How you deal with customers can make or break your business. Good customer service is a skill every employee who interacts with your clients must develop.
The last thing your business needs is a negative review, especially one that remarks how rude or ineffective an employee was. A positive customer service experience, even after poor customer experience, can often mean the difference between giving your business another chance or storming off to a competitor.
You can’t always control what happens, but you can control how you handle and react to issues if they pop up and make sure your customers’ experience is overall positive.
In this article, we look at the skills your employees need to best deal with customers.
What exactly is empathy in the context of customer service? Empathy is the ability to understand and connect with a customer’s feelings, even when you cannot fix it. This is just as important as patience - which is next - because we've all been in similar situations. It's helpful for both the employee and customer to understand where the customer is coming from. What problem do they have? And why are they frustrated?
Sometimes you can't give the customer the answer they want but if you show you care about their problem and strive to steer them in the right direction, the interaction will go more smoothly than if you dismiss them or insinuate the problem is their fault.
Patience is one of the most important customer service skills any employee need. Whether it’s an employee dealing with a frustrated caller who needs technical support or if they’re in a retail environment helping a customer who can't decide on which dress to buy - you must have patience. The key is having employees understand how it feels on the other side to be frustrated or confused and just want someone to listen and solve the problem. Putting yourself in someone else’s shoes makes it easier to empathize with their plight.
SURE... Sometimes customers ask irrelevant questions or don't seem to grasp what you're saying; that's where patience comes in.
Maintaining composure no matter what is crucial to providing top-notch service and solving the problem.
Getting to the heart of the problem is critical to help the customer and solve their issue. That's why communication between the employee and your customer must be clear. Miscommunication manifests in further frustration for both.
Employees must as clear as they can about what they can and cannot do and what will solve the problem. Don't overstate or oversell to appease the customer because that will almost always backfire and leave the customer dissatisfied and send them to your competitor.
One thing many customers find annoying is when they have questions about a product or service and the person to whom they're speaking doesn't have answers. If you're selling a product or service, you should know it inside and out. Failing to understand what you're talking about is a sure way to engender mistrust from your customers. Remember, people see the employee as an expert, so they must be the expert.
Positive language helps put a good face on the business and makes the customers feel more at ease about engaging.
For example, if a customer contacts you about a service, but your company has discontinued it, you should say, "We've got a new service that replaces that one and it offers more value," rather than, "We don't offer that anymore."
Many customer interactions today take place online or via phone so one can't read a person's facial expressions. Being able to read between the lines helps to not misread a customer and end up losing them because of miscommunication.If speaking on the phone, listen carefully to the tone of voice to pick up clues as to the person's mood and level of patience. This skill is crucial to keep interactions positive and have a satisfactory result.
So, not every customer interaction goes as planned which is why employees must have the ability to adapt quickly to situations as they arise. Sometimes a customer throws a curve and asks a question for which you're not prepared. The ability to think fast, react and solve the problem often means the difference between a satisfied and disgruntled customer.
When people think about closing, they think about closing a sale. But in this case, we mean ending the interaction between the employee and your customer. The goal here is to end the engagement with a satisfied customer or as close as you can get.If the customer's problem isn't fixed now, are they satisfied it will be in due time? Make sure before the call or interaction ends, the customer is confident you've handled everything to the best of your ability, and the issue is or will be resolved.
So, maybe you've never given thought to hire a call center to handle your customer service engagements, but here are a few reasons why you should consider it.
Call centers can catch all of your calls, which means they won't miss a potential lead. It's frustrating for a customer to call in need of help, and they can't get hold of a person to talk to. If you can't handle the call volume, a call center makes sense.
Call center personnel are highly trained representatives to handle customer service calls efficiently and professionally. The customer today has hundreds of choices to go to if they don't get help from you. Remember, your competitor is just a search away. So, keep those customers by satisfying them when they call you first by letting a call center take care of it.
Call centers record calls which are reviewed frequently to ensure the employees are handling interactions correctly and to the customer's satisfaction. Recording calls offer the employee and management where they can improve to provide an increased level of service.
Almost every successful business is successful because they have excellent customer service. Without customers buying your product or service, your company wouldn't exist. We hope this article showed you what skills your employees need to deal effectively with customers, and how a call center may be the right move to improve your business/consumer relations.
