If you are struggling to differentiate your brand, what is one of the most important number one thing you can do? Focus on high-quality customer experiences.
According to a 2020 Gladly Consumer Expectations Report, 79% of customers say personalized experience is more important than personalized marketing, and 77% will recommend a brand that offers personal service to friends and family.
That’s because customers are willing to spend more money for a great experience—more so than for low prices and high-quality products. And those same customers are likely to stick around year-after-year.
Investing in customer service can make your brand the one that customers want to do business with. When you provide value beyond making a purchase, your customers will respond positively. Let’s take a look at what this means.
Why is Customer Service Important?
Making your brand customer-focused is critical to your success. According to a HubSpot report on the State of Customer Service in 2020, today’s customers have higher expectations than ever before, according to 93% of service teams. “Customers are also smarter, more skeptical, and have more options than ever before.”
And according to CX experts in The Global State of Customer Experience 2020:
- 43% believe that customers are more impatient than ever before.
- 52% believe customers are more willing than ever to switch brands if unsatisfied.
- 47% believe it’s getting harder to please customers.
As for consumers, 70% of their buying decisions are based on customer experience, according to Cisco’s Customer Experience in 2020 report. So developing and delivering exceptional customer experiences is essential. In sales alone, poor customer service is costing companies $1.6 trillion.
However, for those companies that highlight customer service:
- They can expect a 3X greater return on stock performance than CX laggards (Watermark Consulting).
- They can expect almost 2X higher year-over-year growth in customer retention, repeat purchase rates, and customer lifetime value (Forrester and Adobe).
Summary: Overcome Call Center Challenges with a Quality Assurance Tool
So what does customer service as a differentiator look like for your brand? It means a better bottom line. Customer experience is linked to happier customers, greater brand loyalty, and increased revenues. According to Salesforce, 66% of customers (82% of businesses) will pay more for a great experience.
The question then is, how do you design, manage, and optimize the customer experience in your call center to differentiate yourself over your competitors? It takes investing your time, money, and resources, but when done properly, you’ll set yourself up for both short- and long-term success.
Here are 10 tips to develop customer service as a differentiator for your contact center.
Tip #1: Hire Customer Service-Focused Contact Center Agents
Contact center agents can easily be taught hard skills, such as how to answer phones or use a script to communicate. However, teaching soft skills is more difficult and can take much more time and training. That’s why it’s best to hire customer service agents with excellent soft skills from the beginning.
Contact center agents should have:
- Communications skills—the ability to communicate with customers
- Emotional Intelligence—the ability to handle emotions—yours and others
- Adaptability—the ability to be flexible and react in any situation
- Initiative—the ability to meet goals set by themselves and others
- Teamwork—the ability to work in a structured environment
- Empathy—the ability to demonstrate emotional intelligence
- Integrity—the ability to handle customers and follow processes honestly
- Problem Solving—the ability to find answers and learn new things
To hire for these customer service soft skills, you need to review resumes for soft skills, implement soft skills interview questions, and call references to crosscheck. If you do this, you should be able to accurately determine how well a potential agent will meet your needs before signing on the dotted line.
Tip #2: Implement Best Practices for Every Customer Interaction
Every customer interaction is a chance to differentiate your brand. That’s why on every call, within every email, and through every chat, it’s essential to focus on how well your agents meet customer experience best practices. For example:
- Tone of Voice: Does your agent’s tone match the caller, create empathy, and move the conversation along?
- Active Listening: How well do your agents listen to your customers and create the feeling of “being heard.”
- Speak Normally: On the phone, agents need to speak at a normal speed that feels conversational.
- Language: Agents should have the freedom to be themselves and use humor, personalization, and storytelling to promote customer trust.
- Rapport: Do your agents demonstrate emotional intelligence and create connections with your customers through empathy?
Tip #3: Manage Customer Expectations
As we have discussed, customer expectations are greater than ever before. Customers are smarter, more impatient, and want more personalized connections with your brand. It’s essential to manage these expectations appropriately so your customers know how their service stands up to your standards.
