How to Build a Successful Customer Service Department
‘Happy customers are returning customers’ is a great saying every businessperson should keep in mind. If your business ensures customers use the products and services with a smile on their face, they are more likely to return and spend more on your business.
But things don’t always go according to plan and customers can be dissatisfied with your business. In order to salvage the situation, your business needs a good successful customer service department. If you help your customers and fix the situation, you can win back their trust and often their wallet as well.
In this guide, you’ll be able to read about 1) the reasons a business needs a customer service department and 2) the steps you must take to build one as part of your business strategy. Hopefully by the end, you’ll also understand how to guarantee customer service success.
WHY DO YOU NEED A CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENT?
Many entrepreneurs and business owners still don’t put enough emphasis on customer service. This is often due to lack of understanding of the many benefits a successful customer service department will bring to the business or the brand.
Customer service shouldn’t be seen in a negative light, even though your department will have to deal with some bad and negative experiences. The sooner you understand the positive value of the customer service department, the faster you’ll help your business develop and grow.
What are the key benefits a customer service department will provide for your business?
- You’ll learn more about your product or service – no matter how much effort you’ve put on designing and developing the service or the product your business offers, things will eventually go wrong and customers won’t always enjoy what they get.
But this negative feedback could often provide you with valuable information about your business and the things it offers. Customer service can receive a lot of useful information, which can then be used to develop your product and service further.
- Your business will be financially better off – a good customer service department will naturally mean extra costs for the business, as you’ll need to hire the personnel and the systems to support the unit. But in the end, your business will enjoy much more financial benefits.
First, you’ll increase sales. Harris Interactive’s study found that nearly 90% of consumers stop doing business with a business if they experience bad customer service. Provide customers a good experience and they’ll keep coming back and most likely will recommend your business to their friends and family.
Second, customer service department will help save your business money by resolving issues before they turn into bigger problems. Customers who’ve had a negative influence could potentially cost your business a lot of money, not just by ruining your reputation but also by suing you for any misdemeanour. With a good customer service team, you can resolve these issues immediately and avoid long-term consequences.
Finally, as mentioned above, you can develop and improve your business through customer service. There is no need to organise costly focus groups regularly, as your real-life users will be able to provide feedback about your business. The ability to tweak your products will greatly enhance the financial success of your business.
Today’s customers have a lot more choices at their disposal and better opportunities to share consumer experiences with others through social media. It is essential for a modern business to focus on customer service to ensure you provide customers more than just a service or a product. You also need to be able to tap into the positive marketing customers can help you with.
A good customer service department helps your business to focus on creating unique consumer experiences. This will provide you with the above benefits and create valuable customer relationships that will last longer and continue being more profitable over time.
THE KEY STEPS TO ESTABLISHING A GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE DEPARTMENT
You should hopefully now understand the value and importance of customer service to your business. But anyone who has ever dealt with a customer service department knows there is bad service and then there is good service. While it is better to try something than do nothing, you can also damage your business further with inadequate service.
How can you guarantee your customer service department becomes a success and not a hindrance to your business? Here are the key steps you should do in order to establish a successful customer service department.
Establish the function of your customer service team
Before you get started with the foundations of building a customer service team, you need to think about its functions. Not all customer service units serve the same purpose and your objectives will help define the roles of your team in a more coherent manner.
You can define the function of your department by asking the following questions:
- What is the main function of the department?
- What are the core issues it should look at?
- Will the department deal with sale issues?
- Does it look into financial queries?
- Is the customer service department in charge of dealing with technical problems?
- What are the core values of my business that should drive customer service?
You might notice that certain departments in your business might already be doing certain customer service jobs. For example, your sales persons might get feedback about the product and so on.
Make sure you identify these departments and help them better answer customer needs. You want everyone in your business to know about the objectives of customer service and how to direct people towards the special unit in case problems arise.
Use your answers as a guide to defining objectives of your customer service department and each team member. You want the objectives to be all about improving the service.
Hire the right employees
A customer service department depends more than any other department on quality workforce. If your employees are not passionate about customer service and they do not have the right skills for the job, you aren’t going to succeed in your task.
The right skills will depend on the core functions you want the department to do, as well as the field your business operates in. But there are certain characteristics all customer service representatives should have.
The following skills are a great starting point to keep in mind when hiring new personnel:
- Empathy and patience – each customer will be different and your employees need to be able to have empathy, even when the customer might be irritating. Customer service takes quite a bit of patience, as you’ll deal with customers who might be heated.
- Ability to adapt – relating to the above point of different kinds of customers, your employee must be able to adapt quickly to new situations. In addition, the problems might be slightly different each time and you need someone who can think quickly.
- Clear communication – employees must be able to discuss complicated issues in a clear and concise manner. This is especially important if the job requires helping with technical aspects of the service or the product. Your customers won’t be as acknowledged so clear communication is the key.
- A sound work ethic – customer service is among the toughest jobs in the world, as you need to stay upbeat and positive at all times. It’s not an easy job by any means and your employee must have the right work ethic.
- Plenty of knowledge of the field your business operates in, as well as the product and the service on offer – your employee must know the product and your business inside out. You’ll solve problems much quicker and provide a more confident image to the customer with appropriate knowledge.
