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Improving the quality of customer service. Assessments, strategy and main principles

 Improving the quality of customer service. Assessments, strategy and main principles

Improving the quality of customer service. Assessments, strategy and main principles

Never before has customer service been such an important factor in running a business . And while many of the management principles here are universal, there are unique aspects of customer service that we must understand in order to be effective leaders in this area.

This article is divided into three chapters, where in the first we will look at the key steps required to create the foundation for effective customer service. In the second, we will look at important aspects of customer interaction, including developing a service strategy, protecting the interests of your customers, and more. In Chapter 3, you'll learn what it takes to develop the right customer service approach, including team development, how and where to make improvements, and other important topics.

Establishing a foundation for quality customer service

Customer service leadership is important for several key reasons. One is that customer expectations are evolving rapidly. When customers encounter service innovation in one organization, they begin to expect the same from others. And you constantly need to come back to what counts as good service.

Establishing a foundation for quality customer service

Today, customers easily share information about their service experience with a particular company. Customer reviews are an important factor for us before making a purchase. This means that service in your organization can both make things worse and make you a market leader.

Many market leaders note that up to 70% of new customers come through referrals

The second, and perhaps less obvious, reason why customer service leadership is so important is the ability of the customer service team to spot early signs of product or service failure. They see how well the company delivers on its promises to customers. And it is the customer service that clearly sees where there are opportunities for research and development, as well as ways to innovate .

The third reason leadership is so important is that finding the best approach to customer service is a process of ongoing research. There is no one template, no one suitable tool to improve the customer experience. Therefore, customer service management is essential to identify the services that are right for you and your particular situation.

Many organizations don't earn the returns they could from their investment in customer service. They believe that maintenance is a necessary cost to be kept to a minimum, or that maintenance is important, but that is not a hallmark for them.

Improving the customer experience has never been more important than it is now, and with the right approach, by applying the principles we will explore in this article, you will have the opportunity to make a difference for your customers, your employees and everyone who will benefit from the success of the organization. .

From the small coffee shop you love to iconic brands with great customer service reputations, everything in the most successful organizations aligns with their vision, mission and values. Let's look at three main aspects that allowed them to become so.

One way to test how well the customer experience aligns with your organization's vision and mission is to create a customer journey map through your services. Define every step customers face. Aligning service with the vision and mission of your organization is an important management responsibility.

You can read more about these three aspects in our article “Customer Interaction. Stages of developing the right strategy" .

An important part of customer service management is understanding what they want and ensuring the work is done in a way that meets their expectations. But what do customers expect? How are these expectations changing? Let's look at the answers to these questions.

The main reason why customer expectations change, and sometimes very quickly, is innovation. Although customers initially appreciate better services, they quickly get used to them and even demand more. Customer experiences with any organization, not just yours or others in your industry, shape their perceptions.

We must continually redefine what good customer service means. For service desk leaders, this can seem like a daunting task. But there are various organizations that monitor the change in consumer behavior.

For example, the International Customer Relationship Management Institute (ICMI) found that customers have 10 expectations from interactions in the service industry. They include (in no particular order):

  • To be available;
  • Polite treatment;
  • Respond quickly;
  • Anticipate what I need and what I want;
  • Quickly do what I ask;
  • Provide well-trained and informed employees;
  • Stick to your commitments and keep your promises;
  • Do it right the first time;
  • A clear sequence of actions on the company's website;
  • Be socially responsible and ethical.

To understand what these expectations mean, let's take the example of accessibility. Even in the smallest companies, customers expect a wide range of choices, from finding the right product/service to self-service and being able to contact support as needed.

In addition to these 10 expectations, there is another category that relates to personal service. Here the functionality of the environment is important. This includes: neatness of employees, for example, does the company have a dress code? Amenities such as Wi-Fi, water, waiting areas and others. In other words, everything that affects the customer's perception of the organization and its services.

