Delivering great customer service is hard. But it's critical for a company's success. Nearly two-thirds of people say customer experience is more important than price when they make purchasing decisions.
Yet companies still manage to disappoint their customers on a regular basis. "We're living in a crisis of customer service," says one etiquette guru. Half of all U.S. adults have taken business elsewhere because of a bad customer service experience, according to a survey from NewVoiceMedia.
So many companies get this wrong ... so how does Public Rec, a men's apparel company, manage to deliver great customer service week after week?
Full disclosure - Public Rec is one of our clients. But we're not just basing this on our own personal opinion. Public Rec regularly sees 100 percent scores on its weekly customer satisfaction report. That means everyone who responded to a customer satisfaction survey had a great customer service experience with the Public Rec team.
Of course, sometimes the company receives bad ratings. But often, the entire team closes the week with a 100 percent customer satisfaction score. And in their comments, customers say things like "Your customer service is second to none," and "I have never had such a good experience with an online chat,” and “You guys should teach everybody else. Good as AMEX and they are the gold standard.”
We analyzed hundreds of responses to Public Rec's customer satisfaction surveys and identified the seven things that drive great customer service.
1. Respond Promptly
Speed is of the essence, especially for email support. Customers hate sending an email into the universe, not knowing when they’ll get a response. The Public Rec team often responds within the hour.
Of course, a response time this fast requires a significant investment. Simply put, if you have more agents, you can respond faster. And when you prioritize speed, you have to be careful to ensure that quality doesn’t drop as a result. But many companies can improve response time without adding headcount, simply by optimizing their schedules to match customer demand.
2. Show Customers You Care
Customers expect to be abused when they contact customer service. They may feel angry and disappointed even before they dial the phone or hit “send” on a chat or email. So agents can delight them, and provide great customer service, by putting in extra effort to show that they truly care.
How can you do that? First, you can pro-actively follow-up to resolve their issues. Let's say a customer's desired size or color is out of stock. You can tell them the bad news and close the ticket. Or, you can keep following up.
One Public Rec customer, for example, said his customer service rep, Ren, "made it her mission to find me a pair of pants. ... She took the initiative to stay in touch with me as the expected timeframe changed and called when she found a pair."
Sometimes, it's just a matter of adopting the right tone. Other Public Rec customers say that agents "made me feel like I mattered,” and “took an interest in helping me.” In those instances, agents didn't have to go the extra mile - they just treated customers with genuine care.
Fair warning: this is something that you can’t fake. Your agents won't care about your customers if you don't care about your agents. Even if you work with an outsourcer, your customer service reps have to feel like they're a part of your team. Their work is critical to your company's success - and you should tell them that as loudly and as frequently as possible.
3. Review All Bad Ratings - And Fix Them, If Possible
At Public Rec, the team reviews every bad rating, every week. In a weekly check-in, the team lead highlights the scores for each agent and talks through negative reviews. Then the full team identifies opportunities for improvement.
If a rep gave an answer that was incomplete or inaccurate, the team will follow up. Another customer service rep - or even Public Rec's CEO - will apologize and provide a more complete answer.
By the way, the team reviews the positive reviews, too! Highlighting examples of great customer service is good for morale, and shows agents that their hard work really matters.
But while you're reviewing your CSAT ratings, make sure you also ...
4. Distinguish Between "Actionable" and "Un-actionable" Comments
"Actionable" comments are those that actually provide feedback on the customer service experience. Customers might comment on the agents' speed, helpfulness, or accuracy, for example.
"Un-actionable" comments reflect things that agents can't change. The customer may have been unhappy with the product itself, or unhappy with the answer they received - even if the agent was friendly, polite, prompt, and followed all company policies.
If an agent receives a lot of actionable comments, you'll want to coach the agent. But if most of your negative comments are un-actionable, you might want to consider changing your company policy instead. Which brings us to...
5. Make Policy Changes in Response to Legitimate Feedback
Listen to negative feedback and make changes if customers have a legitimate gripe. Public Rec, for example, recently adjusted its return policies. Previously, agents had refused refunds if a returned item of clothing had clearly been washed, worn, or damaged. This was consistent with company policy but left some customers unhappy. Now, agents have more flexibility to use their judgment to determine whether a refund is warranted.
6. Empower Agents to Write Customized Responses
At most big companies, customer service agents use pre-written responses, just filling in the customer’s name and account information. So small companies can really stand out by empowering their agents to use a personal touch. Responses should be friendly, personalized and authentic, showing genuine concern for customer happiness.
If you empower agents to write customized responses, you'll also need a robust quality assurance program. That will enable you to continually review each agent's work and provide feedback on how they can improve.
7. Solve the Customer’s Problem
This may seem like a “duh” answer. But though it’s obviously critical, it’s sometimes overlooked. Agents need to make sure they fully understand all the questions a customer is asking, and resolve any issues to the fullest extent possible.