4 Ways to Achieve Customer-First Support

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Creating and maintaining a strong customer service team is one of the most important considerations you can make for your business. In fact, a Customer Service Barometer study by American Express found that 68% of survey respondents agreed that the right representative is necessary for creating a positive experience. Of those people, 62% said that the customer service agent’s knowledge and resourcefulness are what make them a sought-out representative.

So how do these customer service representatives work to achieve the perfect customer service resume? Beyond basic skills and experience, it’s all about creating a customer-first experience.

What Is Customer-First Support?

The customer-first approach is a simple concept. It’s all about creating a personalized interaction from the moment the conversation begins until it ends. It’s about recognizing that while you may be behind a phone or computer, you’re still speaking to an actual person who is not only confiding in you with their issues, but is trusting you to provide them with the support and solutions they need. Customers want agents to interact with them just as they would engage with someone in person who can provide assistance.

While customer-first support is highly reliant on a strong customer service agent, technology plays a major supplemental role in achieving it. Taking an omnichannel approach at customer service and meeting your customer needs wherever they are is critical. The right CRM platform can ensure success in achieving customer-first support via intelligent automation so your customer service agents can provide assistance with high-level, complex issues while chatbots assist more basic and immediate needs. But remember, the customer always comes first.

4 Ways to Achieve Customer-First Support

Customer expectations have evolved past closed tickets and short resolution times. To succeed in today’s ever-changing world, brands must take a customer-first approach to service and support. Here’s how to achieve it in four simple steps.

1. Understand the Emotions of Your Customers

Do you know what percentage of your customers are happy, satisfied or disappointed? Understanding the emotional state of your customers, and adding empathy to the conversation, makes the experience more meaningful, and agents can have conversations that truly help customers.

The top difference between a good agent and a great agent is their ability to express empathy. Empathy is enabled by sensing someone’s emotions. Sentiment scores within your customer service software should give your agents:

  • Updates and reporting in real-time.
  • The ability to segment customers by sentiment data.
  • Sentiment-based workflow automations.

By pairing sentiment data with the right agent skills, it’s easier to master the skill of mirroring to make customers more comfortable. Mirroring, even if doing something as simple as using casual terms as you would with a friend, can go a long way in building a customer relationship. A customer service agent must know the appropriate tone to use to calm frustration, convey understanding of the issue, and express empathy.

2. Encourage Actual Conversations

Enabling true, personal conversations requires a mindset shift from transactional support to conversational support. Conversational support, service and experience are methods of helping customers that focus on building a long-term relationship, rather than resolving a series of issues. Agents are there to provide real value, not just to solve a problem or process a transaction. They use context and conversations to make it easy for customers to get help while allowing agents to provide more personalized service at scale.

3. Embrace Omnichannel and Break Down Silos

Meeting customers when and where they want pays off. In fact, according to a Kustomer study, 88% of consumers get frustrated when they can’t contact a company on the channel they prefer. The brands that deliver omnichannel support will win additional brand loyalty.

Don’t think it’s just “newer” channels like social media that need your attention, though.

“Your business results depend on your brand’s ability to retain and add customers,” according to Olive Huang, the research director at Gartner. “You must win at every interaction the customer has with your organization, whether that be a marketing campaign, a call to a contact center, an invoice, or a delivery reliant on the supply chain. Every department must play its part in a coordinated fashion.”

The days of isolated call centers are gone. CX leaders need to partner and collaborate with other departments to make improvements throughout the entire customer life cycle.

4. Reinvent Your CS Titles and Hiring Process

Names are powerful, and for customer service teams, names set the tone for customer interactions. An “agent” is a transactional term, ideal for reactive problem-solving. Many modern CX organizations are reinventing the names, skill sets and training of their customer service teams because of the importance of the experience to customer value.

Calling your support agents something like “Happiness Agents” would not be wise if they consistently deliver low CSAT numbers and aren’t empowered to actually generate happiness. While names set expectations, you have to make sure that you are able to execute on those expectations. That’s where the principles of a customer-first approach can deliver true value.

