In this article you will find:
Let’s start from the beginning - what does client support mean?
The definition of customer support is quite simple: it’s complex processes and interactions which take place to resolve customer problems, ask their questions and satisfy their requests as fast as possible via different communication channels.
While what is above was clear for you and any other customer support managers even without reading this article, the reason why the good performance of the customer support department is so essential remains undiscovered.
The problem lies in the fact that in modern market realities, finding a new client can cost much more than prolonging the lifecycle of existing customers. That’s why customer retention rate is one of the most vital metrics for any business - and you can’t make the customers stay without furnishing them with brilliant customer service and meeting the customer expectations.
The client-oriented approach has led us to the reality that the reactive model of solving clients’ issues and covering needs can’t deal with their expectations. New AI-integrated solutions work to provide clients with answers to their questions even before they realize they need that answer - but this is the topic of another article. We tell this to make you realize that servicing your customers is a vital goal for the business, so there is no way to get rid of investments in creating a highly efficient customer support department.
Keep in mind that customer success is business success too.
Think of the structure in the first step
Classically, the contact center structure is organized into three levels of employees: customer service reps, supervisors or team leaders, and customer support managers. This is a hierarchical structure where supervisors control the customer support reps’ performance and send reports to higher management, while managers think of KPIs, build development strategies, and set goals and objectives. Both supervisors and managers can be involved in the problem-solving process if the call is escalated by the client.
But in the real life, things can be that easy to put the ideal customer support team structure into a few sentences. Firstly, any template isn’t a panacea. Secondly, every company is unique in its products, approaches, and philosophies. Finally, strategic decisions (and selecting a customer support team structure is one such decision) are determined by the business goals and aren’t stable - they change if the goals are changing.
To answer this question, let’s start with determining the vital factors: what are the main issues that make the customers come for assistance? What call center solution are you going to use? What scheduling model is preferable for your business? Are you going to use outbound sales strategies?
If you have the answers then where is the starting point? Another challenge is to meet customer expectations - and here is the requirement for collecting feedback. Try to find the data of what is hated by clients in customer service of your competitors, or what they would like to achieve. Buyers love to be asked about their wishes, so let them get such an opportunity.
A great option is to divide the support team into different groups which will be responsible for dissimilar issues - technical, financial, or sales. The narrow specialization is the key to success because when people do what they are keen on, the results are always better.
Set up the responsibilities
Determining, delegating, and managing the list of responsibilities for every employee is one of the most essential objectives of customer support teams. No matter what type of customer support team structure is chosen, the critical task is to set up the responsibilities wisely and according to the call center’s goals.
Although duties differ from company to company, there is a pack of versatile responsibilities for the call center industry.
Agents have to answer the calls, emails, and chat requests in the live chat and manage the comments and messages on social networks.
Supervisors are responsible for controlling the agents’ performance, setting up the KPIs(usually, it’s just about transferring the already set KPIs from managers to agents), creating reports about agents’ work, and presenting them to higher management. They also have to organize and monitor the onboarding process, build a positive and friendly work environment, and extinguish conflicts if they happen.
Managers have their duty to create strategies, select the KPIs and construct a plan of their achievement, set up the business goals and objectives, manage the hiring strategy and organize the training process for their subordinates.
“Ok, these duties are truly clear enough. But what about the dissimilarity between various firms?”, - that’s the question that has surely appeared in your mind. To say shortly, various businesses have various goals and the customer service philosophy is different from firm to firm. Some companies use outbound marketing, so their agents are also working with auto dialer systems to perform cold calls to do sales - while others avoid this model. Another example is the segmentation of duties: some call center managers make agents work with processes where they perform the best. To clear the statement, it is when one agent is working only with calls, while another operator is responsible for the chat only.
What contact channels should be used?
The great challenge is to cover all communication pipelines which are preferred by all groups of the target audience. Almost all of us know that social media is more popular across the younger audience, while live communication is adored by aged persons. So is there any universal list of communication channels that will suit every business? The most obvious and short answer to this question is that the customer communication platform must contain all contact channels which are used by the target audience.
But we are not going to stop at this point. Customer expectations also include the anticipation of using the most customer-adored channel to contact the company. But this doesn’t mean that if 3 of your 2000 clients use Viber, you should be there.
The best start is to organize a deep analysis of the audience and divide it into several groups using the preferred communication pipeline as a criterion of segmentation. The research states that there are apologists of every communication channel in any demographic group. According to this statement, you should provide your research to discover what are the preferences of your target audience. Customer service tools, such as automated surveys or questionnaires, can give the answers.
The main thing to keep in mind is that customer success is impossible without providing a service that meets customer expectations. When you know which channels you have to use, you can create squads of customer service representatives to support every channel. This approach helps in building a customer support team because it helps agents to focus on the chosen communication channel and improve their skills in this field.