Publish Date: December 4, 2019 5:00 AM
Answering services are still a favorable way to do business today, especially in the B2B world. First impressions are everything so leaving the first point of contact many of your clients will have with your business to an already overloaded employee may not be a risk you want to take.
If you’re on the fence about hiring an answering service, this article will answer your questions and give you a better idea if going down this road is the right choice for you.
The first question you may have is “what is an answering service, anyway?” In a nutshell, an answering service handles communications for various companies. While traditional answering services deal with inbound and outbound phone calls, today’s answering services also handle emails, replying to text messages, and cold calling, which is a service many businesses find useful.
If you’re thinking about hiring an answering service, keep in mind that these agencies go by various names depending on what capabilities they offer:
Virtual Receptionist Services This type of agency performs the same tasks that any receptionist would in an office. These tasks include answering phone calls, transferring them to the proper contact, and giving out any necessary information that a caller may need such as office hours or location.
Virtual Office Service The virtual office agency performs similar functions of a virtual receptionist, however, they also can offer you a physical mailing address and temporary meeting spaces. This can be a great option for startups or businesses that operate remotely.
Automated Answering Service The automated service doesn’t use live agents; they base their service on voice response. So while not a traditional answering service, this company allows customers to leave messages or go through a series of prompts to get the information they need. You’re probably familiar with this kind of service if you’ve ever called for support and been instructed to press 1 or 2 for different options.
Internet Answering Service Most internet answering services aren’t like traditional answering services; similar to the option above. The internet service provider offers email or chat help, and other online-based support. Internet answering services also don't typically provide live agent support.
Call Centers Most people are familiar with call centers. Love them or hate them, they offer a valuable service for companies who need external live operators to handle customer support issues and a large volume of calls. Most people think of telemarketers when they hear call center, but that’s only one function they perform. Many exist to help customers with technical support or to be the first line of communication between a company and their customers.
On its face:
The answering service exists to answer calls, make calls, and dole out information on behalf of a company.
The benefit to these agencies is that they’re able to provide a service to small and medium-sized companies who don’t have the financial resources to hire an in-house team to handle their volume of calls.
Also, many business owners are too busy outside the office to take calls themselves, such as doctors, plumbers, and electricians. The answering service allows them to take calls and not lose the business to a competitor.
Many companies use answering services because they provide valuable assistance capabilities that the company can’t do in-house. But how do they work?
Automated Answering Service
The automated answering service typically goes something like this: Press 1 for technical support, press 2 for billing, press 3 for company hours, and press 4 for a live operator. Sound familiar? The goal of these answering services is to get the customer the help they need without having to speak to a live operator.
Live Answering Service
Live answering services are the opposite as they use live agents for the primary contact when a customer calls in. A live operator can work in a call center from home as a virtual receptionist. Many business owners prefer live answering services as they want their customers to speak to a real person and get the answers to their questions quicker.
The call center is often confused with answering services, even though both can perform many of the same functions. Most call centers work with one company to handle all of their incoming communications, and it’s not uncommon for a call center to employ hundreds of people while an answering service is usually a more intimate operation.
While many companies opt for an automated system, customers often prefer live answering services as mentioned.
Automated is cheaper, but when you factor in the frustration that some callers incur when trying to navigate an automated menu system it might not be the best trade-off.
A live answering service benefits the company and the customer by reducing the time the customer has to wait to speak to a representative. Live receptionists are better able to provide customers with the proper information or direct them to the correct point of contact more quickly.
All in all, this makes the interaction more pleasant for the customer, which is key in a customer service driven environment.
Now that you know what an answering service does and how they work, it’s helpful to understand how you can benefit from hiring one.
Here are just a few of the services these agencies offer that can help your business:
While an answering service isn’t for everybody, they can benefit many business owners who experience a high volume of calls or don’t have the resources to hire an in-house team. If you think this type of service sounds like exactly what you need, read this article to learn more about the cost of hiring a call center to get started.
Publish Date: October 16, 2019 5:00 AM
The outsourcing world is divided into different service sectors, and two of these sectors are the most crucial to success: call center services and virtual assistant services.
We’re going to talk about call center representatives, their duties, and the skills that they need to be successful.
Whether they know it or not, most people have spoken to a call center representative at some point.
