It's easy to think of your company's sales pipeline and revenue growth efforts as key tools in your company's future success. But what about your customer service department?
Your company could be missing out on one of the benefits of customer service: The unique ability of a single department to help future-proof your business.
To help your business protect itself from shifting tides in economics, technology and other trends, use the following six customer service tips to review your current team strategies and shore up any shortcomings.
1. Treat customer service as a platform, not a department.
“Customer service is now more than a department. It's a platform that spans email, phone, chat and social media," says Jason Yau, vice president of e-commerce and general manager at CanvasPeople, a company that transforms photos into art for the home.
“Ensure that whoever is handling each of these channels in your organization has a customer-focused philosophy and policies that are consistent with the rest of the organization," Yau adds.
This means every avenue customers can use to reach your business will share an overwhelming consistency of experience, which helps foster trust and reliability. Yau says this consistency even extends to online knowledge bases as many young customers today prefer to not interact with live customer service agents.
Every manager should spend at least one day per year—ideally, at least one day per month—getting personally involved in customer service.
—Jason Yau, vice president of e-commerce, CanvasPeople
“The words, voice and even sense of humor in your knowledge base will influence how your customers think about you," he says.
2. Prioritize retention over acquisition.
“Most companies focus on marketing, sales, prospecting and converting instead of paying attention to what happens after the sale," says Joey Coleman, chief experience officer at Design Symphony, a customer experience branding firm. “By [having your team] put as much effort into post-sale interactions as they do pre-sale interactions, you show the customer they are important and build lasting connection and loyalty."
It's important to assess what steps your customer service team is taking to follow-up after the sale, gather customer feedback and aggregate that follow-up data.
3. Measure, improve, repeat.
“Unless you're measuring the effectiveness of your customer service platform, you won't be able to tell if and where there are opportunities to improve, nor the impact of any strategies or policy changes you put in place,” says Yau.
Businesses looking to future-proof their business with the help of customer service should look at metrics like NPS (net promoter score) and satisfaction with customer service experience both at a department and individual level.
“[These measurements] will give you the foundation to understand and then improve how customers are experiencing your customer service,” he sas.
Measurements also helps companies identify areas where their customer service team has room for growth.
4. Prioritize humans over technology.
“Invest in training your team how to make connections and build rapport more than you invest in technology tools," says Coleman.
Businesses are all too happy to host a training session to learn a new CRM, email marketing tool. But where are the training sessions on how to develop personal and emotional connections with other humans?
“Technology needs to constantly be upgraded," he says. "A well-trained human will continue to naturally upgrade themselves."
5. Roll up your sleeves.
“Every manager should spend at least one day per year—ideally, at least one day per month—getting personally involved in customer service," Yau says. “Connecting directly with your customers about their issues or joys will be enormously valuable in learning about areas of opportunity for your business—everything from business or customer service issues you're not aware of to customer needs that you're not solving but could be."
This is as close to stepping into the shoes of your customer as leaders can get, and leaders may end up learning volumes from seeing what their customer service team experiences every day.
6. Prioritize connection value over transaction value.
“It's more important to build the connection than to make the sale," Coleman says. He's found that all too often, teams focus on the lifetime value (LTV) of a customer instead of the lifetime connection (LTC).
“Customers who are connected to your business and brand will stay loyal and committed to you even when spending decreases," Coleman says.
When economic conditions improve, those loyal customers will naturally increase their spending and deepen the relationship with businesses that focused more on the depth of connection than the depth of their wallet.
With these six customer service tips in your toolbox, you can make changes in the present to protect your future. In a world where the customer is the lifeline to prosperity, it's only fitting that savvy companies develop strategies to assess their happiness and ensure their ongoing delight.
Read more articles on getting customers.
Photo: Getty Images