customer service

12.18.2019

service  |  8 min read

5 tips for improving your customer service

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Eric Goldschein

To encourage repeat business, win over the customers of their competitors, and reduce costs, companies must invest in their customer service experience.

According to statistics collected by Salesforce, 70% of customers say service agents’ awareness of sales interactions is very important to keep their business. Also, customers are four times more likely to buy from a competitor if their issue is service-related rather than price- or product-related. And it costs as much as seven times more to attract a new customer than to keep an existing one.

The success of a business thus hinges on its ability to quickly and positively field any customer service issues or questions.

And look: Many businesses value the work that customer service teams put in (according to HubSpot’s 2019 State of Customer Service Report, 78% of service professionals agree that their company puts as much effort into customer service as they do with marketing and sales).

But that same survey showed that service professionals think “not enough time in the day” is almost as big of a challenge as “dealing with upset customers.” Organization, prioritization, and reporting to upper management also worried them. We can do more to empower our customer service teams.

Of course, you’ll want to improve customer service operations and outcomes without blowing through your working capital. With that in mind, here are five budget tips for improving your company's customer service:

1. Redesign your website to make answers easier to find

A good small business website should be easy to navigate across all devices. Your site should make it easy to find the site map, as well as the FAQ, avenues for initiating a return, and chatting with a live agent or bot (more on that later).

If you don’t give your visitors access to answers to potential questions, they’ll come find you instead—creating customer service tickets and gumming up the service funnel with issues that you’ve already addressed on your site (but kept hidden due to poor design).

Consider this story about executives at a Houston airport. The airport kept fielding complaints from passengers about how long it took for their bags to reach the baggage claim. Hiring extra baggage handlers wasn’t enough to quell complaints. So what did they do? Via the New York Times:

They found that it took passengers a minute to walk from their arrival gates to baggage claim and seven more minutes to get their bags. Roughly 88% of their time, in other words, was spent standing around waiting for their bags.

So the airport decided on a new approach: instead of reducing wait times, it moved the arrival gates away from the main terminal and routed bags to the outermost carousel. Passengers now had to walk six times longer to get their bags. Complaints dropped to near zero.

Sometimes your customer service problem is a design problem. Change your website to make it easier for people to get what they need.


2. Create helpful resources for customers

Again, you can reduce the number of customer service issues your team has to deal with by getting ahead of whatever questions they have. That means creating resources that address potential concerns and making them easy for customers to find.

A great example of this is using video tutorials to explain, troubleshoot, and otherwise improve your customer’s experience with your product or service. Warby Parker has a dedicated “WarbyParkerHelp” YouTube channel that addresses everything from the difference between certain models of glasses to using an FSA to pay for your prescription frames.

Making videos explaining your product or service is a relatively inexpensive way to put a face on your company’s products. It will also help to rank in Google and/or YouTube results, and, of course, to answer customer service questions before they become tickets in your system.

3. Invest in chatbot function to answer questions 24/7

Let’s say you’re going to make one major investment in your customer service team outside of hiring or training. It should be in a tool like an AI-powered chatbot service, which allows you to field customer service issues around-the-clock.

There’s a certain irony to having an ecommerce website, where you allow customers to shop at any time, but only give them access to customer service during business hours.

A chatbot that fields customer service issues when a customer visits your website doesn’t “replace” your customer service team. Instead, it plays a critical support role for when your team isn’t online or doesn’t need to get bogged down with repetitive questions. For example, according to Intercom, its AI-powered chatbot fields nearly a third of all customer requests before a human has to deal with them. Your bot can pass higher-level issues that require a human touch and personality on to your human support team during working hours.

This is the power of AI in a small business context—it takes busywork off your plate and leaves you the work that a human handles best. That’s worth the money you put into it.


4. Use a shared email alias to streamline issue triage

There are many avenues that businesses use to field customer service complaints. While there are benefits to giving customers as many options as possible for reaching you to file a complaint (resolving an issue on Twitter shows your company is transparent and willing to meet customers wherever they are when there’s an issue), this is also how complaints can get lost in the shuffle.

If email is your preferred channel for fielding requests, consider creating a shared email alias, such as [email protected][yourcompany].com, or [email protected] This has two main benefits:

  • It’s easy to share a single email address across all your platforms, to let people know that this is the best way to reach a customer service resolution.
  • This streamlined approach lets any user see where the company left off with a customer, review previous interactions, and check to see if the team has overlooked a recent complaint.

According to HubSpot, 90% of teams using a shared email alias for support said this was an effective channel for customer service. And setting one up is as easy as it gets.

5. Make employee engagement a priority

Employee happiness and retention is almost as important as customer happiness retention—and in this case, there’s a link between the two objectives.

In fact, the happier a company’s employees are (all of them—not just those in customer service), the happier their customers typically are. According to the Harvard Business Review, “There is a strong statistical link between employee well-being reported on Glassdoor and customer satisfaction among a large sample of some of the largest companies today. A happier workforce is clearly associated with companies’ ability to deliver better customer satisfaction.”

Happy employees are more engaged, effective, and loyal. Investing in your customer service team with health insurance and flexible paid time off packages, and fringe benefits like outside education stipends is the perfect example of the ripple effect of good investments. An engaged customer service team will outperform a team rife with tension and turnover any day of the week.

The bottom line

If you’re in the business of selling something, you’re also in the business of customer service. Any investment (or lack thereof) you make in the latter affects your ability to perform the former. Use these five tips to make steady improvements in your customer service offerings at a modest price. You’ll soon make a business case for even bigger and better investments in your team as a whole.


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