Lower Your Service Costs

Providing good customer service is an absolute necessity for businesses that take themselves, their clients, and their products seriously. Offering customers the excellent support needed to give your products a good name costs money, though, and many businesses struggle to control the corollary costs. Here are five great ways your business can reduce customer service costs while still providing your customer base with the excellent service it deserves.

1. Utilize social media channels.

Your company receives a phone bill at the end of each month, but have you ever been billed per tweet or Facebook comment? The same number of support agents (or fewer) can be dedicated to addressing customer concerns via free-to-use social media channels. Do it right and it's a secret weapon in your customer support strategy.

Plus, high-quality social media engagement can even make "ambassadors" out of your customers, something sure to generate new business opportunities for your company within their social circles.

What's more, recent research by ZenDesk shows that more than 60 percent of consumers have used a social network to make a customer service comment.

A report by Virgin Media Business revealed that companies are also increasingly looking forward and finding ways to develop automated online methods of communication.

"As we all become more digital, we expect to be able to contact businesses at any time with questions, queries, or complaints," says Phil Stewart, director of customer services at Virgin Media Business. "For businesses, this poses a real problem in terms of staffing. In part because of the way social media works, people want to be engaged as quickly as possible. Yet most businesses simply can't afford to have someone staff a customer helpline 24/7," Stewart says.

2. Keep your customer service agents happy.

A happy, motivated employee is a good employee. The better your company is at keeping its customer support agents satisfied with their positions, the more likely they will be to remain loyal, long-term employees. Reducing turnover is excellent for internal company morale, plus it saves you the cost of continually educating new trainees to fill vacancies.

Moreover, there's much added value to retaining an established staff of support agents, as return customers will enjoy the feeling of personalized service given to them by the same agents who have dealt with their queries in the past.

With its new CEO, Yahoo has been doing just this: boosting morale by offering free food and generally better work conditions that make employees happy. When employees are happy, they work harder to make the company a success.

3. Offer comprehensive FAQ sections.

Offer your customers a comprehensive FAQ section. Directing Web traffic to your FAQ section instead of directly to support agents means that customer questions and concerns can be addressed "in advance," much like the "first line of defense" offered by automated computer response technology. If the information is there, the customers will be happy.

4. Encourage self-service.

Ideally, you want your customers on your Web site for as long as possible, rather than having them deal with customer support representatives. On top of that, your aim should be to address any of their concerns before they even pop up.

5. Offer live chat support.

Sometimes you don't want to talk on the phone. Offering live support is quick, efficient, and easy for the user and the support staff. There is no waiting time, and the user can get what she needs in a matter of minutes. Multiple customers can be dealt with at the same time, and support agents are free to run live chat software instead of the phones to engage your customers and answer their queries, which is clearly cutting overhead communications costs.

All in all, then, it's entirely possible to offer your customer base excellent service without excessive cost. Much of your savings comes down to effectively utilizing free or inexpensive technologies in lieu of telephony. Of course, the same professional level of service is required, but allocating your resources in these more qualitative ways accomplishes the same end goals while significantly reducing your company's overhead.

Stefanie Amini is the marketing director and specialist in customer success at WalkMe, an interactive online guidance system. She is also chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for customer service experts. Follow her @StefWalkMe.

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