Happy Customer Service Week! The week recognizes the importance of customer service and honors the people who serve and support customers. The timing is perfect as it coincides with this month's focus on the next generation of customer call centers. 

Getting Closer To Your Customers

To help us better understand what goes into creating extraordinary customer service experience, we spoke with Matthew Storm, director of strategy and innovation at NICE. He says there are four essential elements of great customer service that companies can put into action. 

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1. Know Your Customers

It sounds obvious, but it's not always the case. Storm says that understanding the unique behaviors associated with individual customers along the customer journey is key. He recommends looking across all customer channels to identify ways that communication can become individualized. It's great to provide the same level of customer service regardless of whether a questions comes in from a mobile device, through a website or over social media. However, it's more important to tailor customer service once more so that information doesn't sound like a broken record. 

Additionally, Storm encourages companies to revisit customer segmentation. Grouping customers into categories is helpful and can help delineate the types of services customers are eligible to receive. However, be careful not to offer great customer service just because someone happens to be a in higher tier than another. Conversely, Storm says that it's good to go beyond expectations to deliver great customer experiences. Small delights can go a long way, especially if it isn't associated with exclusive membership benefits. 

2. Engage Employees

Put simply -- engaged employees deliver engaged experiences. Just think about your last call into customer service -- could you feel the apathy? or did you feel their excitement? If you're call center agent doesn't want to be there, your experience will probably be less than stellar. 

Storm recommends offering meaningful incentives that encourage specific behaviors associated with positive customer experience. Whether it's through gamification or coaching programs, it's important to clearly map out what success looks like and guide employees through a journey that outlines the steps they need to get there. 

3. Provide Real-Time Information

It goes without saying that if you give call agents better information they can make better decisions about how to help customers. This is why companies are strongly encouraged to build systems that scale vast amounts of data and operate on that data in realtime. If customer service representatives know that a customer reached out across social media first, for example, they can better understand not only the path they took, but the issue that prompted their communication. Additionally, real-time data can provide information about past experiences and issues so that they can be accommodated the next time around. 

Sharing real-time information goes both ways. The information that call center agents collect from customer interactions need to be shared with marketing, sales and product development teams so that they can plan accordingly. 

4. Stay Restless

Just as The Most Interesting Man in the World says to "Keep Thirsty" -- Matthew Storm says to stay restless. By that he means that companies should always be striving to deliver better customer service experiences and solving customer problems. However, it's important not to get stuck in a constant cycle of change. Make sure you're evolving strategically. It's okay to plateau once in awhile as long as your committed to learning, listening and leveraging feedback to your advantage. 

When it comes to evaluating your services, Storm warns about relying on Likert scales alone to provide feedback. Instead, he advises, ask for specific information. How did the customer service experience make them feel? What could have been improved? The answers are bound to provide greater, more precise information than any 4 star rating ever can and it will help team members adopt specific behaviors. Companies will find it's much easier to close the loop when they can make more informed decisions based on better feedback. 

Though we officially celebrate customer service for just one week, companies should be focused year-round on improving the customer experiences they provide. If so, they can expect to empower employees while exceeding the needs of their customers.