As you explore your customers' expectations, try following these three guidelines:

  • Personal participation . Make an effort to get first-hand feedback from customers and employees. John C. Bogle, founder of Vanguard, now the largest mutual fund company in the US, has personally helped handle call center calls throughout his career.
  • Trust your instincts . If you require companies to have clean toilets or have their support department available on the weekends, then try to implement this in your company. These may be obvious possibilities.
  • Simplify maintenance and resolve issues quickly . Research clearly shows that simplicity and speed are the main advantages in customer service.

Customer Satisfaction Ratings

Customer Satisfaction Ratings

Many successful companies establish a general measure of customer satisfaction to measure their progress in this direction. There are three common survey methods you can choose from when establishing an overall customer satisfaction score:

  • CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) customer satisfaction rating;
  • Index of consumer loyalty to a product or company NPS (Net Promoter Score);
  • Evaluation of consumer efforts CES (Customer Effort Score).
  • The idea here is that each company can easily see how they are doing in this field. To use a sports metaphor, your team's actions reflect what's happening on the field. All these indicators are based on estimates.
One common approach is surveys that measure customer satisfaction with CSAT. They are based on variations on the question, how satisfied are you? Or how would you rate your experience?

CSAT is not a measure of customer loyalty, in fact, only behavior can truly measure loyalty. But the big advantage of CSAT is that it is so common that you may already have years of data to serve as a basis.

The NPS consumer loyalty index for a product or company is another popular approach based on the question: how likely are you to recommend us to others? The input data is provided on a 10-point scale, where a score of 10 is most likely recommended.

The overall NPS rating is an absolute number from minus 100% to plus 100%, which is the difference between the percentage of promoters and detractors. Let's say you have 75% promoters and 20% detractors. The net promoter rate will be 55%. A net promoter score above zero is considered good, and above 50 is excellent.

The CES Consumer Effort Assessment is an alternative to CSAT and NPS. Research shows that this is an excellent indicator of loyalty. Ratings are based on how easy was it to solve the problem? Answers are usually typed on a seven-point scale, seven is very easy. The advantage of evaluating customer efforts is that they are based on the service characteristics that are so important to customers. This is probably why it has so much to do with loyalty.

But there are some caveats when using any of these alternatives as a metric:

  1. Customer satisfaction metrics don't matter much if you don't know what drives them, so it's best to consider them along with other metrics.
  2. Make sure top management doesn't just look at overall grades. Be sure to monitor customer behavior. Do they keep buying? Do they try new products? How are people describing you online?
  3. If your organization is great at problem prevention, customer support will only deal with the most difficult problems. Service rates can actually go down, and you should be aware that this reflects your toughest issues.
Now let's look at ways to add value to customer service. There are three levels at which effective service creates value:

  • Efficiency . Accurate workload forecasts and schedules, good quality without defects, efficient self-service systems are all factors in providing efficient customer service.
  • Contribution to customer loyalty . If you're measuring customer satisfaction before and after a customer service interaction, effective service should translate into higher scores. A study conducted at Marriott Business Schools found that 89% of customers who had no problems were more likely to return. 94% of customers who had problems but were later resolved are likely to come back too.
  • Cross-functional level . This is where customer service contributes to other functions in the organization. For example, effective customer service helps sales and marketing because it provides insight into what customers want and expect. Also, customer service can help identify and fix quality issues in production, as well as improve user manuals.
A practical way to identify opportunities to add value to customer service is to create a cross-functional team to analyze the causes and interact with customer support. Create a chart to identify trends and then act on what you are learning.

Two sources of information are important here. The first comes from the interactions themselves. What are the causes of customer service problems? What questions do clients need help with? And what do you learn from these interactions? The second source of information is the post-improvement impact assessment. For example, how many calls can be avoided if you improve self-service? How do service improvements affect customer feedback?

While there is no single report on the benefits of cross-functions, it is important to evaluate the value of these interactions. Frankly, only a small percentage of organizations are utilizing the potential value of customer service, and few are taking the extra step of quantifying interactions.

Customer Relations

Whether you're a one-person design company, a 50-person software startup, or a global airline with thousands of employees, you'll need a strategy to serve your customers.

The strategy is the bridge between the vision and mission of your organization and the specific decisions needed to achieve them. Who will you hire? What hours will you work? What technologies will you need? And much more.