If you’ve called your phone, internet, or cable provider with questions, the first person you spoke to was likely one of the company’s call center representatives.
First and foremost, they’re responsible for maintaining customer relations and aim for customer satisfaction. They resolve customer issues in whatever way they can, and they aim to do so as quickly and as efficiently as possible.
Call center representatives and virtual assistants are often confused as interchangeable. However, the two positions are more different than most people realize.
The general confusion is understandable, as both are required to be experts in the field of customer relations. However, virtual assistants and these representatives basically operate in two different sectors.
Both virtual assistants and call center representatives are extremely important, but each job title comes with its list of duties and necessary skills.
Typically, virtual assistants work remotely, and they usually assist in a wide variety of day to day tasks. Virtual assistants typically take care of the more time-consuming tasks such as social media management, bookkeeping, taking care of travel accommodations, making cold calls, etc.
A virtual assistant’s responsibilities can also include a variety of creative tasks such as graphic design, video editing, and content writing.
If asked to do so, a virtual assistant will sometimes act as a call center representative, but their responsibilities typically include a much broader range of tasks that a growing company no longer has the time to do.
Comparatively, these representatives handle tasks that tend to be more tedious and repetitive. Like virtual assistants, they work within the customer service and customer relations sector. However, their responsibilities tend to be more consistent.
In a general sense, they are responsible for helping customers with whatever they happen to need when they call.
They need to have a thorough understanding of their company’s inner workings to resolve customer issues as quickly and effectively as possible.
If you want to learn more about the differences between call center representatives and virtual assistants, you can check out this article that expands further on the topic.
These representatives usually answer customer phone calls, maintain customer satisfaction to the extent that they can, keep customer records up to date, and resolve customer issues if they’re able to do so.
If a call center representative can’t deal with a customer’s issue directly, they’ll direct the customer to the appropriate team. If they do this correctly, the team should be able to resolve the issue.
A call center representative must understand the logistics that make their company run smoothly.
If a call center representative can’t direct the customer to the appropriate team, that customer has to endure being redirected over and over again, which never looks good for a company.
They have to deal with a very fast-paced work environment. Whether or not they succeed at rising through the ranks depends entirely on how many calls they can handle in a given period.
For this reason, speed is key when it comes to being a successful call center representative.
One of the most important skills for a call center representative is simply people skills. On any given day, they usually interact with more people than most ever will within such a short period.
For some people, this can be somewhat exhausting. A seasoned call center representative can handle the workload without bending under the pressure.
As previously mentioned:
A call center representative must understand the minutiae of their company’s inner workings.
After all, they’re the first line of defense when it comes to customer calls. With any given call, they either need to be able to resolve the problem, or they need to know which team to direct the customer to.
Additionally, because their jobs are so speed-oriented, they must remain focused and sharp to do their jobs well. Furthermore, being well-organized certainly doesn’t hurt, as this will help contribute to their overall speed.
A call center representative’s job can be challenging. However, like any new employee, a new call center representative will typically adapt and become proficient within their line of work.
That isn’t to say that this job can be done by anyone. For some people, especially those that are introverted, dealing with many different people on a daily basis can be exhausting.
It’s a difficult job at times, but it’s a position that’s essential to the functionality, efficiency, and success of any company.
So, the next time you become frustrated during a call with your cable provider, remember that you might just be the two hundredth person the representative has talked to and they’re just trying to help.
Publish Date: October 2, 2019 5:00 AM
Call Handling Hero® — Heather
Our March Call Handling Hero® award goes to Heather! Her ability to think of alternative solutions in a timely manner helped a patient find their way to the hospital.
Heather received a call from an elderly patient instructed by her physician to make her way to the nearest hospital. Unfortunately, the patient's son was unreachable by phone and she did not want to travel by ambulance. With time running short, Heather remained on the phone with the patient to find the best solution to her transportation issues. Heather came up with a great alternative idea; she provided the phone number of the office at the patient's senior living complex and was able to help her find transportation through them. Way to be resourceful, Heather!
Good clients and great TSR's make A Better Answer the better answer.
Publish Date: April 16, 2019 5:00 AM
Call Handling Hero® — Martha and Pam
For February's Call Handling Hero® recognition, we're celebrating two awesome responders – Martha, our winner, and Pam, our runner up!
