How to implement customer service best practices
On the latest episode of the Stories from The IT Nation podcast, Topher Barrow, Product Marketing Manager at ConnectWise, and Alona Bolotnikova, Chief Perfectionist at Perfecting Services, talked about the steps to put in place to measure customer service levels. Here are some of the highlights from the episode.
Technical expertise will always be a hallmark of world-class managed service providers (MSPs). But in a crowded market, it’s the businesses that couple first-rate technical know-how with unparalleled customer service that find the greatest success.
Creating an atmosphere of stellar service is an all-hands effort. Even if you have a dedicated customer service team, it’s the clients’ day-to-day interactions with your company as a whole that will shape how they think of you. This can have a dramatic impact on everything from referrals to online reviews, so it’s crucial to get your strategy right.
Wowing your customers starts with making a few simple changes. Here are some easy tips and best practices for implementing a strong customer service program.
Create a clear set of standards
A focus on providing excellent customer service can only happen when everyone is on the same page. This requires upper management to align on the key impressions that they hope to leave customers with after each interaction—and develop a comprehensive customer service strategy for delivering those impressions.
A good customer service strategy describes the goals and expectations of every customer service interaction. For MSPs, that might include everything from the procedure for opening and closing support tickets to the amount of time that should lapse before following up with a customer. It might even include something as simple as a standardized phone greeting.
Distributing these policies and guidelines to all front-facing employees and ensuring they understand them is the next crucial step. Not only is a manual a useful resource for new hires, who will be able to familiarize themselves with expectations from their very first day, but it will provide a handy resource to seasoned employees anytime they find themselves uncertain about how to proceed.
Having standards like these in place helps build a brand image that is consistent across the company—and one which gives the best possible impression to potential clients.
Train every front-facing employee
Developing a clear customer service strategy is not enough. To really cement these practices in your culture, training is essential.
For MSPs, it’s crucial that all front-facing employees have a balance of technical expertise and interpersonal skills. Even the best techs need to be able to provide optimal customer service experiences to ensure their clients stick around.
It’s important to remember that these standards are not static—constant reevaluation and retraining of employees are integral aspects of a successful customer service strategy. Often, the standards of practice (SOPs) put in place when an employee is first onboarded will change before the end of their first year. Don’t assume that they’ll read and internalize a memo sent around about new policies—it’s all too easy for busy employees to toss a memo into their ‘read later’ pile, only to promptly forget they ever saw it. When SOPs change, retraining and updating employees is critical to ensure consistency and excellence.
Measure and track company progress
Change is hard. But you can make the process easier for everyone by following a few best practices when introducing your new customer service plan.
Start by taking stock of the current way things are done. This will help you establish a baseline that improvement can be marked against. It’s crucial that you do this before any new policies are announced so that the data gathered is impartial and unbiased.
After the entire process is graded, focus on evaluating individual techs based on performance. This provides an opportunity for techs and other client-facing employees to understand their strengths and weaknesses better, so they can strategically improve their customer relationship management.
That’s not to say you can’t aggregate the data and share it internally. Doing so can help employees monitor and track their performance against the group, while also providing managers an easy way to identify top performers.
By rewarding and recognizing top-level employees who demonstrate exceptional client relationship skills, you can help underscore your company’s emphasis on customer service. This incentivizes techs and other employees to keep customer service top of mind and will pay off in the form of more satisfied clients.
Reviewing employee performance is also a useful way to determine whether people are in the right roles. If a tech isn’t enjoying the people side of the business, for example, they may be better suited for a development role.
Collect and analyze customer feedback
Most MSPs don’t have a customer survey system enabled—meaning the only time they really hear from clients is when something goes disastrously wrong. For businesses interested in maintaining a high level of customer satisfaction, this is simply impermissible.
Collecting customer feedback is an integral part of the customer service loop. Without monitoring feedback and adjusting processes and procedures accordingly, it’s almost impossible to analyze the effectiveness of your customer service program and ensure it pays off in the long term.
Give clients a way to quickly and easily provide feedback, and ensure those responses are seen and analyzed by management. As techs get better at forming strong client relationships, clients will be more likely to respond to regular feedback requests. Otherwise, they’ll only think to provide it when they have something negative to report.
Realize the benefits of great customer service
Too many MSPs make the critical mistake of viewing customer service as secondary to business strategy, when in fact, the two are fundamentally intertwined. Companies that realize this are better positioned to outshine their competition—and fuel their growth through word of mouth.