In customer service, strategy takes the form of a specific plan, often referred to as a customer access strategy or alternatively a customer engagement strategy. Let's take a look at what a customer engagement strategy is and the components that make up an effective plan.

An engagement strategy can be defined as a framework, set of standards, guidelines, and processes that consider the means by which clients obtain or are able to access required information, services, and experiences.

An effective customer engagement strategy has 10 components, which we covered in detail in our article on customer engagement and linked to it above. Here we will only list these components in a short list.

  1. Consumer segments;
  2. Type of interaction;
  3. Access channels;
  4. Determine opening hours;
  5. The organization's goals for accessibility;
  6. Distribution. Who will work in which area?
  7. Human and technological resources;
  8. Obtaining the necessary information;
  9. Use of the received information;
  10. Creation of new services.
Incorporating supporting metrics into your operations is an important factor in customer service. The right indicators allow you to evaluate the effectiveness of your services. They also tend to drive behavior and help you and your team focus on the things that matter most.

There are many variables in customer service. But what should you pay attention to? Let's take a closer look at the answer to this question. We have identified seven key service principles that should always be reflected in the metrics. They build on each other, from the tactical to the more strategic, and form an effective basis for defining indicators.

The first principle is anticipating customer needs or workload forecasting. If you don't have an accurate forecast of how many customers you will be serving and what their needs are, it will be very difficult to deliver an efficient service. This is true for any type of business, from a small medical office to a busy restaurant or a large multidisciplinary customer service center.

The important thing here is to actually get as accurate data as you need, down to "how many customers need help running our website's Search feature on a Saturday morning?". Also make sure these predictions come true.

The second principle of service. You have anticipated the workload, now it is important to calculate the staff and other resources required for maintenance. For example, if you're running an emergency room in a hospital, it's important to make sure you have the right number of doctors, nurses, and support staff at the right time.

The third principle is waiting time or how available you are. Latency is actually the result of the first two principles of service: predicting the workload and getting the right resources at the right time. The supporting indicator here is the waiting time for customers.

Be sure to consider all types of access, whether customers call you, enter your store/office, or use some other alternative method of contacting you.

The fourth principle is the quality of interaction, that is, what actually happens at the point of service delivery. Criteria such as understanding the customer's needs, problem solving, accurate data entry, and other types of quality service are important here. As supporting metrics, you can use both customer survey data and internal quality scores from customer interaction samples.

The fifth principle of service delivery is employee engagement, and by engagement we mean the degree to which your employees are committed to your mission and the work they do. Research provides strong evidence that engaged employees provide better service. You can measure engagement with employee surveys and employee turnover metrics.

The sixth principle is cross-functional or strategic. What information do you get from customer service that would be helpful in improving products, services, and processes.

The seventh principle is customer satisfaction and loyalty. This is achieved through the successful operation of all the previous principles. Here you should pay attention to customer behavior such as repeat transactions, reviews that they publish, new customers who come from referrals, and more.

Many customer service leaders don't always rely on surveys and aggregated data to understand what's really going on. They want to put themselves in the shoes of their customers. They want to see the organization, products, employees, and competitors as their customers see them.

Given the success of some companies in working with their clients and after analyzing some information, we can give some advice.

First, be on the front lines. Go out and talk to clients. Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, has made this a regular practice. He regularly flew economy class and roamed airports to be with his clients.

Howard Schultz, the CEO of Starbucks, spends a lot of time on the chain, and that has helped him make decisions like investing in lower espresso machines so baristas can maintain eye contact with shoppers.

How do you know what decision to make if you're not with your clients and can't see what's going on? This opportunity extends to managers of all levels. If you are a team leader , don't forget to spend time with clients.

Second, don't stray too far from normal interaction. Posts on Twitter, VK, Facebook and many other social platforms are a great source of information. Focus groups have long been a reliable and valuable source of detailed information from clients. With their help, you can get a deeper understanding of what they are experiencing, what motivates them and attracts them.