How Kustomer Can Help

Shifting to a customer-first support strategy allows you to achieve this, giving you a competitive advantage and a positive reputation in your industry. With Kustomer’s Guide to Achieving Customer-First Service, you can gain the knowledge and leverage needed to navigate away from outdated customer service mechanisms, learn how to hire the right people for your customer service team and understand how to create a customer feedback loop between your customer service and marketing teams for a seamless strategy.

To learn more about how to deliver customer-first support, download the full guide here.

How to Measure the Intangible Benefits of a Customer Service Solution

When companies begin to look for customer service solutions, it’s often because there are major issues they need to solve. But oftentimes, these issues are intangible things such as a general lack of efficiency, a sense of ineffectiveness, a need for call deflection and other matters that seem hard to quantify. The benefits of customer service might seem hard to measure at first.

After identifying concrete and intangible challenges, the next step for companies is to find a way to resolve those issues and ultimately achieve customer service success. This certainly won’t happen overnight, but the process is worth it when you consider the benefits of quality customer service for your customers as well as your company as a whole.

Here, we describe the characteristics and benefits of excellent customer service and cover how to measure them.

What Are the Benefits of Good Customer Service?

Let’s explore some of the top benefits of customer service excellence for the customer, agent and business — and how you can measure them:

Increased Customer Service Efficiency

An efficient process is one that requires little input but yields maximum output. Improved efficiency in a customer service environment means that you empower your customer support agents to do less and help more. The advantages of this are increased productivity, higher-quality customer service and a stronger sense of job satisfaction. After all, how many employees want to work harder and produce fewer results?

Using Kustomer, agents can use shortcut words to type a complete sentence with just a #hashtag, while quick keys allow them to use the keyboard instead of the mouse. With these tools, some agents can handle multiple chat screens while others are better able to process emails more quickly. Additionally, the Kustomer timeline surfaces all customer interactions on a single screen, preventing the need to bounce back and forth between different systems.

All of these elements lead to a more efficient and productive workforce. Organizations that demonstrate improved efficiency can track improvements through customer satisfaction metrics like faster resolution times and an increase in the number of conversations each agent handles.

Greater Customer Service Effectiveness

Increased effectiveness means making it easier for agents to excel at their jobs. This involves providing agents with the right customer service training, tools and resources to successfully resolve customer issues and offer personalized support.

For example, Kustomer’s actionable context cards allow agents to do things like issue refunds directly from their screens and easily route conversations to other agents who can provide the right type of assistance.

Companies that increase customer service effectiveness realize benefits through improved customer satisfaction (CSAT) scores, faster case resolution times and higher customer retention rates.

Improved Customer Deflection

Companies that can deflect easily avoidable customer support conversations free up agents’ time for more complex issues.

This can be done by providing resources like an easily accessible knowledge base or FAQ section which deflect simple questions like the company’s hours of operation, store locations and refund policies. Even an AI chatbot can address immediate needs before transferring customers to a live chat with a skilled agent when needed. Additionally, proactive outreach capabilities allow agents to address customer concerns before they arise. An example might be sending a notification to all customers in a certain region that an impending storm system may delay shipments.

Not only are these self-service resources beneficial for customers, who can get immediate answers with very little effort, but they also take a burden off of customer care agents who then have the bandwidth to handle higher-level issues. Organizations that successfully deflect customer support conversations witness the benefits of good customer service by seeing a lower number of new cases and more favorable customer effort scores (CES).

Enhanced Satisfaction and Loyalty

The ability to give or receive exceptional customer support can boost customer satisfaction as well as agent satisfaction (ASAT). All of the above benefits of customer service help establish a more loyal and content workforce as well as a community of happy customers, both of which are critical to business success.

Brand advocates are more likely to spread positive messages about your company to friends and family members, post glowing product reviews or employer feedback, and offer sustained support for your company. New employees and customers are more expensive to acquire, so facilitating a great employee and customer experience should be a top priority. Metrics for measuring success in this area include CSAT score, ASAT score and net promoter score (NPS) as well as customer and employee retention rates and churn.

Better-Informed Business Decision-Makers

In addition to the more obvious advantages of customer care success, such as a bottom-line boost and increased word-of-mouth reach, there are also benefits of evaluating customer service experience and performance.

Who Benefits From Good Customer Service?

