Best Practices for Top-Notch Customer Service: Systems + Culture
What does good customer service look like and what does it take to achieve it?
If you’re unsure, it might be time to improve yours. Start by trying to point out the issues you know you’re facing. This will help you plan out immediate improvements and deliver high-quality customer interactions.
So before we delve into some best practices, let’s examine what causes customer service issues.
What’s Keeping You From Delivering Excellent Customer Service?
We’re all guilty of juggling too many things at once. When customer service is one more thing on your already full plate, it’s easy to let some things slip through the cracks.
As a business, you have fires popping up in every direction so often that it’s easy to lose track of them. And with so many, we start to view all requests as one big problem to manage.
And that’s where things break down, because our customers view their problem as the only problem that exists.
To prevent things from getting lost and ensure each customer feels important, you need to address two key things:
Fragmentation caused by a general lack of organization is usually one of the root causes of poor customer service.
Interdepartmental communication is difficult enough as it is for service teams it’s only made worse when requests typically come in through multiple channels like email, chat, and multiple different social media platforms.
We want to remove as much friction as possible for the customer and make it easy for them to contact us, so reducing support channels isn’t an option.
It’s far better to consolidate support channels by routing them all to a single destination.
With one platform for all customer requests, you can ensure you don't lose track of anything and provide your team with the structure they need to deliver excellent service.
You can further reduce fragmentation by making sure the right people are notified when requests come in and kept in the loop.
Consider using a framework from project management like the RACI Matrix where people have roles based on their involvement. RACI stands for responsible, accountable, consulted, and informed. It breaks down like this:
- Responsible: The person who’s assigned responsibility for completing the task (e.g., a customer support rep).
- Accountable: The person accountable for any important decisions that get made (e.g., a customer support manager).
- Consulted: Anyone who needs to be consulted along the way (e.g., someone from technical support).
- Informed: Anyone who might need to be updated on the outcome of support provided (e.g. a customer success manager).
With Missive, you can share and assign support emails with anyone who needs to be involved without forwarding them. You can also take this a step further and automate assignment and sharing by combining rules with labels.
With a unified inbox, you eliminate the need to manage both email and support tickets. Silos get reduced, complexity gets simplified, and transparency gets introduced.
The Right Timing
Good customer service teams are quick—they get customers the help they need when they need it.
To do that, your team needs to communicate quickly and seamlessly. Everyone needs to collaborate without bouncing back forth between different tools.
Solving issues takes longer when communication happens in multiple places for a few key reasons:
- People develop preferences on where they like to communicate and don’t see when you’ve messaged them in another tool.
- Even when they do check multiple tools daily, they’re never entirely sure where to look first, so they end up checking everywhere to make sure they haven’t missed anything.
- Despite our best efforts, things do get missed and cause us to spend twice as much time resolving something.
This all adds up to longer resolution times, which frustrates customers. Frustrated customers create frustrated support teams, and frustrated support teams create more frustrated customers.
See how a vicious cycle gets started?
Reducing fragmentation helps, but there’s more you can do. For example, companies that use Missive save time responding to support requests using rules to set up dynamic routing to the right teams as well as round-robin assignment to distribute requests so support reps aren’t overloaded.
Our customers also frequently use canned responses with variables to save time replying to common support questions without making things seem robotic and impersonal.
When multiple people are involved in helping a customer, such as technical support issues or issues that need an extra set of eyes before they get sent, real-time collaborative writing cuts down the time normally spent sending email chains back and forth.
Reducing fragmentation and the time it takes to get customers the help they need are two of the biggest levers you can pull to increase customer happiness. Keep your customers happy and they’ll refer you new customers and stick around longer.
That’s two big wins for the business:
- ✅ Word of mouth demand generation
- ✅ Customer retention
Where you focus your energy will vary based on your businesse’s known weak points and addressing these issues only affects the foundation your support system is built on.
