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Guest Blog: The 8 Elements of Customer Support Quality

This week we feature an article by Pascal van Opzeeland who writes about the quality of customer support and what it takes to provide great customer support. – Shep Hyken

What makes a customer support interaction good or bad?

One could claim that quality is in the eye of the beholder, but that’s only partially true. When we break things down into core principles, we see that we all yearn for certain attributes while abhorring others.

Personal tastes vary in how individuals rank these elements in order of importance, but specifying them allows companies to deliberately improve their support setup over time – be it through tools, people, or organization.

To be good, a customer support interaction needs to be…

Element #1: Fast

The speed of service delivery has a massive effect on how customers view your support. Over and over again, speed and responsiveness show up in studies as main determinants of service satisfaction.

To deliver superior service, track metrics like First and Average Response Time, and First Contact Resolution Ratio.

Your service speed depends on factors like the contact channel (e.g. chat is faster than email), training (a knowledgeable employee can respond without research or escalation), and empowerment (an empowered employee can bend the rules to quickly resolve corner case issues).

Element #2: Accurate

An accurate reply won’t necessarily increase satisfaction, but a lack of accuracy will definitely decrease it. Accuracy is a baseline. Customers expect correct information from support.

Training is essential to guarantee accuracy, and so is a system for delegating issues to the right colleagues, and carefully integrating information in the right spots in the customer journey.

Element #3: Clear

How well do your customers understand what your support explains to them? Especially when the explanation turns technical, it’s easy for customers to lose track.

The first key to clarity is simplicity. Use fewer, better words. Tech support often errs by diving into detailed explanations. Instead, skim the fat off what you’re trying to

say and focus on the big picture. Use simple and familiar words (no jargon!), shorter sentences, and minimize commas and dependent clauses.

Next, practice structuring your sentences. A clear structure allows the customer to break up your explanation into manageable chunks. A popular sales structure is Features- Advantages- Benefits. A useful support structure is What? So What? Now What?

Element #4: Transparent

People don’t only care about the end result, we like to know what’s going on behind the scenes.

Understanding calms the customer’s mind, so let them know what’s happening and how you’re solving their problem. It is painful, for example, to wait without knowing why or for how long. This information makes for a far more patient and satisfied customer.

Humans have a driving need to know why. Once given a reason, we’re far more likely to accept whatever the company offers. So although speed is important, don’t sacrifice it for speed.

Element #5: Accessible

How easy is it for customers to get in touch with you? Difficulty here escalates any already existing frustration. Reduce effort for the customers, on the other hand, and you’ll go far in improving the customer experience.

In fact, reducing customer effort is shown to be more important to the customer than exceeding expectations. Measuring the Customer Effort Score (CES) through postservice or in-app surveys will give you a good idea of your company accessibility.

Consider the number of actions customers have to take to get in touch. Do they first need to find a contact page to find your phone number or email address, or do they always have a chat window option available? Any reduction in steps directly improves the customer experience.

Element #6: Empowered

People like to feel in control. Aim for that feeling throughout your support interactions.

Service reps who can bend the rules give customers a feeling of control. People don’t want to be enslaved to rules, especially not if their circumstances are outside the typical guidelines.

Also, the ability to comment on the service they received, through a rating or comment system, gives customers a feeling of control. It allows them to feel like they can do something with the service they received, whether it was good or bad.

For independent customers, the ability to do things themselves gives them a sense of empowerment. Self-service options let the customer take care of themselves without assistance.

Element #7: Friendly

This element is crucial to each customer service interaction, but it’s also the element that’s rather difficult to train in for your support reps. This is where the importance of hiring becomes evident.

Whether your support is friendly or not depends largely on language use of your support reps. Their words, for example, should be all about your customer. In this you-focused language, the customer is at the center. Instead of “Our new product is faster than ever,” consider “You can be faster than ever with our new product.” The first is all about your company; the second is about how the customer benefits.

For more tips on how to make your service more humane and less robotic, check out our post on the uncanny valley of customer service.

Element #8: Efficient

Efficiency goes a long way in making your service less expensive and improving your profits. Just like customers demand a positive interaction, efficiency means a better interaction for your bottom line.

Technology has made it easier than ever to increase company efficiency without compromising on quality. Live chat allows one representative to serve up to 10 customers at once, thus allowing you to offer great support while keeping costs low.

Great customer support doesn’t require bigger spending per se. Through small, efficient changes, you can offer the kind of support that keeps your customers coming back.

Pascal van Opzeeland is CMO of Userlike, software for website and messaging support. He and his team share tips about customer service and communication on the Userlike Blog.

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to customerserviceblog.com.

Read Shep’s latest Forbes article: Thanksgiving Day Woes Disappear With Butterball Turkey Talk-Line

 

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