Creating a culture of customer service
In retail, this year’s big sale events like Black Friday and Christmas are getting closer. An essential part of success during these busy shopping events involves getting your customer support and helpdesk teams prepared for the inevitable mix of returns, questions and problems that will follow.
However, it’s not enough to have a plan in place - that approach has to succeed in real life too. This will rely on how well your team can follow those processes and how well your customer service culture matches up. As Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth.” So how can you make sure that your customer service plan really meets your customer experience goals over time?
Managing metrics and metrics management
One area I see companies having difficulties with is around metrics and how this data gets used over time. If your approach to customer service is managed based on different goals to your customer experience ones, then there will be a disconnect. Disconnects then tend to lead to unhappy customers, either because the CX element is not ideal to start off with, or the customer support approach does not match up to what the CX strategy for the brand aimed to deliver.
Traditional customer support goals have previously been linked to easy measurements – one example would be tracking the number of issues handled per agent. This focuses on the volume of problems dealt with, rather than the quality of the experience. First call resolution (FCR) is commonly used as a proxy metric for service quality as well – after all, fixing the problem quickly during the first interaction should be a good experience, right?
The problem with this approach is that these metrics are focused on internal process results rather than what the customer thinks about their experience. While they might help you run your operations more efficiently, they may not be the best measures for CX success in service teams.
These metrics do encourage fast turn-around on queries, but that speed may not always equal happy customers. A rushed experience may leave a customer feeling that their issue has not been taken seriously, even when the result is the same.
Instead, it is worth thinking about how to link-up support and CX goals more effectively with new metrics. This would involve looking at what measures are most important to the company and what matters most to customers. Measuring customer satisfaction (CSAT) with service can help alongside those more traditional metrics on service.
Tracking CSAT and culture
Combining CSAT and traditional metrics together can help show how your CX strategies are in line with your day-to-day customer service and helpdesk processes. By looking at volume and service quality together, you can see more clearly whether your approaches are aligned or not.
However, you should also think beyond this and look at how to create the right culture for service over time. For helpdesks, this will involve looking at how your current approach fits what your customers expect and where there are gaps.
So what does this look like in practice?
- Hire the right people - for customer-facing employees, you have to hire people with the right mindset from the start. Looking at areas like empathy, conscientiousness and an optimistic outlook should be the priority, as you can’t learn these skills. Once you have the right people, you can train and develop both knowledge and teamwork skills.
For seasonal roles, these appointments can be supported with effective automation steps to make it easier to deliver services effectively. Essentially, you can hire for skill, but you can help deliver the will to succeed through the right approach and tools.
- Encourage staff to go the extra mile – while scripting can help service staff provide a better baseline service, it can’t be the only approach that you allow. Providing some leeway and encouraging initiative around customer support requests can help staff feel that they are providing better responses to questions, while falling back on the process in the event of a tricky request can also help.
- Make it easier for customers to review your service – gathering CSAT responses can be very difficult for customer support staff, particularly on calls. Emails and tickets can be equally difficult for customers to respond to around quality and their experience. Yet this does not need to be the case. Building a simple CSAT information gathering process into all your workflows can help customer service staff encourage more responses.
One approach can be to use a simple “emoji” scale with three faces: happy, sad and ambivalent. This can be much easier for customers to answer quickly, and more understandable than the more 1-10 scale. Embedding this into all your service channels – from email and online through to phone – should make it easier to gather information and make it more consistent too. For seasonal sales activities, making it simpler to review service levels can help maintain standards across multiple channels.
- Use CSAT data and volume data to show your success – getting better data on customer service involves looking at all your channels for customer success and service quality, not just volumes of issues dealt with. Getting a “like for like” measure in place should help you show that your approach is working across all the channels you support. It can also show where more investment is needed.
At the same time, consolidating this data can help you get a better picture of all your interactions around a customer in one place. This more holistic approach can help you build better feedback loops for your support team, as well as helping them demonstrate the results they can deliver. This can help embed a better culture within your team as a whole, which can be essential to cope with the high-pressure environments caused by big annual retail events.
- Expand your automation and self-service technologies – automation can help displace some of the simple issues that can be solved quickly, particularly for younger customers who tend to prefer solving their own problems without needing an email or phone conversation. This can be used across multiple channels, so customers can serve themselves on the channels that suit them.
This can free up time to look at how your staff can deal with bigger problems and provide better service to those that need it. During busy times for retailers, automation can help experienced staff deliver better service to customers that have difficult problems, while it can also get new recruits following the guidelines on service quality quickly.
With more pressure to meet customer expectations, retailers have to deliver during busy periods. Meeting those CX demands is possible using a mix of smarter processes, better hiring and more automation. By planning ahead, retailers can ensure they have successful sales events.
My role at Freshworks as General Manager UKI is to manage the company's operations, including strategy building, developing our own high impact sales and support teams, and managing our performance.
Freshworks provides IT Service Management, Help Desk and Customer Relationship Management products. Currently, Freshworks helps over 150,000...