Chances are that when you first started your business, you managed most, if not all, of the interactions with your customers. But, as your business grew, it became counterproductive to manage all customer communications yourself.
Empowering employees to provide the same level of service you would provide yourself is essential. According to an American Express survey on customer service, more than two-thirds of American consumers are willing to spend 14% more with a company that they believe delivers excellent service, while three in five Americans admitted walking away from an intended transaction due to a poor service experience.
As you delegate customer service responsibilities to your employees, fostering an ownership mentality can ensure your customers are well cared for. Here are a few tips to get you started:
- Expect a high level of professionalism, regardless of medium: Chatting with customers is not the same as chatting with friends, so when employees communicate by online chat, text messaging or email, encourage them to maintain the high level of professionalism and respect they would show in-person. “They shouldn’t be using [internet slang like] ‘lol’ and they shouldn’t be writing in all capital letters,” says Randi Busse, founder and president of Workforce Development Group, Inc., a customer service and employee development training, coaching and consulting organization based in Long Island, N.Y. “It’s important that employers educate their employees that we’re giving you the reins and you are now the voice and the face and the name of the company.”
- Hire for service aptitude: Regardless of the position you are looking to fill, focus on applicants who have demonstrated ownership mentality in the past. To do this, include interview questions such as, “How did you move your last position forward?” or “In what ways did you take initiative in your last job?”
“If you have any employees that are working for you that have the ‘owner mindset,’ I would ask them who they know who might be interested in a position,” says Busse. “If they’re thinking like an owner, are engaged and are passionate, there’s a good chance that the people they hang around with are that way also.” And don’t forget to ask about ownership mentality and experiences with customers when you call the candidates’ referrals.
- Keep remote employees connected: Technology makes it easier for employees to work offsite; however, it’s important to keep all of your employees connected to make them feel part of a team. Busse suggests setting up regular video chat sessions to allow you to see each other virtually while discussing some of the customer questions and concerns they’ve recently received. When it comes to coaching employees on service remotely, consider recording their phone calls to review with them and share what they did well on the calls, as well as any areas of opportunity for improvement.
- Have trust: Let’s face it—it’s impossible to create policies and procedures for every type of situation an employee might encounter with a customer. Instead of creating a strict set of rules, encourage employees to use their best judgment. “A motivated and well-trained employee who is brought into the company’s mission and understands its objectives should be given the freedom to customize the interaction [with customers],” says Ryan Buell, assistant professor of Business Administration at Harvard Business School. “Customers can tell when an employee is working from a script and become frustrated when employees lack discretion in helping to identify the best path forward.”
Instead of creating a strict set of rules, encourage employees to use their best judgment.
When you’re ready to rely on your employees to handle customer service, you can incorporate new technology to help make their interactions quicker and more efficient. For guidance on which types of products to choose, consider these three suggestions from New York-based customer contact technology expert, Michael Conti:
- Live support. This type of customer service software allows customers to speak with a representative directly through the company website in real time by chat or video, instead of having to call a customer service line or send an email. Live support platforms, such as LiveChat and LiveAgent, can also allow for co-browsing—seeing what a customer views on your website—which can be helpful for troubleshooting.
- Communication management software. Customers today use so many different methods to communicate with companies, including email, text messaging, social media and live support. Programs such as Desk.com and Groove, send all of these interactions into one system and then allows you to distribute them to your workforce to be handled. Or, consider implementing a unified communications system. [[LINNK to UC article]]
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software. This type of software provides a database to keep track of your customers’ information (such as their address, telephone number, preferred method of contact and the amount of interactions they’ve had with your business) to help you manage your relationship with them. CRM options for small business include Service Cloud by Salesforce, Customer Service Management by ServiceNow, and Dynamics 365 by Microsoft.
In today’s digital world, it’s important to communicate with customers in the channels that they’re most comfortable with. If you can empower your employees to use new technology to better serve your customers, your business will benefit greatly.Print this article