The answer to this question really is that everyone involved benefits from excellent customer service. If you think about it, what is the purpose of good customer service if not to create more satisfied and loyal customers, happier and more successful agents and a healthier bottom line?

There really are benefits of providing quality customer service for the customer, the agent and the business as a whole. In many cases, when one aspect is improved, all stakeholders will experience the positive impact. The results of good customer service and the advantages of service quality improvements can often be felt instinctively, but they can also be quantified with some of the top customer satisfaction metrics.

Maintaining good customer service standards involves tracking KPIs and monitoring important customer service metrics. Armed with insights like CES, CSAT, net promoter score, sentiment analysis, resolution time, call abandonment rate, resolution rate and customer retention, decisionmakers can implement data-driven, customer-centric changes and continue monitoring the results.

Now that you’re familiar with some of the key benefits of a good customer service solution, find out what specific tools and features you should be looking for in our buyer’s guide.

Top 3 Trends from NRF 2020

NRF’s Big Show has just wrapped up, and after three days packed to the brim with insights from leading retailers, one thing is clear: a focus on the customer is essential in today’s competitive retail market. Whether you’re a digital-first disruptor brand or a legacy company who has transitioned into the 21st century, an exceptional customer experience drives business success. Read on to learn the top three trends we saw at NRF 2020.

Customers Take Center Stage

Brands are constantly talking about “customer obsession”. It’s a buzzy phrase, but it doesn’t quite get to the bottom of how you should be treating customers, only that you should be obsessing over them. According to Alex Genov, Manager of Research and User Experience at Zappos, “customer care” is far better than obsession. When brands really, truly care about their customers, and build a company culture that supports this care, they’re able to be leaders in their space.

And employees can truly make all the difference. Stacy Siegal, Executive Vice President and General Counsel of AEO Inc, the parent company of American Eagle, revealed that their associates were renamed “brand ambassadors”. They are empowered to be able to handle problems themselves, and advocate for the brand. In essence, everyone that works at AEO is a leader, and they are empowered to own the brand’s success. Damu McCoy, Vice President of Talent Acquisition at Target, agrees with this concept. Target customers are called “guests”, and when they are looking to hire new talent they search for individuals that embody their values: guest-focused and guest-centric.

Building Deeper Connections with Consumers

The best way to build brand loyalty and advocacy is by establishing deep connections with consumers over shared values. That’s what we learned from Annie Agle, Director of Impact and Brand at Cotopaxi, and Kelly Cobb, VP of Community and Giving at Bombas. Both are successful brands that put giving back at the core of their strategy. This approach has naturally led to a “community” of customer advocates that feel as though their values are reflected in the brands they do business with, and find kinship with other customers of that brand.

Pooja Agarwal, Chief Operating Officer of Birchbox, also described how the subscription service has built a community of loyal followers over the past decade. First they identified their target audience, one that had been historically underserved. They encourage social sharing and also take pride in the fact that their employees are part of this community. It isn’t just the customer service team that is handling CS…all employees are answering questions, handling tickets and understanding customer feedback.

Additionally, transparency and feedback is essential to build these deeper connections. After a recent snafu with fulfillment, Rent the Runway vowed complete transparency to their customers and committed to do the right thing. Instead of angry customers, they actually found that this honesty and transparency fostered greater loyalty in their customer base, said CEO Jennifer Hyman. Angle of Cotopaxi agreed. Perfection is hard to achieve, and the company acknowledges its shortcomings and is open about where they want to improve.

All of these actions build trust and deep connections with a community of customers, and these customers become your advocates, not just you buyers. According to Pinterest retail strategist Amy Vener, individuals are looking towards their community for recommendations, rather than sponsored content or influencers. So the more that retail brands can build this community of loyal customer advocates, the more successful they will be.

Shopping for the Experience

In a panel with the founder of JRNI and the Senior Manager of Brand Experience and Events of Total Wine & More, it became abundantly clear that customer experience is more central than ever before for business success. While individuals used to shop out of necessity or convenience, experience is now the leading reason.

Therefore, it is hyper-important to provide the best possible experience, both in-store and online. Keith Neely, VP of E-Commerce and Digital Marketing at Case-Mate, emphasized how providing a seamless experience directly correlated with repeat customers for his business.

