Some people could ask you: what additional thing for your business you would want to get? What would it be? More sales, right? Whether you’re an e-commerce shop, a SaaS business or any other organization, the main goal is to sell more, above everything else. But sales don’t grow on trees and you have to create a suitable environment for them to happen. Sales are a direct result of efficient marketing and a good reputation (e.g. trust). We have some articles
about efficient marketing which you can check out. However, in this article, we’ll focus on creating and building a support team that is effective and benefits your organization. Without further ado, let’s get to it.
Why is effective customer support important?
Some advocates claim that customer support isn’t too high on the priority list. They claim it’s relatively important but definitely not an area worth stressing about. That’s a huge mistake and one of the biggest ones that every business can make. Don’t believe us? Look at the graphic below.
More than 9 out of 10 people in the UK have gone from one business to their competitors because of poor customer support. This means that they were either endlessly waiting for a response, had a disappointing experience or no assistance whatsoever. Your business can definitely be on the wrong end of this chart because it’s almost impossible to maintain a fully perfect track record, but at the same time, you should be striving to add incremental gains to your customer service. This will reduce customer churn (loss) while simultaneously possibly saving you money.
One more illustration of why you must avoid putting your clients through a poor or sub-par customer service experience. Just imagine. Let’s say that your customer support satisfaction rating is 75% (not great, but decent). Daily, you get 100 new tickets opened or chats started. This means that 25 people each day aren’t satisfied by your service. 13 of those 25 won’t use your services or buy goods from you. Multiply that by the number of days per month and you have a loss of close to 400 customers each month. Improve your customer support by only 5%, and retain 70 customers or reduce churn by a total of almost 20%. That’s an amazing result.
Google, Facebook, Apple and other large corporations are notoriously terrible customer support providers as they offer no live chat except through intermediaries. Even though they have all the cash in the world, maximizing customer satisfaction through responsive support isn’t on their priority lists.
However, some organizations might have an even worse time handling disputes and responding to customer support enquiries and do it even worse than our aforementioned Silicon Valley giants. If you’re in telecommunications, healthcare or represent a governmental organization – you’re probably well known by your clients and contacts for having terrible or sub-par customer support. It’s time to step your game up. The chart below for clarity.
This list of industries is actually more telling than it seems at first. All entries can give us knowledge of what triggers bad customer experiences and in turn, shows as a solution.
Let’s look at the biggest problems from companies that have notoriously bad customer support. This can help you avoid them.
Doing everything by the book
Humanity and empathy above everything else. Even though in some situations the customer may be in the wrong and maybe they don’t realize it, the better option is to just bend the rules slightly, if necessary, in order to retain a paying customer or to avoid long and expensive confrontation. Not everything needs to be done by the book all the time. Sometimes the customer needs the benefit of the doubt (especially useful information for government offices).
Employing people without properly training them
Large companies usually employ tens if not hundreds of people in dedicated call centres. While that isn’t a bad thing per se, the total quality of customer support can get wholly saturated. Call centres and support offices become almost separate organizations within a large corporation, meaning they become detached. People working are only there for a short stint and won’t get too invested in the job. That automatically decreases customer satisfaction levels both short and long-term.
Ignoring the big picture
Similarly to the first mistake, ignoring the overall/global picture of certain situations can harm your business. The support office will and must lose money for you. It will never be a profitable department (just like public transport). But, it’s important to always keep your support staff prepared, invested and knowledgeable. Make sure they represent your company in the best possible manner.
Not delivering on your promises
This is very simple, actually. Don’t offer gifts, bonuses or terms to customers if they’re very hard to deliver on or if they have to jump through multiple legal loops and do a whole marathon of signing forms and paperwork in order to receive it.
Not compensating for your errors
Made an error? Your employee accidentally misled the customer into doing something? Admit it, apologize, incentivize (discount, deduction, compensation, etc.) and move forward to try and avoid the same mistake. Let’s say you make a mistake and charge the person double of what’s their monthly subscription. Apologize and give the month freely or at least a 30-50% discount for the inconvenience. Your business won’t lose a lot, but it will mean a lot to your customer.
Setting up efficient customer support - the start
Starting out is probably the hardest part. Taking that first step will be challenging and demanding, from almost any standpoint. Even though about 90% of businesses claim that they have great/excellent/superb or superior customer service, how many of those claims are legit? Not a lot.
Besides hiring people and establishing a culture for proper customer support, here’s another chart to show you a few pointers.