February Call Handling Hero® Winner – Martha
A Better Answer's very own detective, Martha helped resolve a situation with one of our newest clients. This client is currently in the process of integrating their own new clients on a very large scale, and as with any large data transfer project, typos happen.
In this case, it was a return address for their clients to make payments. During a routine call, Martha noticed the return address was incorrectly printed on the bill that had been mailed to our client’s customer. After providing the correct information to the caller, Martha then reached out to the client to let them know of the error so they could fix the problem in their system. In the end, Martha helped the client save man hours and prevent customer dissatisfaction!
February Call Handling Hero® Runner Up – Pam
Always supportive in times of need, Pam took a call on a Houston Home Health account for their Dallas office. Apparently, something happened with the call forwarding for the Dallas office, and their calls were not reaching us to hand off to their on-call person. Pam quickly recognized the issue and reached out to the Houston on-call for assistance. Afterwards, Dallas was reached to have the urgent message delivered. Way to go, Pam!
Good clients and great TSR's make A Better Answer the better answer.
Publish Date: March 29, 2019 5:00 AM
Call Handling Hero® — Pam
Our November Call Handling Hero® Pam from our Houston office showed how seemingly unimportant details are actually quite the opposite. For this particular account, electronic responses usually include identifiers to assist dispatchers in delivering any pending messages. But, on this day, she noticed that the responses were oddly formatted.
Because she lacked the necessary information to deliver any of the pending messages, she contacted the on-call person. The on-call was surprised to hear from us, since we normally leave everything to the electronic responses, and mentioned that she hadn't received any messages. Pam pulled the number programmed in order for her to confirm, only to be surprised that it belonged to an employee who no longer worked for the company.
Pam immediately took steps to remedy the situation for the rest of the weekend and notified programming for all the changes needed. Everything was fixed and the customer was ecstatic. Good clients and great TSR's make A Better Answer the better answer.
Publish Date: January 22, 2019 5:00 AM
We love being a part of our communities. They welcome us and prop us up when we need help and become our neighbors. It’s also a place to give back and meet new people. At A Better Answer, we are part of many communities and have offices throughout Texas.
We’ve been in Texas for nearly 50 years, with offices throughout the state. Needless to say, that comes with all of the southern charm, cowboy boots and football games you’d expect. Part of our culture is to give back to the communities we live in. We’ve had the fortune to work with several local charities, such as Habitat for Humanity.
For us, taking a little time to give back helps us remember those that have helped us throughout the years. It’s about doing what’s right to enhance our communities and aid our neighbors.
Community is more than just giving back when the opportunity arises, it’s about being close to those around you. We want to build a neighborhood, locally or not, that helps each other in times of need. We believe in becoming part of our customers’ communities and ingraining ourselves in the nuances that come with it.
It’s about being friendly and personal and making everyone feel welcome. It’s that small town vibe, even in a big city like Houston.
We have the fortune of belonging to many different communities. Though each of our offices is part of their own regional communities we complement and enhance each client community with a team of specialists.
For us, community is a core part of making business personal and letting who we are shine through. It’s part of what makes us who we are, and why we love what we do. We are so happy to have the opportunity to be a part of each one.
Publish Date: December 13, 2018 5:00 AM
One of the best ways you can ensure your customers feel taken care of is answering the phone when they call. When you don’t do this, your customers will get upset and can leave you for your competitors who are there for them. The simple act of picking up the phone might not just make a happy customer, but could save your business from being taken over by brand snatchers. Take this as a cautionary tale, for spooky things might happen when you let the phone ring.
Steve Hale was an unassuming man with a nice business. He was kind to his customers, and they loved working with him. He had a roofing company called Hale Protection Roofers, and his business was booming. He had techs that drove cars running bids and crews in trucks. His office was bustling with a team of employees that he had known for years. They were busy.
Steve was never a superstitious man, but maybe he should have been. As he got busier, the phones started ringing. Then on one unfortunate day, it hailed from midnight to midnight, and the phone rang every minute. Steve’s roofs were good, but not that good. He knew he would need to start working on repairs. Steve’s phones were already ringing as the office opened, yet his techs were busy evaluating houses near the office and spreading outward, the construction crew was busy working on houses. Steve’s staff was overwhelmed, and yet they let the phones ring, he sent every available worker out into the field to help. Leaving customers wondering for days what would happen to their homes.
