Consumers are continually searching for the next best experience, whether at the hottest new restaurant, when they purchase their direct-to-consumer mattress, or use the slickest fitness app to guide their workouts. They want to be wowed by innovative and unique customer experiences. And they’ll even go out of their way and spend more money to get a great customer experience.
Unfortunately, there’s a disconnect between consumers and companies. PWC asked customers how they’d rate customer service expectations versus reality in various U.S. industries. Customers reported at least a 10% gap between what they expect versus what they get when it comes to customer experience. And, 54% of consumers say the customer experience at most companies needs to improve.
To close the gap, many companies are shifting their focus to address and improve the customer service experience. And as extra attention and higher budgets turn to customer service and your larger CX, the competition to stand out gets thicker.
Creating wow-worthy service requires more strategy and intention than ever before. To help you meet your customers’ needs, we’ve laid out five practical steps to building a better customer service experience.
5 Actionable Steps to Building a Great Customer Service Experience
Step 1: Start by improving your agents’ experience
To implement meaningful change in your customer experience, you must first meet your agents’ needs. If your agents are overworked, poorly trained, or miserable, your customers feel it.
But if your agents feel prepared, knowledgeable, and supported, they will deliver excellent service. Happy agents = happy customers.
Get a pulse on how your agents are doing before focusing on CX. Prioritize spending time with each of your agents. Ask them questions directly about their experiences, strengths, and weaknesses.
What do they love about working for you? What areas need improvement? Are they meeting their KPIs? Do they like their teammates? How about the way you give feedback?
It’s also important to discover what your agents expect from you as a call center manager. You play a vital role in developing good agents and meeting their needs. Make sure you’re open to feedback and willing to make changes based on what you learn. And, outside of your 1:1s and formal meetings, make yourself (and your supervisors) available to your agents when they have questions or concerns. Responsive leaders create satisfied agents.
Once you have a grasp on your agents, you can shift your focus to developing a strong CX strategy.
Step 2: Create a clear vision for your customer service experience
A strong CX strategy requires buy-in from your entire team. Successful companies unite their employees around a clear vision and mission that puts the customer first. And then, they make that mission visible to every customer. Executives, managers, and agents all need to be a part of the conversation when defining visions and goals for your contact center.
Once you have a common vision, create strategic objectives and then define tactics to reach your goals. For example, if one of your objectives is to raise CSAT scores to 90% or higher, your tactics can be tasks like refining your survey and improving agent coaching based on the feedback you collect.
Whatever objectives you choose, be sure they have measurable KPIs and align with your vision.
Step 3: Work backward from the experience you want to deliver
Apple is known for their unique and personable customer experience. One reason for their success is because founder Steve Jobs advocated for “beginning with the customer experience and working backward to the technology.” Apple started by thinking about what customers want and then did the work to deliver.
To build a strong CX, discover what your customers want, then work backward.
Map out every customer touchpoint, from initial engagement to long-term relationship, from minor to major interaction. Then, find the gaps between what you currently deliver and what you want to deliver.
Once you spot gaps, you’ll know where to focus your attention on improvements. Are your agents struggling to keep up with demands? Consider tools that would ease your agents’ workload and improve customer wait times. Do your teams need to be more knowledgeable? Insert in-line training and micro-learning exercises into daily queues.
Working backward helps you remain customer-centric and laser-focused on how and where to make improvements.
Step 4: Stop saying “I don’t know” to your team
Whether you mean it or not, saying “I don’t know” to your agents implies “I don’t care.” A dismissive attitude makes your agents think you don’t care about their questions or concerns. And if they feel that way, they’ll more than likely pass off that attitude to your customers.
This doesn’t mean you need an answer to every question. In fact, it’s good to acknowledge that you don’t have all the answers and that you’re still learning, too. But if you don’t know the answer to an agent’s question, express willingness to find the answer. Try a response like, “That’s a great question. I’m not sure, but I’ll find the answer for you.”
(But don’t stop there: go find the answer!)
If you’re responsive and actively learning and growing, your agents will notice. They will see that you care about them personally. Plus, if you respond positively to their questions, they’ll mirror that attitude with your customers. They’ll know it’s okay not to have all the answers, but they’ll feel more empowered to find them.
Your customers will appreciate the can-do attitude and personal care. And customers are all about personalized and knowledgeable service, so a simple attitude shift goes a long way.
Step 5: Continue to collect feedback and iterate
After implementing some initial changes to your customer service experience, collect data and feedback to see how they’re playing out. Check if your changes are positively influencing your KPIs through detailed insights and analytics. And take advantage of customer and agent surveys to see how perceptions and sentiments improve, too.
Open up opportunities for feedback and get a feedback loop going with your internal teams, and with your customers. Creating a better customer service experience isn’t a one-time event. Nor does it adhere to a one-size-fits-all format.
To be successful, keep looking for ways to improve. Continue to set goals and reevaluate them. Ask thoughtful questions to really understand how your company is meeting or falling short of expectations. Listening to understand is the first step to closing the gap. The more you engage with your agents and customers, the more they feel valued and trusted. And the more you learn about their expectations, the more you can deliver excellent service.
Revamping your CX strategy may feel daunting. But if you lean on your team and your customers for help, you’ll create a customer service experience your competitors can’t beat.
We originally published this article on July 17, 2018 and we updated it for new insight on January 7, 2020.