Front-line employees provide invaluable information about products, services, processes, and customer experiences with your company. Operating data is an excellent source of information. How accessible are you to clients? Why do they contact the organization? Did you solve the problem and how long did it take?

There are other sources of information that you can find on the Internet. These can be reviews on Yandex.Market, Amazon, TripAdvisor and many other sites. Here you will see how customers describe their experience and your products to other people. It might be a good idea to compare customer reviews with professional reviews on specialized sites.

Third, don't settle for a limited or incomplete understanding of your customers. Of course, it's impractical for a support manager to deal with all these sources of information all the time, but your example and finding ways to stay on top of things makes a huge difference.

Your goal is to find time in your schedule to interact with one of these sources. If you don't do it intentionally, then it probably won't happen. At first, it may seem strange or even counterproductive to spend time with employees and clients, but the most effective leaders say that this should become your norm. Many of the best decisions you'll make as a customer service lead will come from putting yourself in the customers' shoes.

Now it is worth mentioning such an important topic as protecting the interests of clients. Customer advocacy consists of the actions we take to steer the company towards what is truly best for customers, which in turn rewards us with loyal customers who protect our products and brand.

A simple example would be this situation: an airline ticket agent tells a customer that if he had preferred an earlier flight, it would save him 40% of the cost. Of course, a decision will have to be made here so that the customer service department works also on weekends.

Customers are advocates when they promote your products and brand in a positive way. Brand Advocates, as they are often referred to, bring great value to an organization. A McKinsey study found that between 20% and 50% of all buying decisions are based on hearsay. According to Bain & Company, attorney clients spend twice as much as repeat clients, and because they stay longer, their lifetime value is five times higher than regular clients.

On the other hand, studies also show that less than half of all companies know who is protecting their brand, and much less interact with them. By doing so, they are missing out on a huge opportunity.

We have identified four main principles that turn loyal customers into brand advocates:

  1. Don't forget the real reason you have loyal customers. You must solve their problems, serve them the best with consumer-oriented products and services. This should be a key task for customer service management.
  2. Always engage your customer support team. Many people make a positive buying choice when they see customer support frequently answering questions from potential customers.
  3. Find appropriate ways to ask customers to write reviews. This may be a letter from the management to the consumer a few weeks after the purchase, asking him to share his impressions of the product.
  4. For your most active supporters, provide a more active level of interaction, such as VIP programs. Make them part of your eyes and ears for new ideas and innovative features. For example, LEGO interacts with its customers through design competitions, robotics competitions and funny stories on Facebook and other sites.
Communication with client-lawyers does not happen by chance. To do this, you need a plan and a responsible person or team. They should work with you and put in the same effort as you do to improve the customer experience. Communication and interaction with lawyer clients is a strategic decision. If everything works out for you, then you will get the most powerful sales force - your loyal customers.

Forming an approach for quality customer service

The main factor in maintaining a quality customer service is the culture of the company. These are days of hard work to focus on what is truly best for consumers. Here we have identified seven important principles that will help create a customer-centric culture.

  1. Find the right people. While it makes sense to hire employees with the right skills, the drive and passion to help consumers is essential in a customer service environment.
  2. Put your employees first. Employees who are satisfied with their work are more likely than others to try to do their job better.
  3. Empower employees to make real-time decisions. You can't expect them to be effective if they don't have the authority and the means to help clients.
  4. Find ways to constantly focus on your customers and not your internal goals.
  5. Communicate with your team. Effective leaders at all levels, whether CEO or team leader , need to keep their teams up to date on all developments, whether positive or negative.
  6. Set goals and objectives that support a customer-centric culture.
  7. Develop supporting tools and processes. This does not mean that you have to have the latest technology. Just know the history and preferences of customers, collect useful information about customers and their problems, and have effective internal communication tools. Good resource management is also important. You need to know that you are getting the right resources at the right time and focusing on the right things.
Customer service is a process that operates within the larger process that is the organization. Let's see what that means and what it tells us about where and how to make improvements.