The next morning Steve was driving into work, and he saw one of his techs out evaluating a home, but his name was no longer on the truck. He waved, and the tech stared blankly at him, unrecognizing the man he’d known for a decade. Before long Steve reached the office. As he walked in, he greeted some of his crew as they got ready to go repair a roof and they walked right by him.
Steve thought maybe they didn’t notice him; they must have pulled a long shift. The day went on and everything went on as normal, yet the phones weren’t ringing.
The next day would be eye-opening for the man who let the phones ring. He tossed and turned all night, dreaming that the people he had been working with were almost not the same people. It was almost as if they had been replaced. He woke in a cold sweat and decided to head into the office.
He walked in the door and the usual bustle in the office stopped. Matt, his receptionist of years walked up and said, “Sir, can we help you find something? We are a little busy getting repair crews out to damaged homes, but we’ll be able to get with you in about ten minutes.”
“Matt! It’s me, Steve! How can you not remember me?” wailed Steve.
“I’m sorry sir, I’m so terribly sorry, have you been a customer with us before? Normally we try to remember every customer. Let me make it up to you.”
“This is MY company! Hale Protection Roofi…” Steve cut off as he looked at the sign.
It read All Weather Roofing. This wasn’t right, All Weather was his largest competitor. Steve knew this, but no one remembered him. As he screamed and ran through the office, tearing at everything he could, he found nothing. His office was different. His staff was the same.
You see, Steve had been brand snatched. By ignoring his customer service, he had let too many customers down and they turned to his competitor for help. Steve wanted to help them, but only had so much staff after an emergency. Since he sent his entire team on a repair mission, there wasn’t anyone available to answer the calls. His customers grew frustrated at first, then they worried. They decided to explore their options.
Don’t let your customers get brand snatched by ignoring customer service. It might seem easy to cut when the chips are down, but you need to act to keep customers happy. Just as Matt did, you should explain why your staff is busy and when they could help. That can go a long way when people can wait. Even if they may have to wait days for a roof repair, they probably expect that after a massive hailstorm.
Publish Date: October 30, 2018 5:00 AM
Every month our Dallas location loves to celebrate the accomplishments, milestones, and birthdays of our team, recognizing their hard work and dedication. This month we had four great reasons to celebrate.
Hildie, our Customer Service Manager, is celebrating her 38th anniversary with A Better Answer and we could not be more proud to have her as a part of our team. She has worn numerous hats throughout her 38 years of service.
We are also celebrating Ariana and Jessica’s (not pictured) 11th year anniversary with ABA. Ariana is an Operations Leader, and Jessica is our Marketing Coordinator.
Last, we celebrated two wonderful birthdays — Michelle and Anaid. Michelle is our Senior Graveyard Operator and has been with ABA for six years. Anaid is our Senior Operator and has been with us for 14 years.
Employee recognition and culture is very important to us and the tenure of our employees shows it! Our team gathered together to recognize these wonderful employee’s and how hard they have worked and dedicated to our customers and yours!
Publish Date: September 12, 2018 5:00 AM
Habitat for Humanity believes that everyone, everywhere, should have a healthy, affordable place to call home. More than building homes, they believe in building communities, hope, and the opportunity for families to help themselves. They are a vital part of each community, whether we see that or not.
We were very fortunate to be able to take the time to help in our own way.
Thanks to the support of our employees and our CEO for matching employee donations 100%, A Better Answer was able to donate and deliver three truckloads of water to the Mckinney warehouse. We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of something bigger and give back to the community in which we live and work. Thank you Habitat for Humanity for allowing us to be a part of your amazing efforts!
If you would like to donate your time or supplies to Habitat for Humanity, you can visit find their website local to your area, like the one for Dallas. There you can volunteer, make a donation and more.
Publish Date: August 31, 2018 5:00 AM
What it is: A call center is something we all know about, but might not be able to define. The basic definition of a call center is a place to outsource your basic call needs such as:
Call center reps are professional and can help your customers with easy tasks, offering customer service at any time of the day and sometimes in multiple languages.
A call center offers you 24/7 availability or backup for your own customer service after hours or during lunch breaks. The employees are reliable and you don’t need to worry about the staffing and training.
