Customer service can make or break a business’s reputation. In fact, more than 95% of customers will never purchase from a company that provided poor customer service.
As recurring customers are the cheapest to acquire and maintain, having a strong customer service team is essential for your business’s bottom line.
Skilled and engaged agents bring a lot to a company. Excellent customer service increases sales, benefits word-of-mouth marketing, and boosts customer loyalty.
Despite the important role they play, customer service agents report low levels of satisfaction in the industry. Turnover rates average more than 30% and burnout is unfortunately commonplace.
Many of the strategies that improve customer service retention also create more skilled and engaged agents. As a result, investing in your customer service team is a win-win opportunity for agents, managers, business owners, and customers.
Structured Onboarding Process
According to a Gallup poll, less than 15% of companies follow an adequate onboarding process. In far too many businesses, new hires are “thrown into the deep end” without proper training or resources.
A structured onboarding process sets the tone for the workplace and helps empower employees as they grow into their positions. Successful onboarding processes cover all aspects of the company, from policies and procedures to core values.
Onboarding should also incorporate human elements, such as opportunities to bond with other agents, managers, and employees in other departments. This fosters a cohesive company culture and builds the foundation for trust and collaboration.
If your company already enacts an onboarding process, it is important to collect constant feedback from team members to ensure that the material is still relevant. New employee surveys and “360 reviews,” which collect information from all levels of an organization, are effective ways to assess your onboarding process.
Continuous Professional Development
Companies that provide in-house professional development opportunities benefit in several ways. Outlined career paths make employees more engaged and productive. Likewise, companies can upskill and promote internally, which is more economical than hiring new employees.
In customer service, professional development can involve technical and soft skills. For example, customer service agents can take courses to learn how to use new customer management software or best practices in customer interactions. Courses focusing on emerging areas in customer service, such as cultural sensitivity and conflict resolution can put your agents ahead of the competition.
Open Communication Mediums
Even the hardest-working employee cannot improve without constant constructive feedback. Without an established process for reviewing agent performance, employees can have difficulty assessing their work. This uncertainty can eventually lead to self-doubt and disengagement.
The key to creating valuable communication channels between managers and agents is to implement a predictable, data-based evaluation process. For example, managers can be trained to pull feedback from concrete measurements, such as customer satisfaction responses, and standardized metrics, such as call length or hold times.
Feedback should be given in a timely manner so that the agent has the opportunity to improve. Further, feedback should focus equally, or more so, on what agents do correctly. Employees should also feel empowered to assess their own performance through self-evaluations. Companies should also create coaching plans for agents who need support to improve their skills.
As with any other industry, good benefits correlate with higher rates of employee satisfaction, reduced turnover, and productivity. In practice, employee-centric firms implement policies that help their employees maintain a healthy work-life balance, including flexible scheduling, generous paid time off, and remote work options.
The company culture must also center around mutual respect and communication. For example, agents should play an important role in developing customer service procedures, as their first-hand experience is a valuable source of information. Recognition programs and promotion opportunities also demonstrate to agents that they are a respected and vital segment of the company.
Collaboration Across Departments
Many companies have separate teams dedicated to sales, marketing, and customer service. If you are not careful, this can result in compartmentalization, a phenomenon in which each department focuses on its own goals.
In the worst-case scenario, these goals may clash and cause competition and distrust between departments. As each department is essential for creating the customer journey, companies should make it easier for customer service agents to collaborate with employees in other positions.
One of the easiest ways to promote cross-department collaboration is with an integrated project management solution. Tools like Asana or Slack allow employees to collaborate and share information in real-time. Building strong, collaborative relationships between departments also improves agents’ understanding of the sales and marketing process, which enables them to deliver more tailored customer service experiences.