In any profession, you can’t do your job if you don’t have the right tools, and customer support is no different. Here are six tools every customer experience center can’t do without.
1. Great employees. This may sound obvious, but you simply can’t delight your customers without a great team of people dedicated to supporting them. I’ve been very lucky in every company I’ve run that we have been able to attract great quality talent who were passionate about supporting our customers. Attracting and retaining these key personnel should be a priority for your company.
2. Customer feedback. We all should be striving for constant improvement, but it’s hard to improve when you don’t know what you’re doing wrong. You need tools to ensure that you are getting reliable and timely customer feedback so that you can be sure you actually are helping customers and making them happy.
I recommend collecting two types of feedback: incident-based and calendar-based.
• An incident-based approach is very transactional and will help you measure how you are performing once a customer contacts you. This is very valuable data, but not the only thing you should be collecting.
• You should also measure customer satisfaction by a calendar-based survey sent to your entire customer base. This survey should capture data from the customers who don’t ever contact you (they could be your biggest proponents, since they love your product and never have any issues with it that would cause them to contact you, or they could be your biggest detractors, since they just don’t bother contacting your support department any more). Without reliable survey data, you are operating blind and don’t know where to focus your efforts.
3. Collaboration. The ability to work together is key to solving customer problems and ultimately making customers like your company. But too many support departments work with tools that don’t offer—or support—any kind of collaboration. It’s very common to see support agents working e-mails, support tickets, or phone calls without having any ability to ask their peers about a problem that they may already know the answer to.
If you can implement a good collaboration tool—ideally as a part of your support software package—then you provide your agents with the essential ability to reach out to colleagues, find subject matter experts, and ultimately resolve customer issues more quickly.
Collaboration with other internal systems, teams, and departments is also critical. Your support team needs to be able to interface with the sales and product development teams so that all customer interactions can be smoothly handled and passed from one department to another when needed.
4. Information about the issues. Another major challenge when dealing with customer issues is a lack of knowledge about customers’ problems. We’ve all seen e-mail chains where the agent and customer have gone back and forth multiple times trying to describe the problem they are seeing. This back and forth is incredibly frustrating to the client and greatly lengthens the troubleshooting time. Modern support tools should have the ability to attach images, screenshots, and even video recordings of the problems they are seeing. As the old saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words, and this is certainly true in support. A simple screenshot of the problem your customer is facing goes a long way toward being able to see what the user is experiencing, and a recorded video goes even further.
While real time “screen sharing” technology is also good, it is not the best tool for reporting problems, since it requires a technician and customer to align schedules so they are both available. That’s why screen recordings and screenshots are great tools for helping you understand—in real time—what issue the customer is having.
5. Information about the customer. For a customer, there are few things as annoying as calling a company for help and having to tell them your life history—right after you just gave the same information to another agent. Frankly, there’s no excuse for this, and ensuring a positive customer experience starts with understanding and knowing your customers.
In a B2B environment, you should have ALL customer information at your agents’ fingertips. Every agent should be in a position to know the people, the products they purchased, and all prior issues that they have been having, even if the issue was reported by someone else in the same company. It is somewhat more difficult to have the information in a B2C environment, especially if the product was sold to the customer by a third party, but technologies such as registration systems can help somewhat with this. At a minimum, however, each agent should be able to see all historical interactions with the customer so they can follow up on old issues or ensure the same issue isn’t being reported again.
Often termed the “holistic” or “360-degree” view of the customer, having this information at the disposal of the agent will go a long way toward making sure the customer has a great experience when interacting with you.
6. Multichannel support. Forcing your customer to communicate with you in only certain ways is guaranteed to leave them with a poor taste in their mouths. Every one of your customers is different, and they will all want to communicate with you in slightly different ways. Any good customer experience center should allow customers to contact you in any way they want—this can be by phone, e-mail, chat, Web portal, community forum, or social media. Each medium will attract a different audience, and each will also have a different cost to your organization. Obviously, you want to funnel your customers into the most cost-effective communication channel for your organization, but at the same time, you want to leave all options open for your customers so that they feel you care about their needs—and that you are truly putting them first.