Customer service includes many variables such as employees, systems, procedures, customers, and more. And inside each variable there is its own layer of variables. Clients, for example, have a preferred communication channel. Do they want to call or use self-service? There is also their knowledge and experience, disposition to communicate, their expectations and even their mood - this is a factor.

Simply put, customer service is part of an organization and a vast process. In particular, every interaction with a client is a process. In fact, any part of the interaction, such as data entry, is also a process.

Now consider any area of ​​service that you want to improve. Let's say, quickly solve problems without unnecessary actions. Each of these variables will have an impact. They are all interconnected, and this highlights the principle behind the struggle for quality. It makes no sense to encourage employees to improve quality without improving the processes of which it is a part.

As an account   you face many options when deciding where and how to improve service. And those options multiply when you analyze customer data from sources that range from social posts to surveys to operational metrics.

So what problems should you tackle first? To do this, we list eight possible factors to consider when prioritizing actions to improve customer experience:

  1. Security. When it comes to customer safety, the issue should be a priority.
  2. Frequency. How often does the problem occur? Many programs now warn users to enable Caps Lock when they enter their passwords. This simple solution reduced the amount of frustration.
  3. Scale. Consider the scale of the problem that could affect customers.
  4. Time. Some issues significantly impact customers, but can wait. Others need to be dealt with right now.
  5. customer segment. It's undeniable that every customer is important, but most businesses decide it makes sense to take care of their most loyal customers.
  6. Prevention. A fundamental principle of effective customer service is to solve problems before they arise or even before they grow.
  7. Brand influence. You want to prioritize actions to protect your brand. An example is the effective training of all employees who interact directly with customers.
  8. Strategy. Determining the strategy also includes weighing the interests of clients with financial or performance issues.
Determining which actions to take can be not only a science, but also an art. This is an area that requires good leadership, and considering these eight factors will definitely lead you to better decisions.

Budgeting the Customer Service Department

In the end, we'll talk about budgeting for your unit and highlight six principles to help you create it.

A budget is simply a summary of proposed or agreed spending over a specific period of time for specific purposes. Sounds trite, and many executives view budgeting as a tedious, time-consuming process.

However, don't forget that the result of this much-criticized process is the funding you'll need to fulfill your mission and ideas to improve your customer experience.

This leads to the first principle - to consider the budget as an opportunity. Those who think of a budget as rows and columns of numbers are missing the point. In fact, it is a process that is a great opportunity to learn about the business and make decisions that are a win for everyone.

The second principle is to remember to focus on results. Servicing 200 or 2,000,000 customers or keeping wait times within targets is just a means to an end. Quality customer experience results have a real impact on business outcomes, customer satisfaction, profitability, market share, positive reviews and other factors.

The third principle is to make sure that budgeting is an extension of resource planning. Planned activities such as forecasting, scheduling and cost analysis should take much of the work out of the budgeting process because the budget should ultimately be based on the same workload projections.

The fourth principle is to look for opportunities to increase cross-functional resources. Often the overall results of an organization can be improved by investing more in one area in favor of another. For example, the marketing department may allocate a budget to collect and analyze information about customer trends and expectations.

The fifth principle is to make sure that the budgeting process is completely transparent. Be realistic and candid about where customer service has hit its targets and where you're missing something. Presenting a department in the best possible light can actually undermine success. If you hide a problem, then you don't get the resources to solve it.

The sixth principle is to identify investment opportunities. As leaders, we are responsible for identifying potential high return investment opportunities such as emerging technologies, effective employee training and more.

The budgeting process is a great opportunity to better understand the role and value of customer service. You can even turn this commitment into a positive and enlightening discussion.


At the end of this article, we would like to give some advice. To begin with, when deciding how to apply what you have learned from this article, start by thinking about what you really want to achieve. How can customer service bring out the best in your organization?

Then take inventory of weaknesses in any of the key areas we've covered. For example, do you have a customer access strategy? Do you have indicators that reflect all seven dimensions of service delivery? Is your organization's culture customer-centric? What is your approach to unit budgeting, etc.?

Answering the questions honestly will really help your department improve customer service and increase your organization's bottom line by growing an army of "lawyer clients."