Level-up your customer service in the new year



Small Business | Strategy

By Anouche Newman

January is a time for reflection, marking the end of a busy 2016 and heralding an exciting new year. It’s important to use this time to recalibrate your business’s thinking on customer service and plan service goals and objectives for the year ahead to grow and retain your customer base.

Questioning your company’s emphasis on customer service, use of technology and focus on operational consistency will help to achieve these outcomes. Here are a few thought starters that can help drive internal change and lead to a more rewarding 2017 for both your business and customers.

 How do you measure customer service?

One of the most undervalued tools in small to medium businesses is consistent measurement of customer service outputs and customer satisfaction. All too often businesses neglect to measure their performance robustly and proactively, relying instead on ad hoc insights that don’t give an accurate representation of the customer experience they’re delivering.

Although measurement techniques vary from industry to industry, a useful starting point is to make a deliberate effort to understand the factors that drive customer satisfaction in the sector in which you operate. For example, what aspects of customer service delivery does your customer value? What do they see as baseline satisfaction drivers and what will wow them?

Case in point – there’s no point in reducing wait time on a call if certain customers, usually older people, are happy to wait. Instead, focus on ensuring that when they do reach your customer service representative, the problem can be resolved as quickly as possible. In short, businesses need to ensure that they are investing in the right places and have measurement techniques that are based on regular customer insights.

Are you using technology to improve customer service?

Often there is a reluctance by business owners to invest in technology as it is expensive, yet automating processes and streamlining customer service activities can save money in the long run.

The value of technology to analyse, correct and enhance customer service processes is particularly underrated in SMEs, but it’s critical that these kinds of businesses use the prevalence of technology to their advantage.

Downloadable software tools like Pega or the SME-focused Commence can assist in customer relationship management and measuring interactions to benchmark engagement and service.

It’s nearly impossible to make accurate decisions on customer service without a deeper understanding of your customer service climate, and technology can help you do this.

What is your customer service culture?

Frontline staff are the foundation of any service- or product-centred organisation. They are the most visible to the customer, and bear the full brunt of the complexities of customer interactions. Not all of those interactions are necessarily positive, and so keeping the team invigorated and motivated is key.

Executive teams need to take a genuine interest in improving themselves and their internal employee relationships in order to better support and motivate those at the level of operation. Inspiring frontline staff is an ongoing journey, starting internally with the onboarding process that builds the foundations for a customer-centric culture.

This top-down approach between all staff and departments helps drive the frontline’s passion for customer service. Some of the most successful CEOs are the ones who are most in touch with the daily practices of their staff and can consistently demonstrate their dedication to the customer.

Like all human beings, those on the frontline desire authentic interactions with both co-workers and customers. When those at the top lead by example, taking the time to understand and better serve their staff, the rest will likely follow suit.

In a world of ample choice, consumers are looking for standout qualities with organisations they’re dealing with. Exceptional customer service is often what differentiates the good from the great. The power to deliver this often lies with the frontline.

What’s the value of operational consistency?

After analysing company culture, it’s important to ask yourself how consistently this mindset is applied in the day-to-day operations of the business. A consistent experience can be the difference between customers attributing value to your output or not.

But before tackling this, ensure your customer service output is of a high quality by measuring engagement. There’s no point in improving operational consistency if the output from these processes is not driving a high-quality customer experience on the frontline.

Ensuring a solid knowledge of company culture and the role of customer service in your company will prevent the creation of empty and ineffective processes. Go into 2017 with a fresh understanding of your company and encourage streamlined customer service practices from the top down.

How visible is customer service within your company?

The advent of a new year means it’s more important than ever to give customer feedback and complaints more air time within your organisation.

Executives need to encourage a changing mindset around the importance of customer feedback. Visibility means every piece of feedback, good or bad, offers the gift of customer insight, making it increasingly important to record all feedback and systematically analyse themes to identify solutions and make positive change.

Avoiding ‘invisible’ complaints and the double-handling of issues also shows a deeper understanding of what customers want and redefines quality in your company.

Empower front-line staff to value criticism and foster greater recording and analysis of complaints to enhance your customer service experience.


About the author

AnoucheAs Chief Executive Officer of the Customer Service Institute of Australia (CSIA), Australia’s leading independent customer service organisation, Anouche Newman is responsible for developing the strategic direction of the institute with a strong focus on working with companies to achieve certification to the International Customer Service Standard.
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