Customer support is not something you can play around with, or ever neglect to include in your business. Once your business becomes a certain size, customer support requests will become a full-time job for a department, answering your customers from morning to night, never without some matter to settle. For this reason, it’s essential that you begin to setup your customer support network immediately, and to do so in a complete fashion.
This guide will help you do that. There is absolutely no better department to completely hone once you start selling products. You need to understand exactly how to structure this department to help you answer these queries, to try and defuse negative situations to retain customer loyalty, or to potentially give service that will form customers for life.
We’re going to start this guide from the assumption that you haven’t a support department in place. From here, you should:
Hire Competent & Appropriate Staff
Hiring competent staff is an essential step to ensuring that your support lines are well maintained. Hiring those with an incredibly strong track record of verbal communication skill usage, as well as a degree of emotional intelligence can help. Asking for examples of when these skills were used in the interview can help you find these potential employees from the offset. Also, those who interview strongly in a general sense should be considered for these kinds of roles, especially if applying for a generalized position in your firm. The ability to think quickly, to stay polite under pressure, to explain clearly and directly and to hold their own are all skills that are exceedingly valuable in the overall job market. Without these skills, you may find that the highly stressful nature of answering many calls in a day is less applicable to the staff you have chosen for the job.
Training can only go so far, even though you must give it. You’ll easily feel out the sort of individual that may succeed in this role, so be sure to continually be on the lookout for them in the first place.
Office setups are important to consider when building a support department. Ideally, this room should have quite limited acoustics, as many employees talking at once can often distract each other, or perhaps even filter into the phone call of someone working at this desk. Spacing employees apart can also help them gain a clearer audible picture of the person they are attempting to interface with over the phone. VoIP phone lines and comfortable headset mics with high-quality audio channels can also help the daily life of the support specialist stay well provided for.
It’s important to set up a dedicated contact number for your support requests and to diversify this network to a line system in which multiple extensions can be dialled, and an automated voice will direct the caller to the right switchboard. Starting with 1300 numbers can be a great place to begin. As your business grows, it will be important to train specialist staff in certain areas of support expertise. One may have a high-end knowledge of customer accounts and billing within the specifics of your firm, while another may interface with your business 2 business links solely.
Phone networks should be manned from the moment they are made available in the morning to the moment they are closed in the evening. Remember to isolate a great switchboard software package, one that allows support specialists a degree of utility in how they handle the call, where they direct it and how long they can hold it for.
Another important consideration you may think of is the potential for your business to implement live chatting allowances. Many firms are taking this as the only method of support access, but of course, this is less ideal than hosting both online AND live chat functionality. But what is live chat functionality? Well, it can work in a few ways. The first is to allow for custom architecture on your website to open a chat window, which will automatically connect with one of your support agents. This has the added benefit of syncing to a customer account, effectively helping your support staff save time in verifying the account holder information before they communicate.
Live chat is all based on text, but in some platforms images and links can be shared too (but only on the part of your agent if you so tweak it.) The second use of live chats is for the integration of social media platforms. For example, many online fashion brands are now using Facebook messenger as a real-time method of communicating with customers, using a highly refined and continually reachable method of conducting your support requests. They instant messages can effectively serve as a live instant messaging option, and also as a more permanent email that your company can reply to in a few days, lessening the need for ‘chat sessions’ that most pop up website-based instant messaging solutions offer.
Live chats can be a great companion to your phone switchboard, allowing a higher frequency of support requests to be seen to, and heightening the satisfaction of those who contact thanks to them being seen in a more timely fashion from the offset. All of this has an effect for the better when considering your business reputation.
Your support staff need the actual power to carry solutions out, as opposed to merely suggesting solutions. For example, giving the relevant department’s administrator access to customer accounts can help them manually update their contact information, to remove 2-factor authorization from accounts, or to potentially delete information. Allowing your support staff to conduct many solutions as opposed to pigeonholing them in a one size fits all category will help them actually solve issues via their efforts, and thus interface with many more satisfied customers on a daily basis.
It might take a little more vetting and the signing of a behavioural or non-disclosure agreement in order for a staff member to steward a higher level of access, but trusting your employees to manage certain aspects for you can help your support services function as they always should.
We have mentioned in this article the term ‘customer accounts.’ This is the registration via email or phone contact details of a permanent portfolio of your customers, from orders they have made to items they have wishlisted, to the most important consideration of all – support requests they have made in the past.
With this information to hand, customers can verify their identity more quickly, but support staff can also access past information more thoroughly and as a whole gain a clearer picture. This can help solutions be found more rapidly, but also allow for a solution to be more informed, and to perhaps be more permanent in their offering.
Retaining customers is important, especially when suffering an angered call from someone who has genuinely been mistakenly aggrieved by your firm. In these instances, it might be that encouraging (and giving the power for) support staff to retain customers based on your guidelines could help. For example, if someone calls to cancel their subscription to your service, perhaps the natural next step is to offer a discounted rate for a year of your service.
This might just be enough to bring someone in, and often making less profit is much more desirable than losing the customer completely. If they are an incredibly loyal customer, perhaps someone who has interfaced with your firm for years, it might be worth offering a free product or an extension of loyalty points due to being let down, or perhaps money off their next order. Retaining customers requires a finesse, and your support specialists will only know how to apply that finesse if given adequate room and options to do so. Ensure you train them in these matters from the first day for the best results.
While it’s important to trust your staff to take care of the job afforded to them, and to find a solution to the best of their professional capacities, you’ll likely only hear about issues if something terrible happens over the phone, or if a customer demands to speak to a manager due to poor support service. You may even find out through terrible product and business reviews, or perhaps even having your company slated in a news publication, or perhaps even via a lack of employee satisfaction.
At the end of every phone call, or at the end of each live chat session, it’s essential to encourage customers to take your customer satisfaction survey. This means having them rate from 1-10 how happy they were with the exchange, and if they’d agree or disagree that the call was helpful. With these metrics, you can rate the individual performance of support specialists, or the solutions and guidelines you have in place. Surveys are that critical step that helps you identify an issue while giving you the tools to fix it in the long term.
With this essential guide, your customer support is sure to become and stay useful in the long term.