The fundamentals of great customer service

Keeping hundreds of thousands of customers happy is a high pressure job. People’s blood, sweat and tears go into getting a website up and running and making it a success.

Confronted with this reality, Rob Jackson, Fasthosts Customer Operations Manager, got to work.

“We need a new playbook”. The world has changed. The world of customer support has changed. Many of the assumptions that have guided how we think about support are no longer true.

And it all starts with a vision…

In this two part interview with Rob Jackson, we discuss the fundamentals and the evolving nature of providing great customer service.

Where do you start when trying to improve your customer support?

First and foremost you need a vision – it is vital. Ideally something that underpins your overall business strategy and translates into real actions for your staff. It’s about having an idea of what you want to do, how you want do it, and what that looks like in practise.

If you don’t have that vision in place, it’s very difficult to define what kind of service you are providing, and equally as difficult to ensure your employees are consistent in their understanding of the expectations placed on them.

How do you get that vision across different departments and embed it into the business culture?

It needs to be something tangible that you can translate into a philosophy or a mission statement. Ensure the leaders of the departments are all fully on board and understand what the vision means, and get them to help roll it out to the staff. Open it up to discussion, probe it and make sure it stands up to scrutiny.

How are Fasthosts trying to achieve this?

Our first job was to create a set of customer promises. These are focussed on creating a customer centric culture within the business. It needs to start at home. The whole company needs to understand and be a part of what we are trying to achieve.

From those promises we created a service philosophy, which took the concept of each promise individually and translated that into a series of behaviours and attitudes that we expect people to bring into the office.

How can you measure customer service success?

Once you’ve got that vision in place you can then set customer expectations. Explain what it is that you do, what kind of service you provide, where the limitations of that service are. That is very important. It’s very difficult to measure the success of your customer service against an undefined set of expectations. And that is what you’ll have if you don’t “set out your stall” to customers.

At Fasthosts, as well as creating our customer promises, we delved into each different area of customer support we provide and set out a Scope of Service. This tells customers in each area what we can do for you, and what we can’t do for you (and importantly why we’re not able to do it).

Once you’ve set expectations, you can start to measure how well you’re meeting them. It’s much easier to meet an expectation once you know what that expectation is. If you don’t, each customer will come to you expecting different things.

What we found before we had the promises and scope in place, is that you could deliver the same level of service within the same parameters to two sets of customers, one would be very happy , one may not be. This was because of a differing set of expectations. So it is important to set your stall out from the beginning.

Are there any tools businesses can use to measure customer service success?

There are various different methods. We use a customer satisfaction survey, which we call the ASAT, which looks specifically at customer’s satisfaction with our support agents.

At the end of every enquiry we ask customers to rate their experience with the agent who dealt with them. We can then pick up issues with particular agent and take action when required, and when an agent is performing well, we have a way of seeing that too.

It’s not all about productivity and how many enquiries you can deal with in a day. It’s not necessarily about the speed of service you provide. In most contact centres the traditional performance indicators are things such as average speed of answer, handling time etc. Contact centres are very prone to looking at those measures of productivity as a benchmark for success.

My philosophy is that most people would rather wait two minutes to be answered on a phone knowing that their issue is going to be dealt with professionally and quickly there and then, rather than wait 30 seconds and not receiving the service they expect. That’s not to say we don’t answer enquiries as quickly as we can.

When you have hundreds of customers contacting you on a daily basis, of course it’s important to measure and manage productivity. But ultimately what’s important is how satisfied those customers are. That’s the key to your future business success. That’s why we place top priority on the ASAT and satisfaction in general.

There are various other methods you can use as well We also measure  something called the Net Promoter Score (or NPS), This is quite a common measure used by many different businesses in many different industries. The NPS gives you an indication of the overall satisfaction level for your company by looking at how likely a customer is to recommend you to others. Given the importance of recommendations in purchasing decisions, I think any business should seriously consider using this measure.

Part Two coming soon.

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