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Working to improve your customer service has always been important, but in today’s highly competitive business environment it’s more essential than ever.

As it becomes harder for consumers to differentiate between companies based on product alone, most are now relying on the quality of customer experiences a company can provide to make their choice.

This shift isn’t lost on businesses either—in 2017, two-thirds of marketers say their companies compete mostly on the basis of customer experience (CX), according to a Gartner Customer Experience survey. And in 2019, 81% of companies expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX.

As companies begin to compete on customer experience, consumers are increasingly setting higher standards for how they expect to be treated.

33% of Americans say they’ll consider switching companies after just a single instance of poor service and one in three customers will even pay more to receive a higher level of service. In fact, it’s projected that poor customer experience is costing businesses more than $75 billion a year.

Increasing competition and high standards for customer experience mean that improving customer service at your company is one of the most vital things you can do.

Here are five steps to improving your customer service.

1. Monitor customer feedback

Most organizations don’t doubt the importance of great customer service. But most overestimate the quality of service they’re currently providing their customers.

According to a Bain & Company study, even though 80% of companies say they provide great experiences for their customers only about 8% of customers agree.

improve your customer service

One reason for the overconfidence on the part of businesses is that most customers who have poor experiences don’t complain about the experience. They just switch when it gets too bad.

Without actively monitoring for poor customer service interactions, most companies don’t even know they exist and so they can’t improve.

It’s no longer enough to wait for your customers to complain about something before fixing it. Great customer service has to be proactive and that starts by regularly asking and listening to what your customers have to say.

Here are a few ways to do this:

  • Start measuring your Net Promoter Score, since this gives you a broad view of customer sentiment.
  • Consistently survey your customers after important milestones, like a purchase or onboarding.
  • You should also monitor how satisfied they are with the support they receive by doing a case closed CSAT survey.

Monitoring feedback helps you identify sources of dissatisfaction before they become worse.

2. Make customer service omnichannel

Your customers are always on the move these days. When they have issues they don’t just send emails or call anymore, they also use social media, your app and even live chat and they expect consistent support across these channels.

Which is why most businesses today use multi-channel customer service to interact with their customers across different channels.

But multichannel service can only do so much because while these channels work alongside one another they’re largely separate.

For example, if you email a service agent today and then call support the next day you’ll have to start a new conversation with the agent.

While multichannel service is better than only having a single channel for supporting customers, omnichannel customer support takes things a step further by making the interaction more cohesive.

With omnichannel customer service, you can offer your customers a more seamless experience. Where rather than starting from scratch, your service agents can pick up from where the customer left off.

This way, each channel feeds into one main view, and the result of this is a complete customer profile that helps customer service teams tackle cases more effectively.

Customer history displays every call, email, tweet, and community post, so the journey agents see is the same one customer’s experience.

For example, if I call a customer service representative and then email them a few days later, the support rep can see that I spoke to another representative 6 days ago and use that information to provide a workaround.

Integration is key to omnichannel customer service which leads us to our next step.

3. Invest in customer-relationship management (CRM) software

Another way to improve customer service at your organization is to offer more personalized interactions with your customers.

In an Evergage survey of over 206 digital marketers, 96% agreed that personalization advanced their customer relationships and 61% said personalization has helped them achieve a superior customer experience.

CRM software like Salesforce can help you create personalized interactions with your customers because it unifies all customer data and provides more context for every interaction.

It also helps you learn more about who your customers are and offer up solutions for improving customer service beyond answering complaints.

For example, it might reveal that most of your customer complaints come from one location which could mean that there’s a problem with how customers are treated there.

It could also show you that most of your customer complaints come from a certain cohort, which could indicate a problem in your onboarding of these customers.

A powerful CRM not only allows you to create better and more personalized experiences for your customers but gives additional insights into solving issues and empower your employees to act.

4. Train the right customer service skills

Great tools won’t improve your customer service if your support team doesn’t know how to interact with customers.

In fact, bad employee attitude and unfriendly service are two of the most common reasons why customers stop doing business with a company.

Source: PwC

As the customer-facing part of your organization, a great service team needs to have a few crucial skills in other to consistently provide great service.

Here are a few crucial skills members of your customer service team need to have to succeed:

  • A deep understanding of the product: There’s nothing worse than speaking to a service agent that doesn’t even know what you’re talking about. All members of your team should have more than a surface level understanding of your product so they can better help customers.
  • Empathy: Like all customer-facing roles, support needs to empathize with the people they’re talking to and show that they understand and care about them. Empathy is often overlooked as an important skill, but the fact is, 60% of customers will stop dealing with a business they feel is indifferent to them.
  • Taking ownership: Mistakes happen and the best customer service agents know how to take responsibility for them. Sometimes all the customer wants to hear is an acknowledgment of their problems and a promise that it’ll be resolved.
  • Time management: For service agents, time is a crucial yet extremely limited resource. Training your support staff on how to adequately manage their time will lead to faster response times and improved customer service.

5. Make customer experience part of company culture

The only way to truly improve customer service is to make great CX part of your business strategy and company culture.

You’ll need to get buy-in from your top executives to accomplish this, however, since customer experience isn’t something only your customer service staff should consider.

This emphasis on improving customer experience needs to reach across departments and become a part of your company’s standard operating procedure.

Here’s how you can get started with integrating customer experience into company culture:

  • Track customer experience metrics to create a benchmark against which you can improve upon.
  • Empower employees (even your non-support staff) to take action and go the extra mile for customers.
  • Create a customer journey map to identify and fix possible friction points for your customers.
  • Monitor how engaged your employees are since they can only do there best work when motivated to do so.

In Summary

Customer service is now a point of differentiation for most companies. Consumers now have higher standards than ever before and research has shown that most companies are failing to reach these standards even though they think they are.

Improving your customer service starts by first listening to customer feedback and making sure that you can support your customers seamlessly through every channel.

You’ll also need to personalize these interactions and train your support staff with the right skill set they need to do their jobs. Finally improving customer experience needs to be a priority for everyone in the organizations and not just your customer support team.