When it’s best suited for you: If you need to expand your ability to provide customers with the basic services they need while being cost-efficient. Call centers are best when your needs are more straightforward, complicated requests or urgent calls require expanded services such as an answering service.
What it is: Answering services are an extension of your business and handle complex customer phone calls. Often these matters can be much more urgent than ones handled by a call center, these calls require empathy and an understanding of your business to find a solution, or to get the caller on the phone with the right person to find the solution to their need. Unlike a call center, operators for an answering service must handle decision making and are trained in your industry.
When it’s best suited for you: This service is great for complex businesses such as restaurants, medical and law offices. When your industry is more complex, training costs rise and the need for professional customer service staff is important. Answering services provide a cost-effective way to add a team of customer service representatives and handles the training and staffing for you. If your calling needs are more complicated than a call center, an answering service may be right for you.
What it is: A contact center still offers phone answering but takes it a step further by offering more ways to answer your customer service needs through:
As customers are looking for more ways to interact with companies, contact centers are becoming important for those looking for fast responses across multiple channels. From answering simple requests through multiple channels to creating meaningful interactions that help build loyal customers, a contact center has you covered.
When it’s best suited for you: This is best for companies where customers want a lot of ways to contact, with enough demand it becomes difficult to keep up with all of the requests. Chains of restaurants, retail locations, and generally B2C companies with a large footprint are good candidates for a contact center as opposed to a call center. Once customer interaction becomes complicated an answering service is your best bet, where you need more dedicated answering staff to handle more complex and urgent interactions, where social media, chat and email won’t cut it.
What it is: A virtual receptionist is simply an off-site receptionist. This service is an efficient way to make sure that your customers aren’t calling in and having to leave you a message if there is no one available to answer the phone. It’s a cost-effective way to add another staff member to your team that already has the training to handle your services. Whether you need someone to take messages or want a live person to help ensure that the customer ends up on the phone with the right person, a virtual receptionist can help bolster your customer service.
When it’s best suited for you: If your customer service needs are basic, a virtual receptionist is right for you. They don’t replace a customer service representative, they put a more personal spin on your main (or only) business line. Virtual receptionists are great for small businesses and can be used in conjunction with a call center, answering service or contact center.
What it is: Chatting services are ways to reach customers that can’t talk on the phone at the moment or prefer a different method of communication. Generally, chat services offer an efficient way to help your customers on-demand, it’s low commitment for them and is easy to use when multitasking. Chat services have taken many forms over the years, you can use them in-house or outsource to reps trained to help customers. Often chat services cover basic to complex tech support, sales inquiries, product questions and more.
When it’s best suited for you: Chat services are great for companies that create and support technical products in hardware, software and services. It’s a great way to answer questions customers may have if your product isn’t overly complicated, or requires a little more of an investment from your customers. You can help close sales, keep customers happy with support and guide customers to the right solutions for them.
The Growing Industry of Chatbots: Chat services are currently evolving thanks to new innovations in artificial intelligence. Chatbots offer automated chat services that learn over time. They come with a basic to sophisticated array of answers and solutions for your customers but will adapt the more they interact with your customers. When they don’t have the answers your customers need, they can transfer them to a live customer service rep. Chatbots are making it easier to add a chatting service to your website and one day it may be possible they can be automated for the majority of customer needs.
All of this is great information as you search for a customer service solution for your company. We at A Better Answer can help you with any of these solutions, and more.
Publish Date: August 29, 2018 5:00 AM
No matter the industry you are in, a great customer experience is vital to the success of your small business. There are enough challenges when growing a business without adding poor customer service to the mix.
These are five big reasons why customer service is so important to small businesses, and what it means to the future of your company.
Customers that feel they can come to your company and have a great experience are more likely to keep coming back. You can build trust with them by always offering a consistent experience.
The kicker is that building that trust takes time, but it can only take one instance to lose it. With enough great service, you can build some goodwill in case a mistake happens. Apple has spent years building up their reputation for fantastic service. They could make a mistake in one of their stores once, and you might be able to write it off. Imagine a company that has provided consistently poor customer service — they have an insurmountable task to rebuild trust.
Focus on starting with great customer service; the rewards are well worth the time and resource investment.
