Companies are increasingly focusing on customer service, and their investments are paying off. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2023, 57 percent of consumers have seen a noticeable improvement in customer support experiences. This indicates that markets are becoming more competitive, and companies should stop leaving customer service to chance.
By using customer service management—a strategy that involves empowering agents and advocating for the customer—you and your support team will be well-positioned to meet buyer expectations and increase customer retention.
In this guide you’ll learn:
What is customer service management (CSM)?
Customer service management (CSM) is the practice of empowering your team with the tools, training, and day-to-day support they need to deliver exceptional customer service experiences. The goal is to build rapport with consumers, boost retention, foster brand loyalty, and drive sales.
Why is managing customer service important?
It’s no secret that customer service has far-reaching effects on the customer journey. It’s important to emphasize customer service management so everyone in the organization is aligned on the same goals. Uniform processes and directives prevent conflict between departments and lead to consistent service.
The intent isn’t to hold one department back or create hurdles. Instead, good customer service management can improve everyone’s success by delivering better service to customers.
What are the benefits of customer service management?
CSM enables the support team to do their best work—whether by onboarding new customers or championing customer success for existing ones.
With a customer service management strategy, support agents can:
- Act on customer feedback to improve their service and the company’s products
- Refine their internal processes for managing customer requests and data
- Reduce response times and provide personalized experiences
The benefits of customer service management extend to support agents, too. With a CSM plan, customer service managers can improve agent training, allocate fair workloads, and ensure the team receives the recognition it deserves.
When customer support agents are equipped with the tools and knowledge they need, they can provide high-quality experiences. They’re also much more likely to be engaged and satisfied with their work, which, in turn, leads to happier customers.
How to improve your customer service management
It requires continuous effort to build customer loyalty and improve employee engagement with your customer service team. These tips cover how to empower agents and adopt agile processes within your department.
Improve customer service management by offering rewards and training to employees, supporting fast resolution times, using AI and self-service, personalizing interactions, researching CX successes, gathering real-time insights, and establishing a feedback loop.
1. Motivate your customer service team with goals and rewards
Showing appreciation and acknowledging accomplishments can lead to motivated, upbeat customer service representatives.
Every company has a different culture, so be sure to customize your rewards for your workplace. As you experiment with what works best for your team, we recommend you:
Set achievable goals
Customer service objectives allow your teams to measure their own success, which is critical to increasing engagement and improving employee satisfaction.
Your support agents should know how each objective addresses business needs, too. Connecting individual and team goals to company goals can help your agents see how they contribute to the organization.
“You can’t manage what you can’t measure,” says Leanne Britton, customer advocacy manager at Zendesk. “With this in mind, your own metrics are the most important reference point for setting your goals.”
She suggests analyzing specific customer service KPIs:
- The number of questions you get per day/week/month, on average
- The types of questions you receive
- The average handle time/resolution time of those different types of questions
- Agent availability and specialization
- Satisfaction and quality assurance scores
“When put together, this can then help you determine your goals for how many customers your agents can be expected to help and how long, on average, they should spend on a specific issue,” Britton says.
Recognize and reward your employees
Encourage your staff to praise each other
Personalize rewards and recognition
Burnout is a big issue in customer service, but a little positive reinforcement can make a big difference. Set up guidelines for how often you want to recognize your agents. Then make sure you identify remarkable achievements.
Don’t just acknowledge milestone accomplishments, though. You can recognize team members with a trophy emoji on Slack for handling a difficult experience well or de-escalating a tense situation.
You can also take a page from the Zendesk playbook: We give a “Needful Trophy” to our support reps who excel in their work; it’s then up to them to pass the trophy on to the next person who goes above and beyond for a customer.
As a manager, you’re not the only person who should call out good work. Encourage your support agents to recognize one another when they achieve milestones.
At Zendesk, we all use Slack to give each other shoutouts. Sometimes the praise is mentioned within a small group, and other times it gets broadcast to the entire company. We’ll praise our colleagues on anything from a local team channel to the global #humblebrag channel.
