnichannel survey graphic
    U.K. omnichannel survey graphic
    U.S. omnichannel survey graphic

    Continue reading

    Companies Focus on Customer Retention

    Consumers are using more channels and devices than ever to research buying decisions, make purchases, and seek customer service. Smart retailers that are focused on customer retention have responded by forging into new channels to meet their customers where they're living.

    Now that shoppers have access to their favorite brands everywhere, their expectations are evolving again. The reality is that many consumers use multiple devices and channels at the same time or one after the other, and they expect their experiences with a brand to be consistent across it all. When retailers manage to pull it off, consumers reward them with their loyalty.

    Our infographic examines how retailers are building a seamless customer experience by integrating across channels and how they expect their efforts to pay off in terms of customer retention and repeat business.

    Companies Focus on Customer Retention

    Customer Service Skills You Need

    Customer Service Skills You Need
    Customer service involves much more than having a conversation on the phone. Responding to tickets over email, live chat, and social media are now equally important channels for customers. While there is much overlap in the customer service skills required to do a great job, each channel also benefits from a unique set of soft skills.

    For example, soft skills that are usually associated with phone support, such as empathy, the ability to “read” a customer’s emotional state, clear communication, and friendliness remain important. But emotional cues are much harder to read in writing, and so additional skills for newer channels need to be developed to make these channels as viable a choice for customers.

    Whether you’re interviewing or brushing up your customer service skills for your resume, it’s good to remember that most customer support managers are going to be interviewing for soft skills. Technical skills and tools can be learned—and might be easier to learn.

    The best customer service agent will be able to move easily between channels and apply the skill set that best suits each channel. If you can do that, you’ll be a rock star in the workplace.

    What follows are our tips for improving your soft skills by channel, excerpted from the ebook Customer Service Skills You Need.

    Phone support: How’s your “phone voice”?


    Some say we wear our emotions on our sleeve, but others might say we convey our emotions through our voice. Customer service agents certainly know that frustration and anger translates through the phone lines. And, of course, that’s a two-way street. Even phone agents reading from a script must consider their tone.

    The following are important tips to help you provide skilled phone support:

    Smile, literally.

    Smiles translate through the phone, but be used at appropriate times.

    Mirror a customer's’ language and tone.

    Mirroring another person’s language and tone can help create connection. That said, if a customer is angry, you don’t want to mirror their frustration. Instead you can try increasing your volume just a little and then quickly work to bring the intensity down a notch.

    Reflect and validate.

    When customers are upset or frustrated, they might not be able to take in what you say—even if it’s the right answer. Listen first, let them calm down, and then try to help them.

    Acknowledge.

    Customers need to feel heard, so tell them that you understand the reason for their call.

    Summarize.

    Listening can be a tough skill to learn if you’re not already expert at it, but it’s an important one to master when it comes to the top job skills for customer service agents. You’ve got to listen to a customer in order to repeat back to them, using supportive language, what you’ve heard them describe.

    Communicate hold time.

    Even if you’ve just handled a call really well, you can lose a customer by leaving them on hold too long, especially if you haven’t set their expectations first.

    Email support: You are not a robot


    There’s some overlap here with live chat and social media support, but honing your writing skills is especially important when providing email support. The email response is arguably the most structured response, and the one that requires the most precision. You must write with clarity and brevity, and take the time to proofread and correct any mistakes.

    To provide great email support, you’ll need to:

    Use templates, not boilerplates.

    For efficiency, you’ll want to use templates that include some pre-written text. Here at Zendesk we call them macros. Templates are like guidelines—not hard and fast rules to live by. You’ll want to personalize your answer before replying to customers.

    Inject personality into responses.

    It’s okay to use your own voice and approach, even as you reflect your company’s persona and philosophies. Think about how you might make your signature unique, or having different ways to close the email, depending on the tone and resolution of the interaction.

    Timeframe matters.

    Emails need to be answered, especially a first response, within a defined timeframe. A great email support agent will also prioritize response by urgency and how long they’ve been sitting, and a great customer service platform, can help make the job easier.

    Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

    Similar to phone support, it’s great to mirror a customer’s language or phrasing, when appropriate, to show them that you understand and acknowledge their issue, and to create rapport.

    Chat support: Multitasking is a key skill


    Providing great live chat support requires a cross of phone and email skills. Chat is conversational and real-time but requires strong writing skills.

    Here’s what every great live chat agent needs to pay attention to:

    Tone.

    Tone can be hard to decipher over chat, especially since the statements can be short, quickly-fired, and incomplete. Choose your words carefully. A good rule of thumb is to use a gentle, informative tone—and an emoticon if your tone might be unclear.

    Multitasking.