Yes. The very first goal should be to activate a channel for rapid communication. We recommend both a phone line and live chat. Next up is social media. As you can see, one in three customers is preferring to deal with issues via social media. It’s just very simple and not as draining mentally for them, as phone calls can be.
Next up, move forward to creating goals, policies and quality standards (unwritten rules, guidelines, KPIs) for the current or future customer service departments. Involve senior staff members of customer support and/or all employees in order to get their insights into what they consider as excellent service. According to it, tailor the rules, guidelines and metrics to keep track of how things are going.
Begin by outlining the essential values for customer support teams to follow. These don’t have to be specific. Let's look at the examples:
- Make the customer feel cared for
- Begin each message with: Hello, how may I help you?
- Always wait 5 seconds after the message to begin typing in the reply
- Ask at least 2-3 questions before offering a solution
- Strive to make the customer as happy as possible
What this does is create a solid foundation for further development. Whenever you decide to tailor and improve certain details, it’s going to be much easier with such rules already in effect.
Furthermore, we recommend also setting out technical goals. In the beginning, they should be fairly simple. Some examples:
- The average median waiting time until a support agent becomes available shouldn’t be more than 120 seconds
- The satisfaction rate for support services shouldn’t dip below 85%
- The successful resolution rate should reach 90%
- Cancellations or refunds via chats (a.k.a. churn rate) drop by 15%
These simple cornerstone technical goals should give your organization a clearer grasp on what to do and which features to implement, in order to achieve those goals.
Is outsourcing customer support really worth it?
It’s easy to think that you can employ more people for your customer support staff by just outsourcing the call centre to countries like India, Indonesia, Ukraine, etc. However, while these countries offer much cheaper labour costs (compared to the Western European countries and US, Japan, etc.), the quality of service and the strength of an outsourced department can’t be expected to match that of your in-house staff.
Long-distance, hands-off management will be quite difficult, unless you have the resources to send out a dependable manager from your organization to keep everything under control throughout the time it is running. Take a look at the chart below to see why businesses are outsourcing.
Enhancing service quality is only a viable reason for about one-third of businesses who decide to take such a step. Remember that service quality is a direct pathway to more sales, smaller churn rate, etc. So, if you’re looking to outsource services, make sure you are very careful and select only the crème de la crème in terms of talent, or if you aren’t employing people who will be in direct contact with your customers. Thus, outsourcing design teams, copywriters and tech or IT staff might seem to be a better option rather than choosing to outsource support. You need that staff close by.
The tools to have & use
Moving on from administrative decisions to the more technical side now. This is related to employee empowerment in terms of handing them the keys to state of the art, versatile and adaptable tools. If your support staff has those, they can interact with customers, get a better understanding of their problems, work on resolutions and find better answers to questions or find ingenious solutions to problems.
In terms of must-have customer service tools, first off comes the live chat feature. Anyone can set up a social media account and run it, but having a live chat on your website is much more professional. We’d be lying if we said that we won’t recommend Atlasmic
for this job.
Our platform has been tailored to suit the needs of small and mid-sized online businesses and e-commerce stores. This is a very user-friendly and manageable tool that your staff will get the hang of quite quickly.
Furthermore, we recommend utilizing task management software if your support staff deals with more than just live chat issues. In-house project management tools are crucial for smooth and streamlined support. Other than that – it depends on what services and/or products you’re selling.
Tracking metrics, implementing KPIs, etc.
Response time, sales through chat, customer satisfaction, stopping people from unsubscribing, upsells, references and other key metrics, as well as KPIs, can and should be tracked for your support staff. If you want to see how efficiently they work and/or increase the efficiency of their work, you have to monitor it. Track important data points to see what needs improvement and which areas are strong and maybe require less attention.
The optimal structure for an effective customer support staff
Customer support staff need supervision. Whether it comes from a team lead or a superior staff member, their approval, insights, guidance and management skills are the driving force behind the overall improvement of the support staff. If you’re planning on hiring customer support people and making them more efficient, you need suitable managers to manage how they’re doing. It’s recommended to have 1 team lead or senior manager per 8-15 individual customer support agents. This seems to be an optimal amount.
So, efficient customer support. It’s a very great resource for a company to have. Efficient and professional customer service can reduce churn rate, increase customer satisfaction and prevent further losses. What you have to keep in mind is that it’s always better to prioritize quality over quantity. In customer support, numbers are important but the customers have to get 100% of the attention and can’t be left talking to unknowledgeable and disinterested support members. Optimize the performance of your staff through KPI and data tracking whilst also empowering them with the right tools and great management. That’s the most direct way towards a successful and effective support team.