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Customer Support: What It Is, Why It Is Important, and How to Use It

Customer service in a nutshell

Before call centers and social media, local business owners often knew their customers very well. Customer service wasn’t always perfect back then.

Customers had few options for purchasing and support, few resources for educating themselves and resolving their problems, and few resources for avoiding companies with poor products and services.

Call centers emerged in the 1960s, and customer service has changed dramatically since then, beginning with telephone-based business. As a result, companies were suddenly able to address customer concerns on a larger, more efficient scale, even if the resolution was somewhat impersonal.

With increased competition and pricing pressures, this trend accelerated dramatically, and by the 1980s, many companies were offloading any service extras that weren’t directly linked to their bottom lines.

However, the availability of the internet to a broader audience altered things once more.

In today’s world of social media, online forums, and review websites, customers have an abundance of resources at their disposal to learn more about the companies they’re considering and the products they offer, and dissatisfied customers can reach a much larger audience with their customer service horror stories.

This has ushered in a new era of customer service, one in which companies must distinguish themselves from the competition by offering exceptional service.

Stereotypical Customer ServiceThe New Customer Support
As a result, it is treated as an expense center.As the company’s public face, sales, and word-of-mouth marketing depend on it..
Agents with limited authority require management clearance for tasks that customers should be able to complete on their own.In the beginning, use self-service; later, competent and empowered agents can assist with more complicated questions and requests.
Customers must call during specific business hours and frequently wait on hold for assistance.Round-the-clockHelp is available in a variety of ways, including through a knowledge base, email, phone, chat, and other social media.
Bound to cubicles or outsourced to other regions/countries, call centers are no longer a viable option.Has a seat at the company’s decision-making table and works side by side with the product teams.
Moving into management positions is the only way to advance in your career.There are numerous possibilities for growth and development.
First response times, call resolution times, and other operational measures are all connected to cost savings.NPS, customer happiness, and other holistic measures are connected to the company’s overall objectives.

The new customer support uses customer service principles to assist consumers in resolving issues and making decisions, but it also performs sales, tech support, and customer success functions.

Why a new approach to customer service is essential for growth

Customers no longer require middlemen to help them with operations that should be self-explanatory, like canceling their subscription, in the self-service internet age.

Many companies continue to put speed barriers in place to safeguard revenue, but doing so wastes time that could be spent fixing a problem that can only be solved by a human.

Furthermore, users have come to anticipate self-service, so if you force them to contact you, you’ve slowed down uptake and usage.

Customer-centric businesses reduce friction by automating tasks that can be automated and allowing their most valuable resource — their team — to work on those that cannot be automated.

Because of this, employers are turning away from recruiting “people people” in favor of highly trained, empathic problem solvers.

Even the old-fashioned call centers are giving way to contact centers, which are “partners in revenue creation and customer experience, packed with highly educated workers that have career pathways and incentives beyond calls-per-minute.”

These are the top eight suggestions for providing excellent customer service.

While there are numerous methods for delighting your customers, here is a  list of the eight most effective strategies for business owners to empower their employees to provide excellent customer service regularly.

1. Ensure that your staff is equipped with the necessary equipment.

The ideal method to set your team up for success isn’t usually to use a common Gmail or Outlook mailbox to conduct your entire support operation.

When it comes to helping your staff provide exceptional customer service, dedicated customer service software is frequently a better option.

Shared inboxes, built-in help centers, saved responses, automated processes, duplicate reply protection, and customer relationship data are all aspects of tools intended expressly for customer support teams.

These tools assist your staff in providing each customer with individualized, rapid, and knowledgeable service.

2. Give customers the option of self-service support

Providing outstanding customer service can often entail making it as simple as possible for clients to assist themselves. In reality, 81% of customers try to fix problems on their own before contacting customer service, and 71% want to be able to fix most problems on their own.

Have a FAQ section with answers to frequently asked questions and how-to articles that guide clients through the procedures needed to address common difficulties.