The most prominent example of providing a true “experience” for customers, is the new Nordstrom flagship store in New York City. CEO Erik Nordstrom explained in his keynote that stores now must be more experiential, not just a place to buy an item and leave. In the Nordstrom flagship they have a bar in the shoe department, various restaurants, and a whole floor for beauty treatments.

As Nordstrom said, customers don’t use the word “channel”. The lines are completely blurred, and they look for a singular experience no matter whether they are shopping in-store, online, on social or mobile. The customer experience should be unified, and it reigns supreme.

 

4 Easy Ways to Strengthen Your Brand Through Customer Service in 2020

Have you ever ended a call with a customer service agent thinking that you’d never want to go through such a horrible experience again? You probably shared your experiences with friends and family, or went so far as posting your negative thoughts across social media.

One angry consumer not only means a lost customer, but could also mean a hit to your brand or a PR nightmare. Your customer service agents need tools that promote a positive experience for each and every customer. The following are four easy ways to strengthen your brand through customer service in 2020.

Speak with Customer in the Ways They Want to Communicate

Enabling your agents to service customers on their preferred channels, whether that be e-mail, chat, SMS, voice, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger or Twitter, strengthens the bond between companies and their customers. Consumers expect brands to be available on each and every channel they regularly use, but oftentimes tracking conversations and interactions across channels can be a challenge for agents. With Kustomer, conversations across channels converge into a single thread on a single screen, resulting in a seamless and effortless conversation. By breaking down the communication silos of traditional multichannel solutions that fragment service experiences, cause agent collision, and frustrate customers, Kustomer ensures a true omnichannel experience for customers and agents alike.

Reach out to Your Customers Proactively

Customers understand that problems happen all the time. Proactive communication allows companies to keep their customers updated on issues like delays in shipping, out of stock items or product updates. Customers empathize that problems arise and feel valued when kept in the loop, while inbound inquiries are reduced due to proactive outreach. Some organizations turn their CX organization into a revenue center by sending offers based on purchase history, deep insights or to encourage repeat purchases. With all of your data in the Kustomer platform, your customer service team can proactively communicate to deflect issues and delight customers.

Measure Your Customer Sentiment

Agents need to understand the mood of the customer before the conversation begins. Sentiment determines the direction of the conversation, which agent should handle the customer and how to handle the interaction. Customers are happy because agents can immediately empathize with their emotions. Agents are happy because they are aware of the customer’s current disposition and are trained to handle difficult interactions appropriately. Tracking customers’ sentiment helps agents decide how to best prioritize and engage in conversations, and provides management with a critical metric for overall customer service effectiveness.

Know Everything About Your Customers

Companies that develop deep insights about their customers, and leverage them appropriately to provide personalization, will improve their brand image. Tracking important customer information like birthdays, anniversaries or most recently purchased items on a customer timeline softens conversations and makes for a memorable experience. Agents can see deep insights quickly and easily and can, for instance, wish their customers a happy birthday. A personalized call can switch sentiment from potentially hostile to neutral or even positive. Kustomer connects your agents to all of your customers’ data from internal and third-party systems, providing a holistic timeline view for more productive and efficient conversations.

Strengthening your brand begins with asking tough questions. Is customer sentiment appropriate for your business? Is speaking with your customers through an omnichannel approach important? What types of customer information would you track that could impact your brand? Once these questions are answered, a platform like Kustomer could help you kickstart a successful 2020.

See the Kustomer Platform in Action

 

Multichannel Support Is Not Omnichannel Support. Here’s Why.

We live in a world of instant gratification. Consumers expect to be able to contact your brand anywhere, anytime. Their needs must be immediately recognized, and they demand high-quality results on the channels that are most convenient in their greatest times of need. But true omnichannel support is more than simply communicating with customers on every channel. Read on to learn the difference between omnichannel vs. multichannel support, and how an omnichannel approach can transform your level of service.

What’s the Big Difference?

Let’s clear the air – multichannel support is not omnichannel support. Unfortunately, the terms have almost become interchangeable, with many companies and technology providers conflating the two. Multichannel support simply means offering consumers more than one method for contacting customer service.