Tips to create an outstanding customer support organization
We have mentioned several significant factors which affect the contact center performance, such as customer support department structure or employees’ duties. But the reality is that you need to know and understand more than just classic structure or universal responsibilities to build a first-class team. Your customer support team members should be well trained, know the business goals, have a specific number of hard and soft skills, and what’s most essential - they should be ready for tough challenges and unexpected situations.
You have to provide the team with a positive work environment, a friendly atmosphere, a clear strategy, and an understanding of where and why you are going. Building a superior team doesn’t stop after hiring professionals - it is only the beginning of the path. Permanent coaching, self-development, and adapting to new trends and market requirements - that’s what should a great client service team do.
Thirteen tips and tactics for building an excellent support team are grouped in a list below.
1. Set up the principles of the service
When you are starting to hire employees and building the contact center of your dream, it is vital to select the fundamentals of the customer service department. Ask yourself- what is excellent customer service? What should it cover? How should it be provided? What actions are forbidden for the agents? What should it contain to make you proud of it?
This is an irreplaceable part. The workers should understand what they are expected to do and what they’re not allowed to do. Set up the principles like the deadlines for resolving the clients’ issues or escalation policies. Allocate time to teach employees about the brand’s philosophy and advantages in comparison with competitors. If your philosophy is to solve all problems during first contact, then set up a First Call Resolution rate of at least 85% and measure performance accordingly. It works in the same way for every other metric.
2. Be a part of a team and take participation
This paragraph concerns all activities which can motivate and encourage agents to do better. Create and share dashboards to track performance with agents and discuss it with them. Provide an adaptable career progression - no matter if it is about salary or progressing as a professional or even as an individual. Talk with employees as often as possible - ask them what they need to do better, what would they like to change in working place, and what equipment they require. You can ask them even about strategic things - about setting up goals, improving customer service, and so on.
Implement agent surveys to count the satisfaction rate - the most important rate if you don’t want to invest thousands of dollars in agent turnover. An ideal team is a team of people who love what they do and don’t want to leave, so pay attention to the agent satisfaction score.
3. The right hiring strategy is a must
Even though a customer support representative is not considered to be a highly qualified job, not everyone can be an agent. Such workers should have a specific number of soft skills, be ready to train, and have a strong will to tackle the challenges and troubles which always take place in the client service industry.
Soft skills which are vital for an operator contain strong communication abilities, emphatic character, knowledge of conflict-extinguishing methods, adaptability, and powerful stress resistance as well as a cold mind.
When you hire potential agents, look closely at how they speak, what they say, and what impression do they make on you? Ask yourself - would you be satisfied with the service provided by these people or not? Ask them what goals would they choose if they have already been operators.
You, as an experienced manager, can find out the characteristics of the new hires which can negatively affect customer service instead of it help the company to perform better. Keep in mind that training and coaching a badly prepared worker can cost a few times more than hiring a talented one on the first attempt.
4. Equip the employee with the right instruments
Agents spend too much time shifting between dozens of separate apps? Purchase an omnichannel cloud-based call center solution to integrate all needed tools in one interface. Do operators suffer from a lack of information about their clients? Integrate CRM info to make them get all data before the conversation starts. Do agents suffer from too many routine calls during the outbound campaign? Buy an autodialer to make calls automated and let the operators do the truly important work.
This paragraph covers not only the software options but also the technical equipment. Do some remote agents have worse performance than their office-based colleagues? Go deeper into the problem - sometimes it can lie in the bad quality of headphones or a microphone.
Let agents see the stats of their performance - share the customer surveys of their calls to make workers see how they are evaluated by the real clients.
5. Don’t be scared to delegate responsibilities
How can you motivate the agents to do their best? Try to let them make essential decisions during the conversations with a client, such as making a refund or instructing a client to solve the issue in real-time mode. Many managers doubt that their subordinates have enough experience and skills to make influential decisions and take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. Nonetheless, if you want your service to be amazing, then focus on the highest First Call Resolution rate and minimal escalations of calls.
On the other hand, such an approach leads to a situation where agents have to do everything on their own. Surely, it is not a great idea to make agents make vital decisions until they are not trained enough - but if you invest in coaching sessions, then take into account that operators seem to be ready for taking on more responsibility.
6. Motivate team members
How to get happy customers? Connect him with a happy operator! A positive mood is transmissible, so the happier the employees are, the happier the clients will be. This easy formula has never failed. But it is quite difficult to keep all agents in a positive mood every day, isn’t it? Anyhow, there are some tips to help you.
Create an adaptable system of rewards for agents who overperform their KPIs. Discuss every agent’s productivity during one-to-one meetings, which can also be used as personal training sessions. Praise workers more often to empower them to perform better. Provide feedback to every agent as often as possible, because feedback providing strongly influences operators’ productivity and their willingness to work.