3. Employers should look for people with strong support skills.

Patience, alertness, the ability to communicate properly, a willingness to learn, and empathy are some of the most critical qualities for support professionals.

Having the right individuals on your team is critical if you want to provide the best service possible for your consumers.

They must be willing to dig deep to solve challenges outside of their area of expertise and aggressively listen to clients to identify what they need

For experienced experts, you’ll have to pay rates that are appealing to competent professionals and provide career growth prospects that are significantly more varied than merely stepping into a team management post.

4. Give your team the authority to take advantage of their abilities.

Even the most capable agents will lose their autonomy if they must consult with management to resolve anything except the most basic inquiries.

Furthermore, they must be able to solve requests on their own and be capable of answering complex queries. In the Ritz-Carlton, for example, the $2,000 rule is well-known. This guideline states that any member of the customer service staff can spend up to $2,000 to remedy client complaints.

To empower your team, you don’t have to go to such lengths. It’s as simple as keeping policies and procedures in a place where everyone on your team has easy access. You don’t even have to be detailed when laying out your standards.

According to Jim Bush of American Express, even rules as simple as “use creative (and if possible, affordable) approaches to satisfy consumers” motivated employees to come up with and share several low-cost solutions to client concerns.

5. Encourage the use of effective issue resolution techniques

In the latter half of the twentieth century, call center customer support staff were subjected to operational metrics such as first response and call resolution times that were linked to cost savings. For exceptional customer service, however, a greater focus on holistic measures linked to overall corporate objectives is required, such as customer satisfaction and NPS.

It’s still critical to respond to support queries promptly. Great customer service, on the other hand, always triumphs over expediency.

Customers are aware that solving more complicated issues takes longer. The time it takes you to reply and the speed with which you solve their difficulties differ. They’re willing to put in as much time as necessary to get their problems solved. Encourage your staff to respond to consumers in a fast manner, but don’t make them feel hurried to end requests before the customer’s issues are fully fixed by metrics.

6. Make it simple for clients to receive assistance

When you type “[company] customer service” into Google, a featured snippet usually appears with the company’s contact details.

There’s a reason for this: Some businesses hide their contact information to make it difficult for customers to reach them in the event of an issue. 

Don’t force your customers to use Google to figure out how to contact your customer service department. Help customers out by placing your contact information in prominent locations on your website. Make it simple for them. Consider reaching your customers where they are by providing live chat assistance within your product or accepting support requests via social media.

7. Don’t put automation ahead of personalized support.

When used correctly, automation is a great addition to your team’s toolkit because it eliminates some of the mindless, repetitive tasks that prevent your support agents from providing attentive, personalized service. In some cases, AI tools are even beneficial to customers because they provide quick, immediate responses to simple questions.

Chatbots, however, can easily become the voice-activated phone menus of the online customer support age if used incorrectly. They could misinterpret questions, direct customers in the wrong way, or just send customers in circles while attempting to solve problems that require critical thinking and other uniquely human abilities.

Customers expect more human service when it comes to solving complex problems, even if they prefer quick, easy answers. They do not want to be referred to as a ticket number, they do not want to provide lengthy explanations as they are transferred to different teams, and they do not appreciate generic responses to genuine concerns.

Make sure the tools you use allow your team to easily see who they’re speaking to before responding — and that those tools don’t interfere with your ability to provide personalized, human support when it’s needed.

8. Utilize data to identify areas for improvement over time

Are your customers having trouble locating the answers and instructions you’ve documented in your help center? Does your team spend a lot of time answering the same questions over and over again? Your data often contains the answers to these queries.

Customer service that goes above and beyond for their clients is often the most effective. When you have conversations with customers, you gain a better understanding of their problems and how to solve them so that customers don’t have to keep contacting you for help.

A major factor in this is the importance of customer support executives being actively involved in corporate decision-making. Customer service representatives spend their days talking to customers and figuring out what those customers want. They also have a good handle on how to get the data they need to make good decisions.