- Ability to swallow one’s pride – it might sound cliché but the customer is always right, even when they aren’t. A great customer service person fixes customer problems without belittling them or making them feel like a fool – even if they were the fool!
- Great problem solving skills – another obvious point, but crucial, nonetheless. You’ll never know what type of problem your customer throws at you, so you need to be able to think fast and solve issues with speed.
Some of the above skills can naturally be developed and enhanced by training. Indeed, training is a crucial part of your customer service department and you should regularly provide employees the opportunities for self-development.
All the great companies invest in training both in improving knowledge about the business’ product or service as well as in developing soft kills such as being more mindful about one’s choice of words. You want your customer service department to continue reaching higher.
When it comes to training, you need make sure you allow employee personalities to shine. You want people who are able to think quickly and take each customer enquire as an individual case to be solved – your employees should never be trained to simply read out the procedure!
Don’t forget the Internet is a great treasure chest of self-development tools your employees can use as part of their training. For example, below is a great video about the keys to better communication:
Above all, make sure you nurture your employees’ wellbeing. You want your employees to be able to voice their problems with a manager, you want them to feel trusted and respected, and you want them to be passionate about the work. Engaged employees will automatically provide better customer service because they care about your business.
Create a solid plan for dealing with issues
You also need to create a solid structure and procedure for solving customer complaints, feedback and questions. Structure is important because it generates more coherence and confidence within the department, which in turn will help result in better customer service. If your employees are fully aware of the procedure, then they don’t need to worry about what to do next.
Coherence is essential because today’s customers aren’t going to enjoy having to wait for a reply. Many expect a customer service query to be resolved within 24 hours. Why wouldn’t you? Your customer’s life might be unexpectedly disrupted by a malfunction in your product, for instance, and you don’t want to let their disruption last for any longer than necessary.
A proper game plan for answering customer queries will help the employee solve the issue much quicker. They can act in a more professional manner because the training has already covered the particular problem and they are confident in knowing how to solve it.
Your customer service department should also have a clear system in place for the problems that require special attention. Your employees need to be able to move the problem onwards, perhaps to a high-positioned manager, swiftly in case they are unable to solve the problem. This will cut the waiting time for the customers and it can prevent the issue from escalating.
But remember that a structure should not mean your customer service should become automated. You don’t want to solve a customer enquiry by treating it as a generic problem; you want to deal with each issue as an individual case.
Measure customer service performance
A successful customer service department measures performance. Your department needs to have objectives in mind that drive better performance and these objectives should be measurable to some extent.
When you are using metrics as part of your business, make sure to understand which metrics are the most important. Some of the traditional customer service metrics such as the average handle time don’t reveal to you much about the quality of the service, only the length of the conversation.
One crucial metric to keep in mind is customer satisfaction, not just towards the product or the service, but also the customer service experience. It is important to figure out a way in which customers can provide feedback over how their case was handled. Getting back to your customer with a follow-up can show your business truly values them!
Measuring customer service performance will also help you fix the problem within your team before they escalate. In some instances, you might find that your business needs to change and redefine its objectives.
In addition, don’t focus solely on customer feedback – you also need to get feedback from your employees. It is important they are part of the solution when it comes to improving your customer service. It’s a good idea to have a regular meeting to hear what your employees think are the most challenging aspects and what they would like to change in the way the department operates.
Have the right tools for dealing with customer service queries
Finally, in order to establish a successful customer service department, you need to invest in proper technology. You need the right tools to support your employees and to guarantee customer satisfaction.
The main thing to keep in mind is that customer service comes in many different ways. Modern customers could look to contact you through various means, with the most common ones being:
- Through your website
- On your social media channels
- On an online chat platform
It is important to place special attention to these new online customer service models to ensure your customers have a range of options at their disposal.
Running an online customer service department will require additional technical expertise. You want to get the right people to do each job to ensure you provide quality service without any glitches.
Options for 24/7 customer service are another important part of successful service. Customers in today’s busy world need to be able to get in touch with businesses outside of office hours. Even if your small business cannot afford to have personnel responding messages directly, you can benefit from an online form or e-mail option. For instance, with the e-mail route, you can always include an automated message to ensure your customer is instantly aware the problem is being solved.
If your business has many international customers, it is important to think how you can best help them. You don’t want your customers to have to deal with automated or written responses all the time, so it might be important to establish another department that operates in different international time zones.
The most important thing is to focus on speed without neglecting quality. You want to sort each enquire as soon as possible, but not in a hasty manner. Getting the right software and technology to do the job is an important part of guaranteeing both speed and quality.
Plenty of businesses out there continue to suffer from the consequences of having a bad customer service department. But in the time of social media and online reviews, emphasis on a good customer service has never been more important. If businesses want to succeed in a modern world, they need to build the foundations of a strong customer service with the steps mentioned above. Focus on these points will not only provide success in customer service, but will help the whole of the business to succeed.
Strong and successful customer service is essentially about creating a strong service culture in your business. It is about creating a culture of problem solving and empathy. With the above steps, you can instil the right elements to your business and ensure your customers, as well as your employees, feel how passion and gratitude at the core of your business.