While customer service has always been a huge factor for the competitiveness of businesses, it’s become even more crucial since the 2008 recession. Companies that didn’t adapt and offer customers a great experience struggled, while those that went above and beyond (while still being smart about their profitability), were able to make it through the tough financial times and come out ahead.
You can see a live example of this in as odd a place as the American version of The Office. Dunder Mifflin was a struggling archaic idea of a company when the show started. They were a paper company in a paperless world. As the years moved on, and customer service DID become a significant differentiator, they began to bounce back due to their hands-on and personable approach. This is an excellent pop culture representation of customer service becoming a more influential differentiator for businesses and has the potential of ensuring your business stays afloat if your industry suddenly finds itself shrinking.
Great service helps you stand out from the myriad of competitors. By being the company to offer exceptional service, customers will start seeking you out. This can be very important if your market becomes oversaturated. Being the company that offers the same great products and services with the added benefit of customer service can help when you end up against too many competitors.
Small businesses and tight budgets go hand-in-hand. Referrals from customers that are evangelists help small companies continue to grow, even when their sales team is at its bandwidth, and the marketing budget is spent.
Referral business is low cost to companies and can have a very successful close rate. Frequently referrals enter your sales pipeline with higher trust. In a recent Nielson survey, they found that 83% of people trust recommendations for products and services from people they know. Social media is spreading the word of favorable product recommendations faster than ever, and Facebook even has a special post style to ask for recommendations.
Your customer service becomes a catalyst for creating happy clients that are willing to recommend your company to their friends and colleagues.
Upselling customers is a vital part of growing a small business, in part because the cost of acquiring new customers is far higher than retaining them. This means that if you have products and services that can be expanded upon, you should be focusing some of your sales on your existing customers.
Closing a sale that has been poisoned by a bad customer experience can be near impossible, though. Customer service directly supports your sales team. If existing customers can’t get the right information on a call, or feel they are not important, they’ll move on to a competitor before long.
Upselling customers increases your profitability and allows you to focus more of your budget and resources to expand your business.
A culture of customer service starts with leadership and can have a direct impact on the happiness of your employees. If your customer service isn’t valued and leads to frustrated clients, your team has to deal with the fallout. A culture of customer service can show your team that you care about them and your customers. It leads to more pleasant engagements and creates an empowered team who feel they can go above and beyond for their customers. This directly impacts the growth of the company.
In fact, companies that are growing are 21% more likely to emphasize customer service.
Customer service in a small company has a more substantial impact than at a big company. The specialists giving your customers a great experience can share their triumphs readily, and you can see and feel the successes. This gives you a big customer service advantage and is why customer experience should be top of mind for small businesses.
Publish Date: July 17, 2018 5:00 AM
Customer service leads to happy customers, and happy customers keep buying your products and services. It really is that simple on the surface, but there is more nuance.
It doesn’t matter that you have excellent customer service alone, it matters how complete your offering is and how you dedicate yourself to it.
The cost of acquiring customers is high; it includes marketing budget, sales time and delivering a product. The longer you keep a customer, the more return on your investment of sales time and marketing resources.
It’s somewhere between 5 and 25 times more expensive to acquire a new customer instead of retaining one. This is why the largest companies in the world try to make you brand loyal and maintain your attention.
You should be focusing on keeping your customers over acquiring lots of new ones. The math works out as a far better way to grow your company.
So how do you keep customers? Customer service.
Your customer service is part of your sales process (even if it requires a different skillset). Think of it like you are “reselling” your customers on your product or services every time they need customer service.
You are selling them on the idea of continuing to use your product. You are giving customers confidence in their choice of your company, that they got the best deal for them (not always the least costly) and that there is no reason to look elsewhere because they are happy where they are. Whether you sell to consumers or businesses, this idea remains true. They view your support as part of the product.
By creating a great customer service moment for your customers, they will keep coming back. They can even walk away from these experiences more satisfied than they were before.
The better your customer service, the higher your retention will be. In fact, 52% of customers report poor service as their reason for leaving a provider. It’s essential to invest the time, resources and culture so your service is a full customer experience.
Everyone thinks of customer service a little bit differently. It’s easy to become too focused on one part of customer service when it’s often multi-faceted. Customer service can be as simple as an easy and responsive scheduling system, digitally or by phone, or it can be a full team of expert troubleshooters.