Why Multichannel Support Isn’t Sufficient

In a multichannel support environment each channel lives in its own silo with its own dedicated team of agents. There is limited communication or sharing of information between channels. Most of the time, when a customer contacts a company, the team manning that channel will create a ticket. If the customer then contacts the company through a different channel about the same issue, a second ticket will be created with each team working their respective tickets. For example, if a customer had spoken to an agent first on chat and now via email, the chat team and email team would have no record of each other’s conversations with the customer.

As a result of this fragmented experience, customers will have to take the time to repeat to the second agent what they told the first agent. In addition, multichannel support leads companies to focus on resolving tickets, rather than building stronger customer relationships, because agents lack a holistic view of each customer.

How Omnichannel Support Elevates Your Service

Omnichannel support, by comparison, shifts the perspective from ticket resolution to customer relationship building. Customers have the freedom to move between channels throughout their engagement, and are guaranteed consistency, so each conversation starts where the last ended. True omnichannel support requires:

âś“ Being available on any channel the customer wants to use to contact the company
âś“ A customer-centric not ticket-centric approach to support
âś“ Enabling customers and agents to freely move across channels throughout a single conversation
âś“ Placing each customer in touch with the most appropriate resource as quickly as possible to ensure consistency and quality
âś“ Agents to have a real-time view into the conversations that occur on all the available channels, so they have context of the issue, without needing the customer to repeat any information

Omnichannel support, if executed properly, provides a consistent experience for customers at every touchpoint after acquisition. Unfortunately, many companies struggle to create this type of service environment because sharing data between channels takes a technological overhaul. But the benefits far outweigh the costs, and the right omnichannel strategy will succeed by maximizing the resources you have without overextending them.

To read our full omnichannel guide, and learn how Kustomer can enable you to execute true omnichannel support, click here.

Download Omnichannel Guide

 

What to Look for in a Modern Day Customer Service Software Solution

Consumer expectations are growing. In fact, 66% of consumers aged 25 to 44 believe that the customer is always right, almost 35% higher than those over 65. That means the younger generation is expecting more from the brands they choose to shop with, and companies must keep up. But how do you accomplish that?

Without endless resources, delivering seamless and personalized service, on every channel, can be an intimidating challenge. Luckily, technology can help. But just as consumer expectations have shifted rapidly, so has the way we do business. Finding a software solution that is built for the modern age is of the utmost importance.

Customer-Centric, Not Ticket-Centric

Think of it this way. Just fifteen years ago, the iPhone didn’t exist. Twitter didn’t exist. And customer service software wasn’t built to accommodate the expectations and channels of today’s customers. A modern day customer service solution treats customers like people, not tickets.

Many customer service solutions on the market today are ticket-based, meaning they identify the customer as an attribute of an inbound or outbound message and build the communication around that ticket. These systems prioritize the metric of a “done ticket” over a customer relationship.

In contrast, modern day customer service solutions focus on the customer at the center of each interaction. By tying existing applications, business processes, and performance to the experience of the customer, companies are able to deliver more human interactions, as they know the full context and history of that customer and how they’ve interacted with the brand in the past.

Focusing on the customer may also inspire changes in your business beyond the changes in your CX process. Building a customer-centric mindset increases the chance of evolving your business in response to customer feedback, not theories.

What Makes a Modern Day Customer Service Platform

Holistic Customer View ✓
Every customer has a timeline unique to their history of purchases, omnichannel interactions, orders and returns – combining all internal and external data into one actionable view.

Powerful Automation ✓
AI and machine learning enhances agent productivity and assesses the needs of your customers in real time to deliver the best outcome in the shortest time.

Truly Omnichannel ✓
Agents can seamlessly switch engagement channels in real time within the same conversation, easily toggling between channels.

Understands Sentiment ✓
Know how your customers actually feel and gain actionable insights across every support channel and interaction.

Customizable To Your Business ✓
Fully actionable integrations with any existing system – internal or external. Let your customer service software match your business.

Download Kustomer’s full Buyer’s Guide to learn what you should be looking for in a customer service software solution, how to evaluate potential partners and how to measure success.

Download Buyer’s Guide


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