Once you get your underlying systems working smoothly, you’re ready to focus on developing a reputation of service so good people talk about it.
Taking Customer Experience from Good to Great
Developing a reputation for delivering fantastic customer service doesn’t happen overnight. You have to comb through every step of the customer experience, pinpoint weak areas, and identify opportunities to do more than serve.
Your goal should be to truly delight—to build customer loyalty. Here are some important ways to do that.
Be Easy to Reach: Omnichannel Service
A ton of different channels may not be ideal, but not providing enough methods for customers to reach out can be just as detrimental.
Limiting the amount of ways customers can contact you doesn’t serve them, it only serves you. Abandoning that selfish mindset is key to being customer-centric.
The goal is to make it as easy as possible for customers to get in touch—whenever they need to, however they want to.
Make yourself reachable via channels like email, social media, phone (both phone calls and text), and live chat. and then consolidate them into one central system for you to respond from.
Increase Your Hours of Availability
Even if you have customer service down to a science, there will be times when a customer calls after hours. It could be a support request or just a customer who wants to know your holiday hours—whatever the case, you need to be prepared to handle these types of requests promptly.
There are a few different ways to do this.
If your company’s helpdesk receives a high volume of requests around the clock, aim to have customer service reps on call 24 hours a day, seven days a week as well.
Another option is to use an automated customer service system, such as a chatbot.
We’re not the biggest fans of these.
Don’t believe the hype about how awesome chatbots are. They’re the modern-day equivalent of those automated interactive voice systems you have to deal with every time your wifi messes up and you have to call your internet provider.
Customers love self-service when it comes to buying or researching things in your knowledge base, but not when they need support.
If you don’t have support available 24/7 and have live chat, use schedules so your customers know when you’re actually there and when you’re not.
For example, customers who use Missive’s live chat use our options to let customers know their available when anyone is online or using predefined schedules.
It might sound strange, but in an age of automation, integration, and ever-evolving tech, humanity’s getting a little lost in the shuffle. When someone calls customer service, they expect an automated response, followed by a representative reading a script.
Instead, focus on giving customers a refreshing change of pace.
Build a culture where your reps inject some personality into their responses and interactions with customers.
Give them talking points or an outline rather than a full-on template or script. Encourage them to be more personable.
Don’t Overlook the Little Things
Even the smallest details can make a big difference in customer experience. Consistency across all touchpoints shows you care about your customers and focus on providing them with a positive experience.
Some examples of small details that can have a big impact include:
- The way representatives greet customers.
- How easy it is to find contact information on your website.
- Whether representatives ask follow-up questions that show they’re actively listening, critically thinking about possible solutions, and ready to go the extra mile.
Prioritize Clear Communication
Remember, just because something’s crystal clear to you doesn’t mean it is for someone else—whether it’s a coworker or a customer. People communicate differently, and what might be pretty standard language to one person might be gibberish to another.
Go into more detail than you think you need to when training your service team and set up a system of shared learning where advice and tactics can disseminate throughout the whole team.
Customer service is way different now than it was a decade ago, let alone 50 years ago. Want to see what good vs bad customer service looks like?
- Good: The Apple Store Guide to Insanely Great Customer Service
- Bad: Criticism of Comcast (a company that had such a poor customer service experience it warranted having its own Wikipedia page)
Customer satisfaction never ends. Constantly seek to find new things to fix and improve. Your goal should be to exceed your customer’s expectations.
Want to know the easiest way to figure out what your customer needs? It’s simple. Be proactive and just ask them. 🤯
Keep it Simple: Systems and Culture
Remember, customer service isn’t about managing people—controlling customer behavior is an uphill battle. Instead, meet them where they are, on the platforms they choose, whenever they choose.
This can be taxing on your team, so start by consolidating as many interactions as you can into one platform. It will be a massive game-changer.
Improving your culture toward service will be easier if you do.
If you’re looking for a way to strengthen your customer service and support, check us out. We practice what we preach here.