Another great way to boost agent morale is by getting customers in on the action. Maestro QA Agent Slack Shoutouts, a Zendesk integration, automatically shares positive customer satisfaction (CSAT) reviews with teams in Slack. This feature uses the customer’s own words to celebrate the agents who work hard to keep them happy or who resolved an issue.
Remember, one size doesn’t fit all regarding rewards and recognition. Some people like public praise, while others prefer it to be private.
Take the time to offer praise that appeals to each agent’s unique personality. For example, an extroverted employee might appreciate a special shoutout during a team meeting. A more private person, on the other hand, may find an old-fashioned thank-you note more meaningful.
2. Support your team with training and career development opportunities
Building and retaining a talented team should be a key component of any customer service management strategy. Strive to hire talented agents, but realize their development shouldn’t depend entirely on on-the-job experience.
To enhance customer service skills, create a customer service training plan that will help agents achieve the goals and objectives of their role. Then, provide access to valuable training resources, such as:
- Knowledge bases for self-guided learning
- Online courses that measure aptitude
- Workshops that review customer service best practices and let agents develop the right voice and tone
- Mentorships by senior members who can provide real-time guidance
Send agents to external conferences or certification courses to further develop their hard skills. You can fill in the gaps in your training program while improving your talent pool’s potential for upward mobility.
3. Support fast resolution times across multiple channels
Limiting communication channels with customers might simplify your agents’ jobs, but it will also create bottlenecks that lead to poor service. For example, if everyone needs to call customer support to resolve an issue, they’ll likely face long wait times. Having multiple channels improves response times and lets customers choose the medium that suits them best.
Enable omnichannel support in your customer service management process with:
- Live chat
- Social media messaging
- Web calls
4. Innovate with AI and self-service
Look for ways to reduce mundane tasks so your agents can focus on more important work. AI can help lighten the load and provide customer insights in cost-effective ways:
- Chatbots can provide automated responses to simple questions and direct complicated customer issues to agents.
- AI algorithms can deliver personalized recommendations by analyzing customer data.
- Analytics software can detect patterns in customer behavior and predict future needs.
- Integrated voice response (IVR) systems can use voice commands to direct customers to the appropriate agent.
Customer self-service portals can also reduce ticket volume by empowering customers to find answers independently. Agents work together to publish help center articles and tutorials that provide customers with the information they need.
5. Personalize customer interactions
Most of us have experienced poor customer service where the agent knows little to nothing about our history with the company. It feels like they’re trying to end the interaction as quickly as possible—whether the result is successful or not.
Engaging the customer with personalized service can prevent customers from feeling neglected. Create customer profiles with purchase history and demographic details that your agents can reference so they can provide customer-oriented support. The customer will feel seen and understood, and your agents can use the information to improve resolutions and satisfaction.
6. Research customer experience successes
The importance of customer experience in a CSM strategy cannot be overstated.
Britton says, “The best customer experiences occur when the customer is at the center of the experience. Top companies keep the customer at the center of the interaction by creating a holistic approach to the entirety of the experience. This means removing barriers to entry, ensuring the customer’s voice is heard throughout the interaction, providing timely follow-up, and confirming resolution and satisfaction at the end of the interaction.”
One of the best ways to improve your company’s CSM is by looking at what other companies are doing right. At Zendesk, we host a conversational webcast series called CX Moments. Attendees tune in for 30-minute Zoom sessions to hear how industry leaders at companies like Slack and Etsy deal with CX challenges and triumphs. Each virtual meeting ends with a Q&A session.
So far, CX Moments has explored team topics like transitioning to remote workforces and educating customers and employees about race, allyship, and solidarity. Through these seminars, we try to reinforce that we’re all in this together—through good times and bad.
7. Gather real-time and historical insights
You can track and analyze every customer interaction with your company to look for ways to improve your service. Real-time monitoring lets managers sit in on conversations and immediately address any issues they witness.
Save call logs, too, and review them later to identify trends. Look at website heat maps, which can pinpoint areas that hold your customer’s attention and help you optimize layouts for improved results. Your customer data is another treasure trove of knowledge that can be leveraged to create a full picture of the customer journey and present ways to level up your performance.