    Live chat agents are usually expected to handle more than one chat at a time, which is a skill in itself. Great multitaskers don’t lose sight of the bigger picture, though. Handle too many chats and your customers will be waiting too long between responses. Don’t forget that you can put a chat customer “on hold” if you need more time to find an answer, but as with phone support, set their expectations!

    Reading cues.

    Sometimes it’s harder for customers to express themselves by writing, so don’t read too quickly and jump to conclusions.

    Social support calls for speedy deliveries


    Providing social media support requires some combination of all of the above. When live chat isn’t available, customers turn to social media for an uber-fast response. The skillset required to provide customer service on social media is generally a bit advanced, and often saved for more senior or specialized customer service agents.

    The following skills are crucial for social media support:

    (Almost) always respond.

    The worst thing to do is not to respond to a customer’s social post—especially when they need help. Even if you can’t answer right away, make quick contact and let them know when, and what channel, you’ll respond on. Providing speedy responses means you’ve got to be adept at knowing how to quickly address a customer in a polite tone. It’s everything we’ve discussed here, but shorter and faster.

    Don’t take the bait.

    The exception to “always respond” is when you are confronted with obvious attempts to create an altercation in a public space. Most organizations know they can’t afford to have a customer service agent who makes mistakes on social media. The damage can be far-reaching.

    Differentiate.

    Social media contacts sometimes walk a line between something that should be handled by support and something that should be handled by marketing. A skilled agent will know what should be a ticket, and what to forward on.

    A Guide to Multi-Channel Customer Support

    How to Hire the Best Customer Support Reps

    Today when we say “multi-channel,” we’re no longer talking about snail mail or fax machines as support channels. Instead, a multi-channel support strategy includes some combination of traditional phone, email, or live chat support alongside social media and self-service offerings.

    Why? Because customer service is not a 'one size fits all' solution, and different people prefer different methods of support.

    When Zendesk looked at customer satisfaction by channel, traditional phone support just barely edged out over other channels. So how can you figure out which channels (your) customers prefer and build a strategy that allows you to provide a consistent level of service across each channel?

    Our guide to multi-channel support will help you to:

    • understand the support challenges facing companies today
    • learn the key benefits of a multi-channel strategy
    • determine which channels your customers actually want
    • make the most of your multi-channel support

    Master High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service

    With Micah Solomon

    Social media, self-service technologies, and smartphones have created a challenging new landscape for businesses when it comes to managing the customer experience and delivering exceptional customer service.

    This 1-hour webinar with customer service expert, author, and business keynote speaker, Micah Solomon will teach you how to harness the power of technology to build emotional connections with your customers, while retaining the best of classic service techniques — and, as a result, generate fierce customer loyalty. Micah explains through real-life examples how to implement the eight unbreakable rules of social media customer service (including how to effectively address customer complaints on sites such as Yelp, Twitter and TripAdvisor), as well as how to design compelling self-service options to help today's customers help themselves. This webinar will leave you with tips and tricks that agents and managers alike can put into practice today to deliver best-of-class customer service.

    Micah Solomon is a top professional business keynote speaker, bestselling author, customer service and marketing strategist, and consultant on customer service issues, the customer experience, and company culture. He has been termed by the Financial Post a 'new guru of customer service excellence.' An entrepreneur and business leader, he authored the new business bestseller, High-Tech, High-Touch Customer Service, as well as the earlier book Exceptional Service, Exceptional Profit. His expertise has been featured in Fast Company, Inc. Magazine, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, CNBC, Forbes.com, and elsewhere, and he created and helms the 'College of the Customer' website.

    The History of Customer Support

    There was a time when customer support meant you told a shop owner your issue with what they sold you, and they either decided the problem was for them to fix or your own damn fault. But then the telephone was invented and everything changed. Call centers emerged, phone trees were born, and suddenly there was no way around pressing '1' for one thing and '2' for another. It's actually pretty interesting stuff.

    So when you find yourself wondering how on earth hold music came to be, and why it always seem to be smooth jazz, let this little history lesson fill in some of the blanks.

    The History of Customer Support

    Online Retailers Have a Lot to Lose

    Given the fact that online spending has jumped from $29.7 billion in 2007 to a whopping $38 billion in 2011, it's clear that customers are embracing the online shopping experience faster than ever before (with no signs of that embracement waning — possibly ever). With that growth comes a steady stream of customer support requests, issues, and the like, and a customer base that's become deftly skilled at venting their customer support woes to their peers. For online retailers, having a bulletproof support strategy in place can no longer be an after thought.

    And there's no time like the holidays to really prove that point. For most organizations, the holidays are the true test of any company's support team. The best way to prep: figure out just exactly what customers expect out of online support.

    Online Retailers Have a Lot to Lose

    The Customer Service and Social Media Revolution

    Customer service organizations face increasing amounts of pressure to deliver better service over a broader range of channels including the Web, email, and phone. Customers expect to get service at any time of the day or night and assume that customer service teams will maintain a complete history of all interactions.