To find out more about the feedback models, best practices, and secrets read this blog.
7. Build transparency
All team members should trust each other - it’s an axiom. But the popular mistake is when higher management stays aside from all other employees and rarely communicates with them on topics that don’t concern the overall performance or something like that.
Strong contact between all team members, absolute trust, and the ability to come for advice or assistance are extremely vital for any company. The more workers are in a firm, the more challenges can face the manager on the path to building transparency. Nonetheless, it is an irreplaceable part of creating a team of a dream.
8. Listen to client’s needs, not only complaints
Even though this sounds quite obvious, many businesses don’t even try to hear what they are expected to do. The problem is that some customer service experiences are about solving the consequences, not the reason for them. It is a popular case that a client comes with an appeal to solve the problem, but says also that we tried to contact the support team via social media - and it didn’t work. Many agents would pass it by the ears, but it is a direct customer expectation that was said during the contact with a company representative. Do you see how easily it could be fixed if the agent has done it? But he hasn’t.
To be honest there is no operator’s fault. Poor management is the only reason why reps don’t listen to customer needs and don’t notice them. It is a great challenge to build a customer service system that will cover all clients’ expectations - but it is also the main goal if you want to be the best.
9. Select the digital channels
That is what we have been talking about earlier. When you are in the middle of the path to start providing client service, it is time to determine which contact channels you need and which are redundant. Use surveys and questionnaires to collect the data, and group the target audience into several subgroups by age and preferences. Create funding to calculate which channels are easier and cheaper to implement, and which ones can greatly hook your budget. Choose employees who will be responsible for maintaining every digital channel and make them pass some training sessions about their future working environment. Try to make only fully informed and wise decisions to avoid unnecessary spending.
10. Answer as fast as possible
Every year we find out that overall client expectations across the market grow - and this tendency isn’t going to stop. People became pickier about the service, and they are more willing to swap the company if their orders or customer questions aren’t answered as soon as they expected. What makes the problem even more difficult to resolve is the answer time that is maximumly permissible for most clients is about one hour. According to this, there is no other model instead of answering requests immediately.
To do so, you need trained customer service agents and the right software solution. Only in this collaboration model, an immediate response is possible.
11. Assurances should be kept
If the clients face broken promises, your business is in peril. People hate nothing more than an inconsistent company. What are we talking about? Well, there are enough situations where one little word can cost a client or even a reputation.
What can be more annoying than ensuring that a problem will be solved in less than one hour - but it exists even after one day? What if an agent asks to stay in line and wait for him for a minute, but he doesn’t come back even after 5 minutes past? And now think of the consequences, if such things happen regularly.
No matter what is the essence of the problem, never tell something you’re not sure you can do in time. It’s better to honestly say that there is no deadline for an issue than to break a deadline.
12. Be engaged
Customers always come with issues that affect their work, and mood, or just don’t let them do what they want to. So when they come for assistance, they want you to comprehend their problems. They don’t need to listen to a pack of obvious and well-known sentences and wait in queues, they expect to feel real support and recognition of the issue. So if you want to provide five-star service, your customer support team members have to care for the clients’ problems.
Another task is to track customer interactions during the whole customer journey, make notes about his previous requests and export this data to CRM to welcome him as an old friend if he comes with a new appeal. Clients love such an approach, and you will get loyal customers and respect if your customer service is client-oriented and emphatic.
13. Create a club of the customers
Even though clients who are keen on what you’re doing as a product or service creator can create a community without your help, it would be much better for your image, client retention, and making existing customers be your ambassadors if this community will be created and managed by your team. It can be a Facebook group or chat on WhatsApp where the customers discuss new trends in the industry, write reviews about your products, and post customer experience reviews and expectations, as well as show customer satisfaction and tell overall customer feedback.
If you as a business owner will invest in building a community, you will get the strongest ambassadors ever - the real people who love your products and are ready to purchase them once again. Such a community is also a place where you can collect all data about the target audience - expectations, wishes, imperfections in service or products, and so on.
To close the topic
In conclusion, creating a top-rated customer service team needs a few preparatory steps in pair with using the right techniques and tactics to avoid problems in the future. The right selection of structure model and responsibilities dividing between the employees seriously affect overall department performance. Choosing the right communication channels will influence the staffing strategy and the overall number of employees needed. You also need to set up the service-providing principles, delegate responsibilities, create transparency, work on the speed of answering requests, teach your customer service staff to be engaged in resolving problems, and invest in building a strong community.
Another important goal is to equip the agents with the right tools - and it can be done only via well-designed cloud-based call center software, such as VoIPTime Cloud Solution. We have mentioned some needed tools superficially, but to get a deeper understanding of what you need and what we can offer, use this link.