8. Establish a customer feedback loop
A customer feedback loop enables companies to make improvements based on user comments and suggestions. It enhances customer retention by allowing you to better meet customer needs and address issues before they get worse.
Britton recommends providing customers with different channels for engagement and feedback. Use community forums, social media, and customer satisfaction surveys to understand their perspectives and get an idea of what you can improve.
One mistake companies make is implementing changes in response to customer feedback without following up on the results. Reach out to the customer to see if you improved the process or completely resolved the issue. You may need to further investigate issues that weren’t resolved the first time around.
“Listening hard and changing fast are key to a positive customer experience.”
Lee Hawks, Customer Advocacy Manager at Zendesk
Customer service management examples
Use these real-world customer service management examples for inspiration in implementing your own strategies.
Tile: Scaling customer support successfully
Tile is an electronics company that helps people locate important belongings. It started as a crowdfunding project in 2012 and quickly grew into a global presence helping millions of consumers every day. That fast growth led to understandable growing pains, especially with customer support.
Tile began using the Zendesk Agent Workspace to gain some much-needed efficiency. Thanks in part to the tools and unified channels, Tile cut its ticket handling time by 40 percent. Additionally, customer wait time decreased by 28 percent.
“Zendesk’s greatest strengths versus other tools I’ve used is its simplicity and ease of customization, which lets companies create the perfect workflow for their unique situations. You’re not pigeonholed into having certain features work a certain way.”
-Justin Michaud, senior customer support manager at Tile
Chupi: Delivering personalized service
Chupi, a small jewelry business based in Ireland, achieved international reach by leveraging social media to connect with customers beyond its local region.
However, as the company grew, maintaining connections across various channels became challenging. For instance, if an agent communicated with a customer on Instagram, they would lose context if the same customer later contacted them via email. Chupi needed a platform to consolidate customer data from all channels and connect conversations.
That’s where Zendesk came in. Zendesk integrates with other platforms, like Shopify and Instagram, so Chupi is done jumping between different systems, and important information is no longer slipping through the cracks. The company has seen a 300 percent increase in care-based sales, with 69 percent of tickets resolved in one touch.
“We can tag and group particular customers. So we’ve started building up a book of clients that we know. Then when, for example, we launch a new range, we have customers that we know will be interested. We can reach out to them in advance and say, ‘Just to let you know, we’re launching our new collection. We can put you on the list straight away.”
-Brian Durney, chief technical officer at Chupi
Reverb: Getting proactive with self-service
Reverb is an online musical instruments store that helps musicians learn what gear they need to replicate the industry’s most iconic sounds. Its customer engagement department makes up about one-quarter of the company, but even with that labor force, it’s struggled to stay ahead of customer needs.
To meet its goals, Reverb began collecting back-end data and customizing its workflows based on the insights it learned. Once the company discovered where customers struggled the most, it created self-service features, like articles and FAQ pages, so customers could try to resolve issues independently before reaching out to the support team.
Since Reverb implemented these practices, the number of contacts per agent decreased by 50 percent. Nearly 3,500 people use Reverb’s Web Widget each week, and only a fraction of them end up needing help from an agent.
“Our team went from being extremely reactive every single day of the week to extremely proactive—just through the instances of tagging, leveraging self-help, being really smart about where our emails were going…and what our Zendesk automations were capable of doing.”
-Daniel Santrella, Director of Customer Engagement at Reverb
Bolster your customer service management strategy with the right tools
Customer service management is difficult. Make it easier by equipping your support team with the right tools.
Zendesk offers a unified agent workspace that displays important customer data and context when agents need it most. It also allows agents to track their progress on key metrics and seamlessly collaborate with other teams.
Better yet, Zendesk uses intelligent routing to send customers to the agent who’s best suited to answer their questions. Zendesk even helps teams create critical self-service content so brands can foster a customer-focused culture and empower customers to solve simple issues themselves. These features improve employee engagement and retention and build customer loyalty.