    More recently, the social network boom has created a new revolution in customer service. The reach and immediacy of Twitter, Facebook and, now, Google+ has made the voice of the customer an extremely powerful force. Bad customer experiences can quickly snowball into online customer uprisings leading to PR disasters.

    In addition, the proliferation of smartphones and tablets has raised customer expectations for timely response. Customers now expect to reach companies from anywhere, at anytime, and through any device that they choose such as iPads, iPhones, and Blackberry and Android smartphones. While it used to be expected that customer inquiries would be answered in a couple days, now customers expect answers in hours, if not minutes.

    As is often the case, tech-savvy startups are the first to embrace new technologies and communication channels. Larger, more traditional organizations are now finding that they need to develop new customer service strategies or else smaller, more nimble organizations may leave them in the dust and take their customers with them.

    The exciting part of this ever-changing environment is that these new pressures have lead to both innovation and disruption in customer service.

    Customer Service Goes Social

    When traditional customer service software was developed, the pressures of supporting new and multiple online channels just didnt exist; the products were never designed to accommodate input from social media or run on mobile devices. As companies using these traditional solutions look to update their customer service software infrastructure to keep up with new channels, many realize that they cannot afford to expend 6-12 months to customize their current help desk solution if it were, indeed, even possible.

    As a result, many companies are making the move to cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) solutions. These have proven to be the fastest and most cost-effective alternative to updating on-premise packages. More importantly, these new cloud-based solutions are specifically designed for multi-channel customer service.

    As an example, lets take a look at Twitter as a channel. Studies by Edison Research have indicated that 19% of Twitter users seek customer service via Tweets. With more than 200 million users, this means 38,000,000 customers are seeking service via Twitter. Modern customer service solutions have made this manageable by allowing companies to create custom searches for their brand names and product names on Twitter. When a problem is encountered, the Tweet can be immediately converted into a customer service ticket, known as a Twicket, in this case. The Twicket then can be assigned to the most appropriate person in the company to respond. That response can then be sent as a Tweet or a direct message.

    Customer Service Goes Mobile

    On the hardware side, customers and employees do more and more on mobile devices than ever before. In fact, the mobile revolution seems like an unstoppable force with more than 5.3 billion mobile subscribers worldwide (by the way, thats 77 percent of the worlds population).

    Today the mobile consumer and the mobile workforce are rapidly converging. Whether officially sanctioned or not, many customer service employees already make use of their smart phones, iPads, and personal accounts like Twitter and Facebook to solve their customers' problems because these channels make their jobs easier.

    Being able to access customer service systems from anywhere frees services teams from their desks. It allows them to respond to and escalate customer inquiries from anyplace at any time. As a result, response times go down and customer satisfaction goes through the roof. Time and time again, we see examples of customers who are delighted to get timely responses from inquiries whether theyre over the web, email, or Twitter. What matters is that youre taking care of the customer faster than ever before. In todays increasingly connected world, that wins customer loyalty and creates a huge competitive advantage.

    Multiple Channels, Unified Tools

    However, the more customer service channels a company supports, the more challenging it can be to effectively track and respond to customer inquiries. In addition, every new channel has the potential to create confusion for both customer service agents and customers. For example, one customer service agent may respond to a customer via email while another is communicating over Twitter. It can create the classic problem of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing.

    To avoid these issues, companies need all their channels to feed into a central help desk with a unified set of business processes. While requests may arrive in different ways, the organization should strive for consistency across channels. This will reduce an overlap of efforts, ensure consistent responses, and simplify the management of the customer service team.

    That is exactly how the new generation of help desk solutions are designed. In fact, they can truly provide the fastest way to a great customer experience because they are easy to set up, funnel interactions from multiple channels into a single place, and improve the efficiency of customer service agents.

    Conclusion

    Todays companies are faced with the challenge of having to deliver customer service across a wide variety of channels such as email, the Web, social media, and mobile devices; its not just about having a call center or FAX machine anymore. By supporting these channels, customer service organization have an amazing opportunity to deliver a truly memorable customer experience with the right processes and tools in place. If the last update you made to your customer service organizations was the addition of a support@ email address, it is probably time to seriously reassess your customer service strategy. Happy customers are loyal customers who not only keep coming back for more, but also spread the word about your company and products.

    About Zendesk

    Zendesk is the proven cloud-based help desk software that is the fastest way to enable great customer service in rapidly growing companies. Zendesk is so easy to use, it's loved by support teams and their customers worldwide. More than 30,000 organizations including Adobe, MSNBC, Sony, and Groupon, trust Zendesk with their most valuable asset: their customers. Now, organizations can deliver exceptional support across the web, email, and social media.

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