5 Tips to Supercharge Customer Services

In the early days of the tech boom, companies that offered a great product in a market with few competitors could afford to make customer service a lower priority. Those days are gone. Today, customer service is often the key differentiator between companies offering similar products, and good customer support can be the difference between success and failure. No matter what business you're in, you can't afford to let customer service slide.

The good news is, you don't have to. With a teamwork-centered approach to handling customer relationships and effective application of data and technology, you can deliver service faster and improve satisfaction, providing the world-class customer service that will make your company stand out in the marketplace. Here are some tips on how to make it happen:

Understand your customers. Have you ever called customer service for help with an issue and been shuffled around from agent to agent? Have you been asked for your name, account number, and product you are calling about over and over? Spare your customers that frustration by using a technology platform with a customer database that contains product and inventory information. That way you'll know who your customers are and what products they are likely to be calling about.

Collaborate to solve customer issues. A teamwork approach lets customers take advantage of the collective expertise in your company. Find a software solution that makes it easy to collaborate across business units and view notes about past customer issues. Collaboration helps the customer by bringing your collective knowledge to bear, and it also helps your company by enabling you to manage the entire relationship (rather than individual tickets) and learn from the customer experience. Customer service software that easily integrates with other business systems will further support your team approach and provide even greater visibility.

Enable self-service. Self-service gets a bad rap sometimes because it can be perceived as a company's unwillingness to devote employee time to assist customers. But in reality, customers like options, and such self-service tools as customer portals, FAQs, forums, and how-to videos can be the quickest way for them to get answers. Give your customers a choice by providing agent assistance along with self-service tools. Not only will they like having a choice, but a well-designed self-service solution can reduce agent workloads as well.

Learn from metrics. When you handle customer calls, sometimes patterns emerge that give you insights into how you could deliver better service. But there are more subtle patterns that no single agent or supervisor will detect, and that's where a customer support system reporting function can prove invaluable. Use reporting tools that allow you to get a big-picture view of open tickets, tickets by type, tickets by customer, etc., so that you can continuously improve service.

Let customers access service their way. Some customers prefer to talk to an agent on the phone. Others want to interact via live chat. Still others prefer social media platforms, Web portals, or email. If you're looking to improve customer service, give customers a variety of ways to connect with you so that they can choose the venue that's most comfortable for them.

In an increasingly competitive business environment, customer service offers a way to stand out from the crowd, so striving for customer service excellence is a good strategy from a brand-building perspective. But when you take a collaborative approach to delivering customer service, you'll find there are many other benefits in addition to greater customer satisfaction. A truly team-centered approach to customer support has implications across all business units, giving product development professionals greater insight into emerging demand, providing senior executives with a clearer view of company capabilities, and giving sales and marketing teams more information about customer pain points and preferences.

Technology solutions can significantly streamline the collaboration process and deliver real-time data to the entire team. The right platform can also enable delivery of robust self-service tools—and access to an agent if that's what the customer prefers. Technology can allow the company to generate powerful analytics and integrate multiple entry points so customers can access service on their own terms. If achieving customer service excellence is on your agenda, follow these five tips, and before you know it, you'll be a customer support superstar.

Robert Johnson is the cofounder and CEO of TeamSupport.com, a cloud-based, B2B software application built to help customer-facing support teams serve clients better through stronger collaboration, superior teamwork, and faster issue resolution.

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