Like many parts of business, customer service has definitely become challenging during the pandemic. Many companies experienced new problems, from supply chain issues to remote working. With these, new complaints and expectations had to be dealt with.

From how we interact with others to how we shop, being a consumer simply took on a new shape. So it follows that the way businesses interact with them has to shift too. As we enter the next stage of recovery, there are lessons to be learnt and new practices all business leaders can put in place to come out stronger.

A whole new world

COVID-19 made tensions grow high. Customers are frustrated, employees are nervous and everyone is tired of reading about it in the news. Most of all, it has changed consumer behaviour and what they want from the businesses they buy from. According to a Salesforce report, 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its product or services. Every customer, whether they call, email, text or comment on social media, should get personalised and speedy care.

Accenture found that nearly 80% of the CEOs they surveyed said they will change how they engage with their customers. The aim for many is to fundamentally improve how they create value for customers and strengthen their offering. They’re focusing on finding better technology to deliver customer service, as well as ramping up personalisation.

A lot of businesses are now seeing the importance of offering more ways to communicate with and serve customers. For example, Mediacom Communications (a regional cable provider in the USA) saw the majority of its call centre and dispatch staff working from home. So they invested quickly in new customer service technology. They added new ways to communicate with their own customers.

On top of the usual phone lines, emails and website, Mediacom now has a mobile app, an online support portal and text service. Text has grown twice the size in the past year as customers get used to new, more convenient channels.

Give your customer service team a boost

Whatever new technology or platforms you’re introducing, the most important thing is to make sure your team is well trained. And that doesn’t just mean when something new is brought in. The main factors that build and strengthen customer service are:

  • Consistent training – make sure that everyone fully understands all elements of the goods or services you sell. Holding regular training and refresher sessions will help better serve your customers so don’t put off organising these. It also helps the business understand how each element fits together as part of the bigger picture.
  • Focus on empathy and patience – strong knowledge of the products being sold will only get so far if your team doesn’t promote empathy and patience. Working in customer service can be extremely stressful at times, especially when tensions are running high amongst customers. Making sure you hire people who are good listeners and are prepared to tune in with a customer emotionally is so important.
  • Get customer feedback – ask your customers to review their experience. This is a crucial part of understanding how your team is performing and identifying any areas or individuals that need support. You can set up automated emails to go to anyone who gets in touch with customer service.
  • Reward good service – when the feedback is positive, do something about it! Let your team know that their hard work and performance is appreciated. Organise rewards or bonuses for good work to motivate the team.

Support goes multi-channel

Customer service has gone far beyond manning the phones. Nowadays, customers expect to be able to contact you on multiple channels, and quickly. If you want to add in extra support points for your customers then think about the following:

  • FAQ pages
  • Mobile help (either through an app or text)
  • Chatbot
  • Social media

If you’re looking to ramp up your customer service channels to support more customers then of course there will be some initial setup fees that are unavoidable. To make the most of these opportunities, a MarketFinance flex loan can help you dip into the funds you need to cover these costs. We like to think of it as working capital on demand that doesn’t impact the important things like paying staff and covering rent. Find out what kind of funding your business could benefit from on our eligibility checker.

Strengthen internally to support customer service

A team that is supported and understands everyone’s roles will perform better. Do you have a service tree or other document that clearly outlines the relationship between every position, team, and department in your company? Make sure it’s clear to everyone who is responsible for what, and detail specific roles and actions. That way, when a problem comes up, it’s a lot easier for customer service to resolve it with the right person.

Just like you gather feedback and recommendations from your customers, make sure you’re listening to the internal experience too. To retain employees and get the most out of their time with you, being tuned into their responses is paramount. Ask yourself how you can improve their experience. Are goals clearly communicated and achievable? Does every team have enough support to get their work done?

Encouraging peer-to-peer recognition can also boost the team and improve their experience at work. Allow your team to give public kudos to the people performing well and encourage good work. Internal newsletters and socials (either virtual or in person) help drive employee satisfaction. A motivated and encouraged team will perform better than one that feels ignored and underappreciated.

What do you know about your customers?

Customer service can only be great when you have reliable and comprehensive data on your customers. CRM software allows you to have a 360-degree view of each customer. Everyone from sales to the service team can see the same information. Each customer’s preferences, past purchases and service history are there to help solve their problems and add a personal touch.

Customer service is king

Customers today are as interested in good service as they are in competitive pricing and fast delivery. It all has to be a part of your package. Building the strongest customer service possible, especially at a time when the retail landscape is changing so dramatically, should be at the forefront of your mind. Crucially, it will let you stand out above your competitors.

There is always room to improve and innovations to test out. Reviewing your team, internal processes and common complaints or queries will help you build the best customer service experience.