It’s not a secret that good customer service equates to good customer experience. And those good customer experiences lead to more sales and more profits for your company. In fact, according to research by Zendesk, 73% of business leaders report a direct link between their business performance and their customer service.
The Value of Excellent Customer Service
With customer service playing such a critical role in the success of your business, it just makes sense to work toward being a customer service leader in your industry. After all, if you want to improve your company’s customer service skills, you’ll need to show your employees how it’s done.
Yet, it’s not enough to pay lip service to quality customer service. If you’re going to focus on improving the customer experience in your company, you need to know how to make it happen. You want your customer service team to have excellent leadership.
You want your customers to feel comfortable speaking to your representatives, and you want your representatives to feel safe and supported in your company so that they can focus on giving your customers the best service they can.
How to Become a Great Customer Service Leader
Leading customer service starts with strong management. That doesn’t mean ruling with an iron fist. It means modeling the type of empathy, problem-solving, and communication you want your employees to use when working with customers.
Before implementing any new customer service leadership strategies, be sure you have the right people in leadership positions. When it comes to customer service, it’s imperative to lead by example.
Remove Barriers to Effective Customer Service
When you examine the role of leadership in customer service, it’s important to remember that you are able to make changes – not only react to them. Those working in the customer service trenches probably know all the things that make their job difficult at times. Tap into this valuable information source to improve what your people can do.
For example, if you have outdated software that loads slowly, it doesn’t make sense to have rapid responses as one of your core customer service strategies. A customer service representative with a frustrated customer on the line shouldn’t be begging for patience as the company software takes its sweet time to get to the screen they need to help solve the problem. Amplifying the voice of the customer is crucial.
Trust your employees to find the barriers to effective customer service and then work on their behalf to resolve them. This might mean finding better technology, updating software, and improving communication. Give customer service leadership some autonomy in finding the right solutions to individual customer problems.
Be Humans First
There is a temptation in leadership to look at employees as cogs in a machine. When you focus on the numbers, employees become pieces of the greater picture rather than individuals. Remember, that every person has their strengths and weaknesses.
While it’s important to track and follow the numbers, it’s just as important to treat your people like humans. Kindness, empathy, and quality communication are critical. Happy employees who feel secure in their workplaces and know that their leaders act and treat them fairly will translate into more personable interactions with consumers.
There is power in a public celebration. When your team does well, celebrate it loudly! Bring in a little treat for everyone after making it through a tough day together or when you’ve hit a new goal. Praise individuals who go above and beyond in person and in public to let your team know that the management notices and values their hard work.
Focus on both individual and team wins as often as possible. You don’t have to huddle up every day, but don’t wait months or even weeks to celebrate achievements. Praising someone once per year on their work anniversary isn’t going to create the culture you’re likely trying to build.
Build Up Your Customer Service Protocols
Your customer service team shouldn’t be going in blind. They should be well-trained and know the company’s protocols. That means you must establish the right protocols and training for onboarding.
Of course, every company must determine the best practices for them. Here are the top suggestions for excellent customer service:
- Try to empathize with customers. Understanding where the customer is coming from and why they are so upset can do a great deal to de-escalate a conflict and make customers feel heard.
- Use polite, positive language. Try to use proactive, positive verbs when you interact with customers. Speak to the present and the future rather than dwelling on issues in the past. Please and thank you go a long way as well.
- Have the right technology. Customers want interaction and a fast solution. Be sure your customer service representatives can work quickly and know the quirks and tricks of your software system.
- Know the products and services well. It doesn’t help a frustrated customer to know that you don’t know how to work the item either. Create product and service specialists before letting them speak to customers.
- Use clear communication. Be clear and specific when you’re speaking with customers. That way they understand what you are saying and your message for them is succinct and specific.
Take Customer Service Online
Online reviews make it easy to track what customers are saying about your company. Most of those customers are hoping to get a reaction from your customer service team. While some consumers might use a reviews website to complain for the sake of complaining, most are looking for answers or solutions.
Your customer service should be proactive as well as reactive. Have your customer service team scout out the posts and consumer reviews online to find frustrated customers. Engage with these customers publicly to show that your company cares about their consumer experience. Be polite to make a good impression not only on the reviewer but the readers too.
Be proactive in your approach to online reviews. Create a protocol for your customer support representatives to follow. Many of the same principles of customer care apply online as well as through phone calls or messaging applications. Empathy, politeness, and treating the customers with respect and value. Simply adapt the protocols to meet these frustrated online consumers where they are.
Keep Analytics Transparent and Useful
Of course, you’ll be tracking your customer service interactions with customers. This implies your representatives should understand the metrics you’re measuring. Especially if those same metrics are part of their evaluations or used for bonuses or awards.
Be clear with your employees about the goals of your customer service department and what you’re measuring for improvement and tracking purposes. Make that information available, along with an explanation for employees. That way they can see progress and celebrate their victories along with you when you make gains.
Sharing information and remaining transparent also allows for stronger relationships with leadership. It creates a sense of “we’re all in this together.”
Model Best Practices
You can’t ask your employees to interact with customers in a positive, empathetic way if you’re not leading by example. You should be modeling the appropriate tone and message in all your interactions with your employees and with customers as well.
If appropriate, get in the trenches occasionally with your team to answer calls and interact personally with customers just as they are. This will not only give you a sense of what is happening on the ground every day, but it will also show your employees that you are willing to practice what you preach.
If you’re leading from the front in your organization, you should be up to date and practiced in all the same skills that your employees are asked to use every day. You can always showcase those best practices and remain approachable.
Promote Employee Skills
Every employee has different skills. A strong customer service leader recognizes those skills and promotes them as often as possible. Identify the expertise that your team showcases and ask the persons with strong skills to lead some training and help others learn from within.
Celebrating respective strengths within your team also allows you to sort out the best fit for different facets within customer service departments. You want to match the right employee with the right job. The best way to do that is by understanding strengths and weaknesses and then finding the right fit.
This also helps employees stay engaged and active by working toward their strengths rather than feeling frustrated with their weaknesses.
Create a Culture of Effective Leadership
The not-so-secret of leadership is that it spreads, even without the requisite title or name tag. You will always have natural leaders in your company. Embrace and encourage that leadership so that you create a culture of leadership in your company.
Celebrate those who help others. Find and encourage everyone’s strengths and specific abilities. Make it a point to model your best leadership skills and encourage others to do the same. Creating a strong system of compassionate leadership will empower your customer service team, which will, in turn, impact customer service and ultimately your bottom line.