For example, if you can respond on live chat within 30 seconds but email within 24 hours, make that information clear. At the same time, match your ability to provide customer service to your customer. Customers have different expectations depending on the channel they use to contact you.
Make sure your performance metrics are on par with customer needs—customers don’t want to spend hours on the phone or waiting for a response on live chat while getting a response to a Tweet can be delayed.
Tip #4: Make Emotional Intelligence a Priority
Emotions greatly impact your customers purchasing decisions—both positively and negatively. In fact, customers with positive emotions toward a brand become advocates (74%) and loyal customers (64%).
Emotional intelligence—the ability to optimize the way a customer feels during and after a contact center interaction—is critical to customer success. That’s because every decision, judgment, memory, and interaction is influenced by our emotions.
To demonstrate emotional intelligence in the contact center, your agents must:
- Anticipate customer requests
- Deliver explanations and justifications
- Educate customers
- Build rapport
- Provide emotional support
- Offer personal information
Ideally, you would create a benchmark for emotional intelligence at each customer touchpoint. Then, you would monitor and quantify your agent’s success at reaching that particular benchmark in a measurable way. Scorecards are a great way to do this by offering you a way to measure how well the agent recognized the customer’s mood, how well they met the customer’s needs, and how they changed the customer’s perception positively or negatively.
Tip #5: Follow Call Center Script Best Practices
When agents start out, a call center script can be an invaluable tool for interacting with customers. And even as agents familiarize themselves with their roles, scripts are great for encouraging information consistency, offering guidance, and directing language for common situations.
The key for call center management is to ensure the script is used when and how it works best:
- As a shortcut for agents to use to find the right information and provide appropriate answers.
- As a failsafe to keep agents on track, accurate, and consistent during difficult calls.
- As a guideline for handling customer problems and providing consistent customer experiences.
When a call center script is used to empower your agents to be more effective, it can increase your customer satisfaction scores and feel customized completely to each customer. Check out these 15 call center script best practices to get started.
Tip #6: Provide Call Center Soft Skills Training
Soft skills do not magically appear over time. You have to create a training plan to help your agents develop the skills they need through both self-study and live training. The key to soft skills training is consistency, practice, and commitment. Then, after just eight months of this training, you can expect a 250% return on your investment due to increased productivity, better efficiency, and improved employee retention.
To create an effective soft skills training program, there are six steps you need to take:
- Create an environment where training is considered valuable and desirable.
- Put an evaluation mechanism in place for assessing your training goals.
- Set soft skills goals for the entire team and then for each agent individually.
- Develop a structured training plan that makes training a priority.
- Provide time for agents to assess, reflect on, and reinforce their training.
- Implement regular soft skills training exercises for continuous development.
Tip #7: Implement a Learning Management System
As we explained in Tip #6, soft skills training is critical to success. Unfortunately, only 65% of companies provide effective tools for training. This can make it difficult to teach your agents how to go above and beyond to deliver exceptional customer experiences.
A call center learning management system (LMS) can change the game by helping you educate your agents on everything from compliance to customer engagement, agent soft skills, and performance. An LMS helps you manage, track, and achieve your customer experience and call quality goals anytime and anywhere through course management and blended learning.
With an LMS in place, you can positively impact your call quality outcomes by:
- Providing efficient and effective employee onboarding.
- Tracking and scoring current QA metrics.
- Improving employee retention by supporting up-skilling and knowledge sharing.
- Developing learning content to address skills and competence gaps.
- Nurturing learning through one-on-one engagement and powerful learning processes.
- Measuring call center agent improvement through robust analysis and reporting features.
- Incentivizing and rewarding agents for hitting training goals and reaching significant milestones.
Tip #8: Empower Your Agents
Empowering your agents is one of the easiest ways to help then feel appreciated and valued. And when you create a culture of empowerment, your agents feel supported and able to make and implement decisions that positively impact the customer experience. This results in:
- Quicker responses to customer questions, which drastically improves the customer experience for 71% of customers.
- More pleasant customer interactions, which is essential for 68% of customers.
- Enhance knowledge and resourcefulness during customer interactions, which is critical to 62% of customers.