Your customer service should exist in multiple forms. These are a few easy things you can do to help your service:
Make sure that whatever platforms you do use, they are always manned. It doesn’t help you if your Facebook page never has anyone responding to comments. If no-one is monitoring your catch-all customer emails, then they’ll become frustrated and feel ignored.
The best piece of advice for creating a customer service experience is to engage and manage whatever platforms you do choose to use.
There are always new ways to engage with customers to help increase retention. No matter what releases, apply the above advice. If you can’t integrate it into your business or dedicate your staff to it, don’t use it.
Chatbots have become a popular addition to company websites and are a fantastic way for customers to get basic questions answered, but if you don’t have a service team to back it up for the more complicated conversations they can taint the whole customer experience before you ever get a chance to talk to them. Supporting a chatbot with both an answering service and chat representatives allows your customers to have a complete service experience for their complex needs, no matter how they choose to escalate the conversation.
Your sales process never really stops. Customer service is an extension of your sales team. They keep your customers happy and willing to spend more money with your business.
The key is to create a complete experience and dedicate yourself to your chosen platforms or work with a partner who can do that for you. If you have strong customer service, then you’ll retain more customers and grow a more profitable company.
Publish Date: July 12, 2018 5:00 AM
Call Handling Hero® — Sandra
Our May Call Handling Hero® Sandra received a call from a resident of a high-rise because water was leaking into his apartment from above. Flooding is never something anyone wants to have to deal with, and she knew she had to take action. Sandra quickly realized something wasn’t right, though, because the name of the apartment complex didn’t show up on her list of properties. She called the management company; it turns out they had just acquired the building, and the transition process was ongoing.
Sandra followed her gut, and because of it, the management company sprung into action to help the resident resolve his watery predicament and possibly save serious money on repairs. The management company was happy to assist, and Sandra was able to save a resident a headache while facilitating excellent customer service in a complicated time for any company. Sandra’s actions earned her our Call Handling Hero® award for May 2018.
Publish Date: July 3, 2018 5:00 AM
Whether you should provide great customer service isn’t a question, yet determining what form of department or partnership is right for your company can be perplexing. Factors including cost, time and effort all weigh heavily on the decision on whether to build and train an in-house customer service department or to outsource and partner with someone like an answering service.
There is more at play than just logistics, the goodwill of your customers may rest on making the right decision. If you are in the process of making this decision, we are breaking down the factors relevant to you.
Building an in-house customer service department can end up being costly, but worth it for certain companies. It’s important to factor in that hiring, training and maintaining an entire team of customer service representatives can take a lot of time and money, making this route prohibitive for some companies.
Outsourcing to an answering service partner is a great way to save on costs, risks and training time. Working with an outside partner can become complicated for highly specialized businesses, or products/services that require certifications or vast amounts of knowledge.
Ever been stuck in the elevator and been unable to field customer calls? We’ve heard of it happening. If that were to happen to one of your customer service representatives, an answering service partner could quickly step in to make sure your phones are getting answered when the unforeseen happens. This includes bad weather, internet outages and more. It could also include finding a partner in a warm climate, so the winter weather isn’t a factor for your customer service. An outside partner offers a layer of redundancy and safety against what you don’t see coming.
So far we’ve explored the idea of absolutes for the most part — either working with an outside partner or creating an in-house department. It may actually work out that the best course of action is a combination. An answering service can provide support after-hours and during lunch hours for both large and small teams. Certain partners can handle parts of your customer service business as well, answering for medical services through the night and escalating emergencies to the on-call physician or nurse.
These combinations of customer service teams allow for an efficient set-up and one that can make sure your customers are always getting what they need while also being budget friendly.
Sometimes certifications can be a restrictive part of your business, with representatives or specialists requiring precise training. This can lead to a situation where the best course of action is to create an in-house team, yet other times it can save you a headache and a lot of money working with a certified partner. HIPAA compliance is both mandatory and prohibitive when working with an outside partner, yet if they are already certified and compliant it saves you the time and energy of training a team, setting up the safeguards, and enforcing them.
The main thing when making this decision is to do what is right for your business and your customers. What will keep them happy and continuously returning to you? Complex companies should consider a hybrid or in-house solution, while many other companies would benefit from the cost savings and an expert customer service team of an answering service partner.
Publish Date: June 28, 2018 5:00 AM