customer service

As companies grow and become busier, the focus on customer service can slide as time and resources run thin.

Business owners are often caught up with getting the job done whilst admin and communication with customers is left on the back burner, which can frustrate customers, and ultimately lead to lost business and reputational damage.

There are many ways of improving the key issues that drive customers crazy such as; long hold times, not getting to speak to anyone other than voicemail and unresolved queries.

One of the most efficient methods of improving these customer services issues is to outsource telephone answering or utilising virtual assistances.  This approach can reduce customer hold times and also be a cost-effective way of using technology to assist customer communications.

Increasingly customers demand a different way of communicating with businesses, with expectations of longer opening hours and with preferences to interact instantly, overcoming any queries or issues as quickly as possible, the pressure on businesses to perform is higher than ever. This article takes a look at ways a business can improve their customer service levels.

1. Improve telephone customer service efficiency

Commonly customers rank speed of overcoming issues as a top three issue when liaising with businesses, shortly followed by knowledgeable staff and clear communication.

To increase scores within these areas it is suggested that businesses should:

  • Be transparent regarding the complaints or returns procedures, setting realistic timeframes of resolving such issues
  • Implement a rapid response ‘chatbot’ or an artificial intelligence solution to direct customers to the required information with ease
  • Utilize multiple communication methods enabling customers to get in touch quickly and easily
  • If outsourcing calls, use US based call centres so that language barriers or strong interactional accents are minimized
  • Ensure high standards of training has been rolled out for all customer service staff so that knowledge levels are high to assist customers

In addition to the tips above, one of the best ways to increase customer reviews is to under promise and over deliver on customer service.  This can simply be when setting customer targets allowing additional time for the in-house team to delivery quotes or call out times resulting in less late services.

2. Reduce waiting times

Major bug bares for customers are long waiting or queuing times plus complicated automated phone menus.  Ways to reducing these frustrations include:

  • Aim to reduce or eliminate automated phone menus for inbound calls which can aid customers’ speaking to service representatives more quickly without being frustrated of choosing the wrong options.
  • Also seek to resource phone services appropriately, keeping waiting times down for customers. To do this, knowledge is needed of the businesses’ typical call volumes, durations plus peak times and then recourses required can be matched.

3. Consider introducing a call back system

Call back systems can eradicate the need for customers to wait in telephone queuing systems by utilizing technological communication solutions.  Call back services can operate in a couple of ways, both with the time saving objectives from the perspective of the customer, as follows:

  • Front of queue call backs – For this approach, customers would call into the business in the normal way, then an option is presented to leave their contact details and the system would call them back when they reach the front of the queue. This automates the queuing system so customers do not need to hang on for long periods of time listening to hold music and can improve customer satisfaction.
  • Scheduled call backs – This method also uses technology to improve the customer experience when contacting a business, although this way can be more flexible than a front of queue call back. There are multiple ways to implement a scheduled call back system.  One method is to set up a calendar style system on a company’s website for example, enabling customers to choose an appropriate time to set a call back.   Or the process can run in a similar way to the front of the queue call back system, however the customer leaves their contact details, they can select a delay for the call back to a time that’s more convenient.

4. Retain Telephone Customer Services

Some businesses have opted to remove telephone customer services, opting only to provide online customer service, however this can be limiting to customers.

Although an online approach is very necessary in today’s modern world, by not having a telephone service at all, people not online or the demographic that are less tech-savvy are disregarded.

A blended approach regarding communication methods is often recommended to all businesses, providing multiple methods for customers to get in touch, inclusive of all potential customers.

Many small businesses find the prospect of providing both modes of communication overwhelming, a training burn and expensive. For this reason many have started to outsource their customer services using telephone answering services (costs of answering services can be reasonable).

5. Set High Customer Service Standards

Businesses must aim high when setting the levels of customer service that they intend to provide.  Bad reviews and negative comments on feedback site and social media can impact a company’s reputation fast and therefore businesses must work hard to avoid this.

Inevitably there will be times when these events do occur and then the response to a customer with an issue is also equally important.

Businesses should aim to remove any frustrations that customers generally have with communication such as waiting on hold and delays to correspondence to maintain high levels of service which can also provide a competitive advantage.

Customer service representatives should be highly trained not only within the ordering and returns process of the business, but also with industry knowledge.

They should also show empathy to customers when issues arise and be trained with how best to approach tricky situations.  Also, ideally customer service assistants should have a range of options available to them instantly to be able to resolve issues and offer gestures of good will should they are required.

Overall businesses should aim to provide high quality, prompt customer service, via multiple communication methods, equipping customers with various avenues to get in contact.  The use of technology and outsourcing can limit the burden on businesses when aiming to achieve this.

John Morton has spent many years managing an outbound call center and specializes in KPI analysis.

Customer service stock photo by tsyhun/Shutterstock