To empower your call center agents to provide this improved customer service experience, it starts with not micro-managing. You have to give your agents authority and trust to get their jobs done. Then, give them the tools they need—such as contact monitoring scorecards, predictive analytics, and performance analytics—to do their jobs. From there, implement call center best practices alongside high-quality training (which we talked about above).
And finally: don’t penalize mistakes. Instead, ensure that your agents are able to work across channels and teams efficiently and easily.
Tip #9: Provide Omnichannel Support
According to Marketing Week, today’s consumers use an average of six touchpoints to communicate with brands, with nearly 50% of consumers regularly using more than four. So, it shouldn’t be a surprise that omnichannel customer support is critical to making customer service a differentiator for your brand. When used correctly, omnichannel support allows you to provide a seamless customer experience, offer real-time assistance, and connect with customers regardless of the service channel they use.
To implement successful omnichannel support, you have to provide real-time assistance regardless of how the customer contacts you. This requires:
- Implementing contact center technology, at minimum a CRM, that makes customer data accessible in real-time on any customer-facing channel.
- Empowering agents to be authentic and relevant across channels by delivering consistent messaging.
- Personalizing the customer experience via channel, which means knowing who the customer is and their needs, so they don’t have to repeat themselves or update their preferences every time.
- Planning routing strategies so that the right customer is directed to the right agent on the right channel.
- Performing regular QA across channels to help you monitor, measure, and manage all aspects of the customer experience.
Tip #10: Implement the Right QA Process
Finally, how you measure success or failure within your call center is critical to the customer experience. It’s not enough to just look at simple metrics such as “average handle time.” Instead, you need to know what really matters when it comes to providing powerful customer service that satisfies your customers.
To start, you need to measure the correct call center quality metrics and data that focus on things such as productivity, sales, customer satisfaction, and quality. In particular, there are three QA data sections you need to monitor:
- Business Critical Metrics deal with the development of a documented approach to QA and the customer experience, ensuring higher performance and continuous improvement.
- Customer Critical Metrics focus on the customer experience and how well the agent understood the customer’s problem and provided a solution.
- Process Critical Metrics review what happened after every customer interaction and offer detailed notes in the CRM.
Just make sure you don’t focus on only what NOT to do. Instead, highlight what works well and then train your team to implement these best practices.
Customer Service as a Differentiator During a Global Crisis
During a global crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, great customer service is more important than ever. You have to be prepared to go above and beyond your normal day-to-day activities to meet your customers’ new needs and avoid tarnishing your reputation or damaging your operations.
First and foremost, you need to develop a crisis communication plan that helps you prepare your business for any crisis—large and small. This plan offers a roadmap for your management team and employees throughout the crisis. From there, follow our seven crisis communication tips for great customer service (read more in our blog here).
- Gather all necessary information about the crisis and how it could impact your business.
- Develop a crisis management team, including a crisis manager, emergency director, and legal advisor.
- Create a central database of knowledge for the crisis that is regularly updated with all essential knowledge for handling your business and customers.
- Prepare crisis management customer service responses that are realistic, clear, helpful, empathetic, and consistent.
- Make emotional intelligence a priority, demonstrating compassion and empathy in every interaction.
- Ensure management is always available via social media, email, text, internal systems, and phone.
- Provide omnichannel support to engage your customers where they need you most.
Track the Success of Your Customer Service with Scorecards
An all-in-one contact center quality assurance system such as Scorebuddy offers the tools you need to ensure that customer service is a differentiator for your company. It enables your leadership team to engage with agents about their performance and opens up communication, so agents learn where and how they need to improve, and how they are already succeeding.
In particular, Scorebuddy Scorecards offer the ability to monitor every customer interaction through self-evaluation. In this way, you can really break down how well your agent meets customer expectations and delivers customer satisfaction. You can use Scorecards to measure both traditional and non-traditional call center metrics to suit your needs, setting QA score rules and policies.
From there, you can see the anatomy of really great customer service, including patterns and trends for improvement. In the end, Scorebuddy empowers you to improve the customer service experience across multiple sectors.